Santa Chiara al Quirinale was a 16th century church attached to a convent of Poor Clare Capuchiness nuns on the south side of the Via del Quirinale, just to the east of and adjacent to the convent of Santa Maria Maddalena al Quirinale. This is in the rione Monti.
The church was apparently an old foundation, and this was indicated by the presence of an atrium between it and the street containing a fountain made from an ancient sarcophagus. The edifice allegedly contained old frescoes depicting SS Benedict and Scholastica, and this is thought to have been a result of Benedictine monks having been in charge of it in the Middle Ages. However, the origins of the church are obscure. If the preceding is correct, the monks would have been there before the 13th century. Also, if the edifice of a mediaeval church survived until the 16th century it was not in use as a church by then.
In 1571 one Giovanna d'Aragona Colonna, Duchess of Tagliacozzo, donated her adjacent palazzo and gardens in order to found a monastery of Poor Clare Capuchinesses. In this she was assisted by the Confraternity of the Holy Cross attached to the church of San Marcello al Corso, the same outfit responsible for building Santissimo Crocifisso al Corso. They raised the necessary funds in three years, and invited the four founding sisters from Naples in 1874. This was one of two Capuchiness convents in the city, the other being Sant’Urbano ai Pantani (the lost convent of Santa Maria della Concezione delle Farnesiane was not actually Capuchiness, despite popular belief).
The nuns settled in the Palazzo Tagliacozzo, and the original dedication of the room they used as a chapel was to Corpus Christi. Pope Gregory XIII donated funds for a new church edifice, the full dedication of which was Santissimo Sacramento e Santa Chiara. As a result, some sources refer to it as Sacramento but most as Santa Chiara.
The construction took some time, was begun in 1575 and was only finished in 1586. The archives of the confraternity picking up the bills reveal that the architect was initially Annibale Lippi. He had retired from the project by 1583, being replaced by several obscure architects.
The relics of the martyrs SS Faustus and Justa were enshrined under the high altar when the church was finally consecrated.
The entire complex was sequestered by the Italian government in 1886, and demolished to make way for the public gardens now there. The community of nuns did not disperse, but built a new convent at what is now Santa Maria Regina dei Minori. They are now settled at Corpus Christi alla Garbatella.
The church stood in what is now the gardens opposite the Quirinal Palace. A continuation of the line of the Via Parma to the south would run along the right hand side wall. The church site is marked by the equestrian statue, with the line of the façade parallel to the Via del Quirinale in the grass in front of it.
As mentioned, the church stood at the far end of a courtyard or atrium. The main block of the large convent was to the left of this courtyard facing the church, and was arranged around four sides of a cloister. Another narrow wing occupied the right side, and abutted onto the convent buildings of Santa Maria Maddalena next door. A third wing was behind the church. A narrow passage ran along the right hand side of the church and led to the sisters' vineyard where the Via Piacenza now is, and the large garden occupied the space between this and the cloister block. This garden contains three little shrines which had the valuable privilege of being included in the plenary indulgence available to pilgrims who visited nine specified churches in Rome (the seven famous basilicas included).
A narrow passage separated the convent from the extensive buildings of the Jesuit noviciate to the east, with its church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale. These have been partially demolished as well.
The church itself had a simple rectangular plan, with a shallow presbyterium marked off by a triumphal arch. There were two side altars, placed between the two pairs of pilasters supporting the ceiling vault.
The major evidence for the appearance of the exterior is the watercolour by Achille Pinelli painted in 1833; unfortunately, he is known not to have been entirely accurate with architectural proportions and detailing. See the "De Alvariis gallery" in the external links.
As shown in this work, the façade had two storeys. It rested on a plinth, and the entrance was accessed by a short flight of stairs. This was because the church was on a crypt which accommodated the slope on which the convent stood; the sisters had burial rights in it.
The storeys were separated by an entablature without an architrave, and this was supported by a Doric pilaster at each outer corner. The entrance was framed by a large propylaeum which consisted of a pair of Doric pilasters supporting a triangular pediment which intruded into the upper storey. In between the lintel and this pediment was a panel with a fresco displaying the symbolism of the Blessed Sacrament, and this was by Cristoforo Roncalli, nicknamed Il Pomarancio.
Next to the bounding pilasters on either side was a slightly sunk round-headed panel containing a fresco, with a blank square panel beneath it. These frescoes were also by Roncalli, the left hand one showing St Francis with a crucifix and the right hand one, St Clare with a monstrance.
The second storey consisted of three sunk framed panels, the central one rectangular and containing an oculus window with mullions in the form of a cross. The outer panels were almost square ,and were blank. The roofline was horizontal, and had a slightly projecting cornice. Earlier graphic evidence suggests that there had been a triangular pediment, and probably the sisters removed this for safety reasons.
The main altar had an altarpiece of the Crucifixion by Marcello Venusti, and in the conch of the apse was a fresco The Coronation of Our Lady in Heaven by Roncalli. The two side altars had St Francis Receiving the Stigmata and The Deposition from the Cross, both by Jacopino del Conte; the latter painting was over an altar dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. The paintings were taken by the sisters when they left and are now at Corpus Christi alla Garbatella, but the fresco is lost.