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Sant’Isidoro a Settecamini is an early 18th century public chapel located at Via Tiburtina 1379 in the Settecamini suburb, east of the Grande Raccordo Anulare (Circonvallazione Orientale). It is on the western outskirts of the suburb, on the junction with the Via del Casal Bianco. A picture of the chapel on Wikimedia Commons is here.
There is confusion over the name of the chapel. Some recent publications give it as San Francesco a Settecamini, or La Chiesetta di San Francesco. The Diocese gives the name as Sant'Isidoro, and does not regard it as a church.
The Casale di Settecamini was the site of a mansio or wayside hostelry in ancient times, and remains of this have been excavated. The locality was known in mediaeval times as the Campo dei Sette Fratelli, in allusion to the legend of St Symphorosa and her seven sons. According to this, they had been buried on the Via Tiburtina (they had come from Tivoli, to which the road runs).
Later, for some reason the site became known as the "Oven of the Seven Brothers" and an inn (the descendant of the mansio) took the name of the Osteria del Forno. This was a stopping-point for travellers between Rome and Tivoli for centuries.
The chapel appears on one of the maps of the Catasto Alessandrino, 1660 but nothing is known of its foundation. However, back then the locality was owned by the Chapter of Santa Maria Maggiore and it is a fair surmise that the chapel was built on its orders to minister to the local farmworkers. The area remained wholly rural until the 20th century.
The façade was added in 1728, the architect being one Antonio Guidotti. This is his only church edifice in Rome. A map dating from later in the 18th century labels the chapel as San Francesco, and this seems to be the origin of the alternative name.
The estate passed to the Torlonia family in the mid 19th century, and there is evidence of a restoration by them.
In 1917 an icon of Our Lady of the Olive Tree was enshrined here. This ancient title of Our Lady derives locally from a church in Trastevere which was later Sant'Apollonia (now demolished). That dedication in turn came from a shrine near Chiavari founded in the 10th century -Madonna dell'Olivo.
Some suburban development took place after the First World War, and in response the parish church of Santa Maria dell’Olivo was built in 1923. This took its dedication from the icon, which was transferred to it.
The old chapel became disused in the later 20th century, and there have been recent expressions of concern as regards its welfare. It certainly looks uncared-for.
The chapel has a prominent position on a very old road junction, between the Via Tiburtina and the Via del Casal Bianco which is the road to Marcellina.
On the left hand side of the Via Tiburtina just before the junction is the old Osteria del Forno which is now a hotel called Al Casaletto. Opposite, on the left hand side, is the ancient Casale farmhouse which, as it stands, is basically 16th century in fabric.
The body of the chapel is a simple rectangular brick box, with no windows in the body. Also, there is no external sacristy or priest's house. The roof is pitched and tiled, with a deep overhang over each side wall. The walls are rendered, but the paint has mostly gone.
A little bell-cote in the form of an arch with imposts is on top of the near end of the left hand side wall. The bell has been removed.
The entrance faces onto a narrow patio with a revetting wall of split tufo stone boulders. A little brick staircase is to the left.
The façade has a pair of gigantic blind pilasters near (not at) the corners, which are doubletted along their inner edges. These pilasters support an entablature with an architrave and cornice but lacking a frieze, and have posts in the entablature over them in lieu of capitals. The entablature curves in a semi-circular arc over the top of a large round-headed window with a simple frame in relief, having a pair of tasselled corbels in shallow relief under the sill.
Over the entablature posts are two fragments of segmental pediments, given a slight S-curve (faintly resembling a pair of snakes ready to strike). On the arc of the entablature over the window is a molded fragment of super-cornice fitted to the curve, with the central portion in slight relief and having tassels. This structure bears a square plinth on which is a metal cross finial.
The doorcase is in limestone, and is flanked by a pair of vertical capsule-shaped windows.
A broken plaque over the door bears the heraldry of the Torlonia family.
Access and liturgy Edit
The chapel is still consecrated, but is not being used for liturgical celebrations. The parish priest of Santa Maria dell’Olivo apparently has the key.