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Santa Maria dei Monti

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Santa Maria dei Monti

English name: Our Lady of the Hills
Dedication: Blessed Virgin Mary
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Clergy: Diocesan
Titular church Cardinal Urosa Savino
Built: 1580
Architect(s): Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Lombardi, Flaminio Ponzi
Artists: Cristoforo Casolani, Giacinto Gimignani, Giovanni Anguilla
Contact data
Address: 41 Via della Madonna del Monti
00184 Roma
Phone: 06 48 55 31

Santa Maria dei Monti is a Baroque parish and titular church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and is at Via della Madonna dei Monti 41 just north of the west end of Via Cavour. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons.[1] There is an English Wikipedia article. [2]

The official name of the church is Santa Maria ai Monti, and it is also familiarly known as Madonna dei Monti.


The church was built in 1580, to celebrate the discovery of a miraculous image of Our Lady in the ruins of a convent of Poor Clares on the site.

This convent was founded in 1223, during the lifetime of St Francis, but (according to Armellini) the nuns only stayed there for three years before moving to San Lorenzo in Panisperna nearby. The house was turned into a barn, but an icon of Our Lady painted on a wall in the hayloft allegedly managed to survive for 350 years (actually, it looks 15th century). Then it was suddenly noticed, and enthusiastically venerated, by local people in the late 15th century. After a blind old woman recovered her sight while praying before it, so much money was donated in one year that a new church could be built immediately from scratch.

This was designed by Giacomo della Porta, who was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII. Work was continued by Carlo Lombardi and Flaminio Ponzio. It's been a parochial church since 1824, served by diocesan clergy, but is still owned by the Pia Opera dei Catacumene e dei Neofiti which is the descendant of the confraternity which administered the church on its construction and which was, back then, interested in converting Jews and Muslims.

Since 1960, it has been a titular church. The present titular is Jorge Liberato Cardinal Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas .


The plan is based on a Latin cross, with short transepts and a central octagonal lead-covered dome on a drum. The dome has a tall lantern finial, with arched windows and a cupola terminating in a ball. The apse is internal, not structural, as the external presbyterium is on a rectangular plan.

Maria dei Monti

The façade, which was renovated 1991-1992, was inspired by the church of the Gesù. It has two storeys, and the first storey has six Corinthian pilasters supporting an entablature the frieze of which bears a dedicatory inscription to Our Lady. The doorcase has a triangular pediment supported by a pair of volutes, and above this is a tablet bearing a long inscription describing the church's foundation. There is a winged cherub's head above this, and a round-headed niche between the first and second pilasters on each side.

The second storey has four Composite pilasters with exaggerated Ionic volutes in their capitals, and in between each pair is again a round-headed niche. The central window has a segmental pediment supported by half-round Composite columns, and a balustraded rail. The crowning triangular pediment contains a Papal coat-of-arms in its tympanum which looks too small, as if it had been obtained "from stock". This storey is framed by a pair of large double volutes, and interestingly the right hand side wall of the nave is buttressed by an identical row of volutes. This makes an agreeable architectural study.
2011 Maria ai Monti detail

Volutes on side of church.


The venerated 15th century painting of the Madonna with Child with SS Lawrence and Stephen, allegedly found in the desecrated shell of the nearby 13th century convent of the Poor Clares, hangs over the high altar. If it was so found, it has been repainted.

The apse is decorated by Giacinto Gimignani and Cristoforo Casolani.

The dome is very beautiful, especially if you happen to get just the right light. The frescoes of the four Evangelists were painted by Casolani. In the niches are the statues of the four major prophets of the Old Testament, made in 1599 by Giovanni Anguilla. In each of the eight sections there are depictions of scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin, made by several artists including Cesare Nebbia and Orazio Gentileschi.

In the ceiling is another fresco by Casolani, depicting The Ascension, Angels and Doctors of the Church. In the vault and the arches of the chapels are stucco angels by Ambrogio Buonvicino.

The first chapel on the right has an altarpiece of The Madonna with Child and St Charles Borromeo, and scenes from the life of St Charles BorromeCharles Borromeo, by Giovanni da San Giovanni.

In the third chapel on the right are paintings of the Pietà and the Road to Calvary, the latter being the altarpiece by Paris Nogari.

In the left arm of the transept, beneath an altar, is the tomb and effigy of St Benedict Joseph Labre, who died here in 1783. The effigy was made by Achille Albacini in 1892.

In the chapels on the left you can see Durante Alberti's Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi and the Dream of St Joseph by Nebbia, and Girolamo Muziano's Nativity.

Liturgical NotesEdit

On April 26th each year, a copy of the painting of the Blessed Virgin is carried in procession through the nearby streets.

The feast of St Benedict Joseph Labre is celebrated with solemnity on 16 April, as his shrine is in this church. He has a little chapel nearby, San Benedetto Giuseppe Labre ai Monti, where the filthy rags he was wearing at his death are preserved.

Opening hoursEdit

  • Normally open Fri.-Sat. 07.00-12.00 and 17.00-19.30;
  • Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation 8.30-13.30.

The church is near both San Pietro in Vincoli and the Cavour metro station.

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Info.roma web-page with photos

Photo of row of volutes

The miraculous icon

"Tesori di Roma" web-page with photo gallery

"Romeartlover" web-page with 18th century Vasi engraving

Photo of St Charles Borromeo

Effigy of St Benedict Joseph Labre

Photo of back end of church exterior

Roman Despatches blog - with gallery

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