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Santa Maria Maddalena al Quirinale is a demolished 16th century convent church which was located on the corner of Via del Quirinale and Via della Consulta. This is in the rione Monti.
The complex was originally built for a community of Dominican nuns in 1581 by means of a benefaction by Princess Maddalena Orsini, who had it dedicated to her patron saint Mary Magdalen. She was helped in this by one Pietro Cheggia, who seemed to have been inspired by a vision of the saint. The foundation epigraph survived until the demolition of the church, and read:
Magister Pietro Cheggia de Marcho, dioc. de Com., fecit de fondamente queste clausure et monasterio, MDCIV at instancia di Sancta Maria Maddalena.
The church was rebuilt at the beginning of the 18th century in the reign of Pope Clement XI by an architect called Burioni. This statement originated in a 1750 guidebook (see bibliography below) and has been much copied, but it is not clear who Burioni was.
In 1839 the Dominican nuns moved out, and were replaced by nuns of the congregation of Perpetual Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, known as Sacramentines. These had previously been resident at San Gioacchino e Anna alle Quattro Fontane, just up the road. The church then became famous in the city for its privilege of perpetual public exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at a time when this was rare.
Its sequestration and demolition by the Italian government in 1886 to create public gardens caused serious offence to ordinary Catholic believers in the city. The motivation on the part of the government was to create a setting for the Quirinal Palace, then occupied by the king, more in keeping with contemporary ideas concerning civic dignity.
When the convent was demolished and the gardens laid out, the opportunity was taken to widen the Via Consulta which had been very narrow. The original street is now taken up by the pedestrian sidewalk and the parking spaces on the south-west side of the modern throughfare; the church was in the present roadway, with the line of the façade marked by the south-east edge of the pedestrian crossing.
The convent was fairly large and irregularly laid out in three wings, with the church on the corner of Via del Quirinale and Via della Consulta. One wing of the convent continued down the slope of the latter street, and the main entrance was here. Another fronted the former street, while the third ran perpendicular to the first from the main entrance and created a small cloister in between it and the second wing. This had arcades on its south-west and north-east sides only. On the other side of the third wing was a formal garden for the nuns.
The church was on a restricted plan, forming a narrow rectangle with the right hand wall bordering the Via della Consulta. There were four external side chapels, each with an identical square plan and dating from the 18th century rebuilding. There was also a rectangular apse.
The façade was a very odd and rather ugly design, and looked as if it had never been finished. The entrance had a triangular pediment placed directly onto its doorcase, and above was a vertical rectangular window with a molded frame and slightly curved top. The roofline was flat, with a projecting cornice which looked rather Ancient Egyptian, and the outer corners of the façade were accentuated by pilaster strips. The right hand corner, however, had a Doric pilaster attached which was doubletted on each side of the corner and which supported nothing.
Roma Antica e Moderna, 1750, p. 625
Chandlery, P: Pilgrim-Walks in Rome, Manresa Press 1903