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Santa Lucia alle Botteghe Oscure

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Santa Lucia alle Botteghe Oscure was a 17th century former parish and convent church which stood on what is now the north side of the roadway of Via delle Botteghe Oscure at its junction with the Largo di Torre Argentina. This is in the rione Pigna.

The dedication was to St Lucy of Syracuse. An alternative name used in the sources is Santa Lucia dei Ginnasi.


This was an old foundation, but the first documentary reference dates from 1192. Early names were de Pinea (an early form of Pigna), de Calcariis (lime-burners) and de Apothecis (Latin for warehouses).

It served as the church of a small parish until 1630, when it was rebuilt by Cardinal Domenico Ginnasi whose family palazzo was next door to the east (the Palazzo Ginnasi has also been demolished and rebuilt). He founded a college for twelve poor girls from Castel Bolognese, a town near Ravenna where he had been born. One wonders what the girls made of being exiled to Rome for their education. 

The college did not prosper, and after the cardinal's death in 1649 a convent was established here of Discalced Carmelite nuns known as the Teresiane del Corpus Domini. These in turn moved to Santi Marcellino e Pietro al Laterano in the mid 18th century. Then the complex was used as a hospice for retired priests; through all these changes, the parish was kept up.

An alternative name after the church was rebuilt was Santa Lucia dei Ginnasi, after the patronal family.

The church was demolished to widen the street in 1938, and is now part of the modern building housing the Maestre Pii Filippini in Via delle Botteghe Oscure.


The church was on the east side of a small piazza, now the Largo di Santa Lucia Filippini, on the north side of the Via delle Botteghe Oscure.

The church entrance was about under where the wrap-around balcony on the corner of the modern building now is, and the right hand nave wall is followed by the main frontage of the same building on the Via delle Botteghe Oscure. This sports the church's doorcase, re-located after the demolition. The balcony mentioned is in imitation of one that used to be on the equivalent corner of the convent.


The church had no separate architectural identity of its own, but was incorporated within the building of the convent.

The plan was based on a Greek cross. Firstly there was a nave of two bays, with a pair of pilasters supporting the vault. Then came a third bay, off which opened a pair of large external chapels (the site of the right hand one of these is under the pedestrian sidewalk). Then was a presbyterium occupying a fourth bay, and finally a slightly narrower square apse entered through a triumphal arch.

The church's major axis was not straight; the presbyterium and apse were slightly angled to the left from the orientation of the nave.

There was no façade, but only the domestic frontage of the convent. The doorcase was the only element marking the church on the exterior, apart from a small bellcote with two arched bell openings on the roof of the convent to the north.
2011 Lucia alle Botteghe Oscure

The doorway and statue are from the church, the rest is modern.

This doorcase, which survives as the main entrance of the modern convent building on the site, has a fine Baroque frame embellished a its upper corners with a pair of triglyphs decorated with tassels, scallop shells and fleur-de-lys (the latter stylized lilies being an evocation of the virginity of the martyr St Lucy). Over the lintel is a modern tablet proclaiming the Filippini institution. Above this in turn is a segmental pediment broken at the top, into which is inserted a little arched aedicule containing a statue of the Madonna and Child by Pompeio Ferrucci (1565-1637). This sculpture was commissioned for the church in 1630, and was originally inside. It was put over the door when the church was rebuilt.

All the pictures in the new church were painted by Caterina Ginnasi, the niece of Cardinal Domenico Ginnasi. These included that over the main altar, The Martyrdom of St Lucy, also a lunette of The Last Supper and a depiction of The Martyrdom of St Blaise. When the church was demolished these were recovered by the Ginnasi family, and are apparently in the private chapel of their adjacent modern palazzo.

The church also contained several tombs of the same family, including that of Cardinal Domenico and Caterina. Many of these were also transferred to the same chapel, notably these two. Caterina had been instrumental in establishing the Carmelite nuns here, and became one herself.

External links Edit

Italian Wikipedia page

Nolli map (look for 893)

"Romeartlover" web-page

Blog with old photos

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