|English name:||St Augustine's|
|Latin name:||Sancti Augustini|
|Dedication:||Augustine of Hippo|
|Titular church||Jean-Pierre Ricard|
|Built:||1296–1446, rebuilt 1479–1483, major work 1661–1162|
|Architect(s):||Giacomo di Pietrasanta, Francesco Borromini|
|Artists:||Jacopo Sansovino, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Giovanni Lanfranco, Isaia da Pisa|
|Address:|| Piazza Sant'Agostino|
|Phone:||06 68 80 19 62|
Sant'Agostino is an important 15th century minor basilica and parish church in the rione Sant'Eustachio, with a postal address at Via della Scrofa 80. However, this is the location of the parish offices and the main entrance to the basilica is on the Piazza Sant'Agostino, rather hidden away just to the north-east of the Piazza Navona. The official title of the church is Sant'Agostino in Campo Marzio. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons.  There is an English Wikipedia article. 
The church and parish remain in the care of the Augustinian Friars (Agostiniani). The dedication is to St Augustine of Hippo.
Foundation of the ConventEdit
The convent attached to the church was founded in 1286, when the Roman nobleman Egidio Lufredi donated some houses in the area to the Augustinian Friars (who used to be called "Hermits of St Augustine" or OESA; they are not the same as the Canons Regular of St Augustine). They were commissioned by him to erect a convent of their order on the site and, after gaining the consent of Pope Honorius IV (1285-1287), this was done.
Old Church of San TrifoneEdit
However, a proposed church for the new convent had to wait because of its proximity to the small ancient parish church of San Trifone in Posterula, dedicated to St Tryphon and located in the Via della Scrofa. It was a titular church, and also a Lenten station.
The patron saint of this was a boy-martyr of Phrygia (now in Turkey) whose relics had been brought to Rome and enshrined there in the 8th century. The church was entrusted to the Augustinian Friars by Pope Honorius for use as their chapel in 1287, and was renamed Santi Trifone ed Agostino in honour of St Augustine of Hippo. In 1424 the relics of St Monica, the mother of St Augustine, were brought from Ostia and enshrined here as well.
The title was passed on to Sant'Agostino when that church was completed in 1484, but the older edifice was kept as a subsidiary church in the complex. It was used as the headquarters of a Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament until 1604, the year after the newer church became the parish church instead, and reverted to its former name of San Trifone. (Another nearby example of a convent replacing a small ancient church with a larger new one is at Santa Maria della Concezione in Campo Marzio, which was built by Benedictine nuns to replace San Gregorio Nazianzeno.) Very unusually for a church of such ancient dignity before modern times, it was demolished in 1736 as part of the project by Luigi Vanvitelli to extend the previously cramped convent buildings. The Confraternity meanwhile had found a new home at San Salvatore in Primicerio, which was nicknamed San Trifone as a result (a source of confusion for historians of Roman churches).
New Church of Sant'AgostinoEdit
Orders to build the new church came in 1296, from Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303). Bishop Gerard of Sabina laid the foundation stone. Construction was to last nearly a century and a half. It was not completed until 1446, when it finally became possible to celebrate liturgical functions in it.
The church was rebuilt on a larger scale in the same century, during the pontificate of Sixtus IV (1471-1484). Funding was arranged by William (Guillaume) Cardinal d'Estouteville, who was the papal Camerlengo (chamberlain) and protector of the Augustinian Friars. The design was entrusted to the architects Giacomo di Pietrasanta and Sebastiano Fiorentino. Construction began in 1479, and was finished in 1483, the year that Cardinal d'Estouteville died. The present orientation, perpendicular to the previous edifice, was arranged by the Cardinal, who was also the head of the Street Authority, Rome's 'planning commission'. The new church faced the ancient Via Recta (traces of this can be seen in Via delle Coppelle, Via S Agostino and Via dei Coronari), which was one of the main access routes for pilgrims to the Vatican Basilica. The church was also near the now demolished Palazzo Apollinare, where the Cardinal lived.
In the 16th century, a lot of work was done in the interior. One of the artists commissioned for the decoration of the church was the young, but already famous, Michelangelo. In the early 16th century, he started painting The Entombment of Christ for the church. He never finished it, and the uncompleted work has made its way to England, where it can be seen in the National Gallery in London.
In 1660 there was an Apostolic Visitation in the church, and more work was carried out after that - presumably it became easier to obtain funding after that important occasion. The plan as it is today is a result of the work done in that period; it was drawn by Francesco Borromini in 1661-1662.
During the late Renaissance in Rome, before the Sack of the city in 1527 ruined everything, the church was the focus of a brilliant circle of scholars and humanists centred on Johannes Goritz from Luxembourg. This wealthy and successful member of the Papal curia was responsible for the statue of St Anne with Our Lady and for the fresco of Raphael (one of his circle) above it, and this was because he had a devotion to St Anne and wished to be buried below the statue (he wasn't, because he was forced to flee the city during the Sack).
As well as these scholars and poets, the church was also popular with the high-class prostitutes who associated with them and who modelled themselves on the heterae of ancient Athens. Some of these women were talented writers on their own account, and were sufficiently influential to obtain burial in the church instead of in the burial ground reserved for prostitutes on the Pincio. Fiametta, the mistress of the notorious Cesare Borgia, had her own chapel here. Unfortunately, prudery won out in the 19th century restoration and the funerary monuments to these ladies were destroyed then. Nevertheless, the Carravagio that the tourists come to see remains as a reminder of them, since the model whom he employed was a Roman prostitute called Maddalena Antognetti or "Lena".
The convent was restored in the 18th century, with the work being completed in 1756. By then, the dome and the cross-vault of the church were in a bad state, and it was decided to start restoration work there. Luigi Vanvitelli was commissioned to lead the work. As he was also working on the Royal Palace at Caserta, most of the actual work fell to Carlo Murena. The church was closed while restorations were carried out, and was reopened in 1763. A new and more spacious sacristy was built at the same time, and the bell tower was altered.
Another restoration was carried out under Pope Pius IX (1846-1878); it was completed in 1870. The floor was renewed, pillars were encased in marble and frescoes were added in the nave, transept, choir and in the chapels. The altars which used to exist at the bases of those pillars in the nave were removed.
The most recent work was carried out in 1998-2000 by the Soprintendenze di Roma per i Beni Ambientali ed Architettonici e per i Beni Artistici e Storici, the authority responsible for (among other things) the architectural and artistic patrimony of Rome.
Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) established the church as a cardinalate title in April 1587. No titular priest was appointed until 1590, when Gregorio Petrocchini de Montelbro OESA (one of the Augustinian friars) became the first titular. After the death of Marcelo González Martín (appointed in 1973) in 2004, the title was vacant until 2006 when Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux, was appointed.
The plan is that of a Latin cross, with a nave having aisles and short transepts. Both transepts have semi-circular apses, which project beyond the lines of the aisle walls, matching the slightly larger apse of the presbyterium. The latter is flanked by a pair of large rectangular chapels, and a third smaller chapel entered from the left transept is attached to the side of the left hand one of these.
The nave has six bays. Five of these have aisle chapels on each side, ten chapels in all, but the sixth (the one before the crossing) has a side entrance from the street on the left and the entrance to the convent on the right.
Although the church has an internal crossing dome, this is false architecturally. Exteriorly, only the lantern of this protrudes above the pitched and tiled crossing roof. The dome here is claimed to be the first in a church at Rome.
The Renaissance façade, one of the first in this style, was built using travertine said to be from the ruins of the Colosseum. It was executed by Giacomo di Pietrasanta, from a design by Leon Battista Alberti and is raised rather imposingly above the level of the piazza. Despite being rather naïve in its design and certainly very incorrect according to the canons of Classical architecture, it manages to impress. The balustrades on the access stairs hence required was added in the 18th or 19th century.
The façade itself has two storeys, divided by a full entablature supported by four thin and shallow Corinthian pilasters with rather debased capitals. Unusually, above this entablature is a trapezoidal strip formed by repeating the cornice. On the frieze of the entablature is an inscription dating the façade: GUILLERMUS DE ESTOUTEVILLA EPISCO[PUS] OSTIEN[SIS] CARD[INALIS] .ROTHOMAGEN[SIS] S[ANCTAE] R[OMANAE] E[CCLESIAE] CAMERARIUS FECIT MCCCCLXXXIII, which translates as «William d'Estouteville, Bishop of Ostia, Cardinal of Rouen of the Holy Roman Church, Camerlengo, built this in 1483».
There are three entrance doors, a large one in the middle which is crowned by a triangular pediment with the arms of Cardinal d'Estouteville held aloft by angels (in marble, 15th century), and a smaller one on each side. The storey is divided into three vertical sections by the pilasters, with one door in each section. Above each of the aisle doors is a small oculus or circular window, deeply set with a moulded surround and enclosed in a square frame. The side doors have simple marble door-frames. Between the doors and the oculi there are horizontal rectangular panels on the otherwise smooth façade, and two narrower panels are between the oculi and the architrave of the entablature. This arrangement is reminiscent of medieval decoration, where the panels would be filled with paintings, mosaic or reliefs. It is likely that the frames here should have been filled with artworks, probably reliefs, but that this was never accomplished due to a lack of funds after the death of the cardinal in 1483. Above the central door is a painting, The Handing over of the Augustinian Rule. It was added at a later date, and has been damaged by the ravages of time.
In the façade of the upper storey there is a central oculus, much larger than the ones on the lower level but of exactly the same style. As is common in Romanesque style churches, both ancient and modern, this upper storey covers only the middle nave section of the edifice behind. The corners of this storey is occupied by a pair of Corinthian pilasters, and to the sides are two gigantic double volutes which hide the supporting buttresses and which were added by Vanvitelli. These are charmingly embellished with rosettes and stylized water-sprays.
The crowning triangular pediment is dentillated, but its tympanum (the area within the pediment) contains nothing but a rather ridiculous little arched window. It is almost certain that a relief was proposed here.
Other external aspectsEdit
The visible external aspects of the church incorporate surviving features from the original mediaeval church.
On the left-hand side, a 14th century apse can be seen. The cornice with three fascias of increasing projection is typical of the period. The side entrance was created in the 17th century by rebuilding a side chapel. The door is from the 18th century, as is the circular window above it; they were installed by Vanvitelli. It's also possible to see the bricked-up Renaissance windows, which used to open onto the side chapels. The arms of Cardinal d'Estouteville can be seen on one of the buttresses. Between those are the newer windows, opening onto the left aisle. On the upper level, are traces of windows which opened onto the central aisle.
The campanile or bell tower is tucked into the corner between the nave and the right transept, and is not easy to see. It was given its current form in the middle of the 18th century when it was made lower and a new bell chamber was built with a large arched sound-hole on each face. The top of this has a gable on each side, and above the roof is a little Baroque cupola with a square drum and an octagonal lead cap having an ogee-curved profile.
Adjacent to the church, to the north and west, is the former convent of the Augustinian friars which was once the residence of the order's general superior. It was sequestered by the Italian government in 1873, and has been converted into government offices. The Angelica Library, founded in 1605, is still located here. It is named after its founder, the Augustinian friar Angelo Rocca who became titular Bishop of Tagaste in Numidia (now Algeria) in the same year.
The convent has two cloisters. The main, larger one is to the north of the church and has an entrance from the Via dei Pianellari 56 (look for the pedimented doorcase). There are arcades on all four sides and a fountain in the middle, but the apse of the church impinges on the south-west corner so that the layout is not perfectly square. Some 16th century funerary monuments are to be found here. A passage leads from the south-east corner to the other cloister, which is very small and has arcades on the south and west sides only. An exit from the east side leads out to the Via della Scrofa, and the parish offices are here.
The church is built on a Latin cross plan. It's 61.4 metres long, 23 metres wide in the nave and 42.5 metres wide across the transepts. The side aisles are separated from the nave by two rows of six arches. The central nave is twice as wide as each of the side aisles. There were originally six chapels in each side aisle, but one on the left was removed to allow a side entrance, and one on the right to accomodate a new sacristy and passage to the convent. The design is inspired by Filippo Brunelleschi's Church of the Holy Spirit in Florence, which is also owned by the Augustinian friars.
St Augustine often mentions the allegorical meaning of numbers in his writings, and this is reflected in the church. For instance, the universality of the Church is represented by the number twelve - twelve Apostles, twelve tribes of Israel - and this is reflected in the twelve arches and the twelve side chapels in the original design.
The interior is dominated by the dome of the crossing. It was part of the 15th century church, but was altered in the 18th century restoration. At that time it was found that, in order to build a more secure dome, it was necessary to reconstruct the supporting arches and strengthen the pillars. The new dome was built without a drum (that is, the dome rests directly on the pendentives rather than having a vertical cylinder in between). As already pointed out, this dome has no external structure but is covered by a tiled roof. Its interior frescoes are part of the cycle by Pietro Gagliardi, who was given the commission to decorate the interior of the church by Pope Pius IX in 1855, and feature Christ the Redeemer accompanied by the twelve Apostles and the four Evangelists.
The side chapels are small apses with conchs, and are richly decorated.
The nave ceiling vault springs from semi-columns attached to every other pillar of the arcades. These semi-columns have brackets for statues above them, which are empty. Note also that they stand on very high plinths, to make room for the altars that used to be installed below them. The nave ceiling and pillars have good frescoes by Pietro Gagliardi. The work involved the nave walls and ceiling, the dome, transept and chapels of St Monica and St Nicholas of Tolentino, and took him until 1868 to complete. He was assisted by his nephew Giovanni Gagliardi and one Enrico Martini.
The nave walls above the arcades have twelve depictions of episodes from the life of Our Lady, and between the windows above are six women characters from the Old Testament. On the arcade pillars are five prophets.
At the main entrance, the two 17th century holy water stoups being held by angels are by Antonio Raggi. The two side entrances have funerary monuments. On the left are Emmanuele Balbo of 1515 and one Scarampi of 1506; on the right, Angelo de Barbarano of 1558 and Paolo del Maxo (16th century, no date).
The side entrance which leads out from the end of the left hand aisle has a little circular vestibule. As well as statues of Doctors of the Church from the destroyed shrine of St Monica (see the section on her chapel below), it has another angel by Raggi and the following monuments: Giovanni Antonio Lomellini, 1503; Pantasilea Griffi, 1527; Carlo Verardi, 1500 and Dionisio Lunati, c. 1500. The last is by Luigi Capponi.
It was painted in 1512 as part of the funerary monument of Johannes Goritz, the Renaissance scholar mentioned above, and is obviously influenced by Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel. Above the prophet is an epigraph in Greek which translates: "To St Anne, mother of the Virgin; to the Virgin, mother of God; to Christ the Saviour. Johannes Coricius" (Coricius was the preferred nom-de-plume of Goritz). The prophet holds a scroll with a text in Hebrew, which reads: "Open the doors, so that the people who believe may enter". Goritz complained to Michelangelo that Raphael had charged him too much for it, only to get the rejoinder: "The knee on its own is worth the price".
This fresco was painted by a genius who, in this instance, apparently made a mess of the technique. The work quickly decayed, and was repainted by Daniele da Volterra.
Beneath this fresco is a statue of the Madonna and Child with St Anne by Andrea Sansovino. The two figures are carved from one block of marble, and were completed in 1512. Below it there is a tablet with two epigraphs:
Iesu Deo Deique Filio, Matri Virgini, Annae Aviae Maternae. Io[hannes] Corycius ex Germanis Lucumburg[ensis], Prot[onotarius] Apost[olicus] d[onavit et] d[e]d[icavit] perpetuo sacrificio dotem, vasa, vestes tribuit MDXII.
Vestra locum ut pietas aliquem reddat in astris has dedit in terris Corycius statuas.
("To Jesus, God and Son of God, to the Virgin Mother, to Anne his maternal grandmother, John Goritz the Luxemburger from the Germanies, Protonotary Apostolic, gave and dedicated [this]. He brought vessels and vestments as a gift for a perpetual sacrifice, 1512.") This refers to Masses to be said for his soul.
("Goritz gave these statues while on earth, so that your kindness may reward him with a place in the stars.")
Goritz had the custom of holding an enormous literary party for his friends and their ladies on the feast-day of St Anne, 26 July, and part of the celebrations involved poetry readings in front of this statue.
Before the 19th century restoration, there was an altar here to match those at the bases of the other pillars. The sculpture was banished to the so-called Cappella Pio as part of the restoration, which destroyed the artistic integrity of the ensemble. Fortunately, it was restored to its proper place in the 20th century.
Madonna del PartoEdit
A statue by Jacopo Sansovino found in a niche to the right of the entrance is venerated as the Madonna del Parto, the Madonna of Childbirth. It was commissioned in 1516 as a memorial to a Florentine expatriate called Gian Francesco Martelli, and the cost to his estate is known. The artist was paid 300 gold ducats, an impressive sum, and older documents refer to it as the "Madonna of Stone" since carved statues of Our Lady were still uncommon at the time.
Sansovino was obviously inspired by some Classical statue in carving the head of Our Lady. It is disputed as to which, although it is obvious that the goddess concerned was Juno. A ridiculous story used to circulated which alleged that this statue was originally an ancient work depicting the empress Agrippina with the infant Nero, which at least gives witness to the effectiveness of Sansovino's Classicizing style.
Above is an epigraph reading: Virgo, gloria tua partus ("Virgin, childbirth is your glory"). This led to an intense devotion on the part of the city's expectant mothers, and Our Lady's foot in silver has been worn away by their attentions. The statue's popularity was especially enhanced in 1820 when a young worker called Leonardo Bracci undertook to pay for a perpetual light out of his limited resources, and 19th century guidebooks make mention of the enormous number of ex votos and thank offerings around the statue (these have been cleared up somewhat since).
The high altar was consecrated in 1628, and enshrines a Byzantine icon of the Blessed Virgin traditionally painted by St Luke. The icon was by tradition brought here from the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople in 1453, when the city was conquered by the Turks. This is one of the limited number of Roman churches where the high altar is not dedicated to the patron saint of the church.
It used to be thought that the altar was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, but this is not the case. The artist was Orazio Turriani, who used four columns of precious black marble with gilded Corinthian capitals. The two angels above are typical of the style of Bernini, but are probably by Giuliano Finelli.
Enshrined under the altar are the obscure martyrs SS Trypho, Respicius and Nympha, who are not in the Roman Martyrology.
In the back of the apse above the altar is a window containing 19th century stained glass by A. Moroni, depicting St Augustine Defeating Heresy.
The church has fifteen side chapels, and used to have more before the altars at the bases of the nave pillars were removed. Proceeding anticlockwise from the nave to the right of the entrance, they are dedicated to:
St Catherine of Alexandria, St Joseph, St Rita, St Peter, Crucifix, St Augustine (right end of transept), St Nicholas of Tolentino (to right of apse), St Monica (to left of apse), St William of Maleval (in the far left hand corner), St Thomas of Villanova (left end of transept). Then the left hand side of the nave, from left of the side entrance: SS John and Fecundus, St Apollonia, St Claire of Montefalco, the "Pius Chapel" and finally Our Lady of Loreto.
Chapel of St Catherine of AlexandriaEdit
The first right hand chapel has 16th century oil (not fresco) paintings on the wall by Marcello Venusti. The main work is The Coronation of St Catherine, and this is accompanied by angels. The monuments here are to Stefano Mutini 1609, Lorenzo Mutini 1630 and Fabrizio Veralli 1634.
Chapel of St JosephEdit
The second chapel on the right has a copy by Avanzino Nucci of the famous painting probably by Raphael featuring the Madonna della Rosa. This was stolen from Loreto, and has since turned up in two versions. The frescoes in the conch are also by Nucci.
Chapel of St RitaEdit
The third right hand chapel has an altarpiece showing St Rita of Cascia by Giacinto Brandi; the altar here was one of the first in the city dedicated to this now very popular saint. This is because she was an Augustinian nun. The overall design of the chapel was by Giovanni Battista Contini, and the fresco work was by Pietro Lucatelli who was a pupil of Pietro da Cortona.
A monument to Raffaele Casale 1545 is here.
Chapel of St PeterEdit
The altarpiece here is a sculpture of Christ Handing the Keys to St Peter by Giovanni Battista Costignola. The fresco work is by Giuseppe Vasconio. Here is located a monument to Baldassare Ginanni, 1598.
The representation in the pediment of the altar, showing the Eternal Father surrounded by winged putto's heads, is a fragment of a polyptich on wood and is attributed to the school of Pinturicchio (1454-1513).
Chapel of the CrucifixEdit
The fifth chapel on the right, dedicated to the Crucifixion, was allegedly designed by Bernini. The 16th century crucifix is thought to be by Ventura Salimbeni (nicknamed Bevilacqua), and was an object of devotion on the part of St Philip Neri who used to visit the church to pray before it.
There is a clutch of funerary monuments here: Generoso Alberto Splawsky, 1596; Onofrio Panvini, 1596; Enrico Noris, 1704; Leopoldo and Angelo Ratti, 1842. The sculptor of the last was Giuseppe Trabacchi.
Chapel of St AugustineEdit
The Chapel of St Augustine in the right hand end of the transept is very sumptuously decorated. The altar here has black marble columns matching those of the main altar, and has a altarpiece of St Augustine with St John the Baptist and St Paul the Hermit by Guercino. The frescoes here are of his school, being by Giovanni Battista Speranza. However, the gilded stucco work was added in the 18th century. The two pictures on either side showing episodes from the life of St Augustine are by Giovanni Lanfranco.
The monuments here are of Guglielmo Vertecchi, 1623; Antonio Buti, 1608; Giovanni Battista d'Aste, 1620 and Cardinal Giuseppe Renato Imperiali. The last-named died in 1737, but his monument was only completed several decades later. The design wasi by Paolo Posi and the statuary was by Pietro Bracci.
Chapel of St Nicholas of TolentinoEdit
This chapel forms a large side-apse to the right of the main altar. The altarpiece is by Tommaso Salini, the four Latin Doctors depicted in fresco in the vault are by an artist from Ancona called Andrea Lilio and the wall frescoes are by Giovanni Battista da Novara.
Here is a monument to Gerolamo de Gettis, 1646.
Chapel of St MonicaEdit
In the corresponding position to the left of the sanctuary is the chapel and tomb of St Monica. This chapel is now also the Blessed Sacrament chapel. The vault frescoes are by Giovanni Battista da Novara again, and depict scenes from the life of the saint. The altarpiece, depicting Our Lady of the Cicture with SS Augustine and Monica, is by Giovanni Cotardi who executed it in 1765.
The original shrine for St Monica located here was probably designed by Isaia da Pisa in 1455, after her relics had been transferred from Sant'Aurea a Ostia Antica. (This church was the cathedral of Ostia at the time, where she had originally been buried.) The famous humanist scholar Maffeo Vigeo was the patron responsible. Very unfortunately, this monument was dismantled during the 18th century restoration and most of it was lost. What remains is her effigy above an ancient Roman sarcophagus in which she used to be enshrined, which is now placed in the left hand side of the chapel. Also, four statues of Doctors of the Church from the original shrine are now in the vestibule of the side entrance just by the left hand transept.
During the restoration mentioned the relics of St Monica were taken out of the sarcophagus and re-enshrined in an ancient basin in verde antico, which now forms the base of the altar which was designed by Giovanni Cottardi. On the right side of the chapel is the monument to Cardinal Pietro Grifi 1492, and on the pillars of the chapel's arch are those to Agostino Giorgi 1797 and Cardinal Gregorio Petrichini 1713.
Chapel of St William of MalevalEdit
Of the three chapels flanking the sanctuary, the little one in the far left hand corner was decorated by Giovanni Lanfranco and completed in 1619. It is dedicated to a rather obscure monastic founder who began a reform movement of the Benedictines in the 13th century in Tuscany. This led to the monastic congregation known as the Williamites, and the reason why he has a chapel in this church is because his congregation was later absorbed into the Augustinian friars.
Chapel of St Thomas of VillanovaEdit
The chapel in the left hand end of the transept is dedicated to St Thomas of Villanova, who was an Augustinian friar before he became archbishop of Valencia in Spain, and the spectacular 17th century sculpture featuring the saint is by Melchorre Caffà although finished by Ventura Salimbeni. It shows the saint distributing alms to poor people, since he was famous for giving away much of his income in this way.
The patrons of this chapel were the Pamphilj family. The five monuments here are to Cardinal Lorenzo Imperiali 1723, a 17th century bishop called Tusani, Emiliano Sarti 1810, Adeodato Nuzzi 1827 and Pietro de Monis 1851. The first in the list was sculpted by Domenico Guidi.
Chapel of SS "John and Fecundus"Edit
The fifth chapel on the left has an altarpiece showing St Hyacintha by Giacinto Brandi.
The church guide has the chapel dedicated to "John and Fecundus", but this seems wrong because there is no saint with the second name officially listed. Is Secundus meant?
Chapel of St ApolloniaEdit
The saint commemorated here is the patron of those suffering from problems with their teeth. Her altarpiece portrait is by Gerolamo Muziano and the frescoes are by Francesco Rosa from Genoa who was a pupil of Pietro da Cortona. Here is a monument to Fulgenzio Bellelli, 1745.
Chapel of St Clare of MontefalcoEdit
The Cappella Pio is dedicated to St Anne, and for a time used to have the sculpture of Our Lady and St Anne which is now in its proper place in the nave. The name comes from the tomb here of a soldier called Baldassare Pio Perugino. Also here is a monument to Domenico de Crollis, 1862.
There is no altarpiece here now, only a little portable painting of the Madonna and Child.
Chapel of Our Lady of LoretoEdit
The painting was commissioned by Ermete Cavalletti, who was the patron of the chapel. It features Our Lady presenting the Christ-Child to two elderly pilgrims, very soon after the Holy Family arrived to take up residence at Nazareth (the Child is shown as being about four years old).
Caravaggio had been on a sort of pilgrimage to Loreto, which seems to have been an exercise in genuine piety even though he got into trouble on it through his usual violent behaviour which features in contemporary police reports. The shrine of the Holy House in Loreto by tradition has the actual dwelling of the Holy Family in Nazareth, miraculously transported to here by angels. The picture that resulted from the trip caused Cavaletti to change the dedication of the chapel from the former one which had been to the Pietà.
The picture caused an uproar at the time, and many influential people hated it. Firstly, this was because of the realism of the lowly, domestic setting and the appearance of the poorly clad but joyful pilgrims, one with dirty bare feet. These elements we now appreciate as adding to the striking immediacy of the work, which is empasized by Caravaggio's masterly use of chiaroscuro, or contrast between light and shade.
Secondly, serious objection was taken to the model used for Our Lady, who was one of Caravaggio's prostitute friends called Maddalena Antognetti or "Lena". She features in other paintings by him. This objection was weighty, and it is to Cavaletti's credit that he persisted in patronizing the painting.
Despite the apparent realism of the work, there are surreal aspects to the figure of Our Lady. Her pose is contorted, and she has her chin right against her left collarbone. This could be interpreted as humility, or a demonstration of deep tiredness given that she had just completed a long journey from Egypt with her family. Her bare feet are mysterious, as it appears that she is floating on tiptoe without resting any weight on her toes. The pose would only be physically possible if she was putting all her weight on her left heel on the edge of a step -precarious as well as painful.
The sacristy is a rectangular room which is reached through a doorway at the end of the right hand aisle, and is accessed through a narrow transverse rectangular antechamber.
This was added by Vanvitelli in the 18th century restoration, and is a cool study in late Baroque decked out in white and puce with Corinthian pilasters supporting an entablature. The corners are slightly chamfered, and in them are four slightly elliptical tondi containing paintings representing the four Latin Doctors of the Church (SS Ambrose, Augustine, Leo and Jerome). The altarpiece, by Gianfranco Romanelli, depicts St Thomas of Villanova Giving Alms. The ceiling vault has a fresco by Gagliardi depicting The Conversion of St Augustine, which was executed in 1887 on the occasion of the 15th centenary of this event. Over the entrance door is a picture of SS Augustine and Monica, which is 17th century and is of the school of Simon Vouet.