|Santa Maria del Pianto|
|English name:||Our Lady of Grief|
|Dedication:||Blessed Virgin Mary|
|Address:||20 Via Santa Maria dei Calderari|
There used to be a little mediaeval church here named San Salvatore de Cacaberis, alternatively named Sant'Andrea. However, in 1546 a young man was murdered in the street in front of an image of Our Lady painted on an entrance door nearby, and this picture was seen weeping miraculously as a result. The popular devotion that resulted led to a project to rebuild the church to house the icon, which was now called "Mary of the Tears".
A popular contest was staged here during the Counter-Reformation, before the rebuilding. Boys from various parishes took part in a catechism competition, and the winner was declared an "emperor of Christian doctrine". He was carried in triumph before the Holy Father, from whom he could request a favour.
The old church was demolished in 1608, and the initial building project continued until 1612. The architect was Nicolò Sebregondi, who designed a church on the plan of a Greek cross with a central dome. However, funds ran out and the project languished until 1642 when a large benefaction by one Vincenzo Porrata allowed work to continue under the supervision firstly of Giovan Battista Mola. The present stucco interior decoration and the side chapels were then undertaken by Filippo Titoni.
However, money ran out again before any decorations could be added to the dome or the conch of the apse. More seriously, the nave arm of the Greek cross was truncated and the projected monumental façade were never even begun, leaving the church as an architectural fragment. All hope of further progress was abandoned in the middle of the 18th century, and Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58) then granted the church to the Confraternita della Dottrina Cristiana. This used to worship at San Martino ai Pelamantelli, but that old church was literally falling down and had to be demolished.
This pious confraternity, later attached to the parish church of San Carlo ai Catinari, stayed in possession until 1891 but the government confiscated their assets in that year. In 1896 the church was struck by lightning and abandoned for a period; it was lucky not to have been demolished, but was instead acquired and restored in 1907 by the Congregazione degli Oblati di Maria Vergine.
They remain in possession, and the church is presently used for worship by a folk-Mass group whose liturgies are lively and well attended if not to everybody's liking.
As a result of being unfinshed, the church has an odd, T-shaped plan. There is a large transept with a dome at the crossing, and this is by default the main body of the church. A presbyterium ending in a large semi-circular apse forms the stem of the T. As regards the proposed nave, only one bay was built and this forms the entrance vestibule. The two entrances lead into its ends. The only street frontage of the church is on the south side, where the brick wall of the left hand transept can be
seen. Pilaster strips without capitals support an entablature with a heavy projecting cornice. Above this, the wall is in rough brick, witnessing to the lack of funds to complete the church. The octagonal rendered drum of the dome, with its pitched and tiled roof, peeps over the domestic building on the right.
To the north side the dome can also be seen from the street. The drum is rendered in red ochre, now faded and peeling, and each side of the octagon is framed in yellow. The north -east face has a defunct clock, and every other face has a recessed hexagonal window low down. To the north can also be seen the little campanile on the end of the right hand transept, with four large arched soundholes, an Ionic pilaster on each corner and a tiled pyramidal cap.
There is a transept and a semi-circular apse with conch, but no nave apart from one narrow bay used as an entrance narthex.
The rich stucco decoration, with curlicues on panels and ribbed Corinthian pilasters, only goes as far as a heavy entablature with a projecting cornice. The conch and dome are undecorated. The magnificent high altar, coved with four yellow marble Corinthian columns, enshrines the original miraculous icon which is 15th century.
By the entrance is the processional banner of the original confraternity by Lazzaro Baldi , showing the weeping Madonna on one side and her in glory on the other. Here also is a fragment from the original mediaeval church, a panel from a tabernacle or ambo now on the wall and featuring an arcade of four Gothic arches. It is covered in intricate geometric mosaic in white, red, black and gold. In the right transept is the tomb of Pompey Palmieri, designed by Mola. The apse displays two works by Agostino Ciampelli, Jesus Appearing as a Beggar to St Martin and Jesus Debating with the Doctors in the Temple.
When the confraternity took over in the mid 18th century, they built a separate oratory for private liturgical functions. This was an odd thing to do, since the church had little pastoral justification at any period in its history and so would have not had many competing liturgies.
The dedication of this oratory was the same as that of the church. However, it was on a separate site on the other side of the Via di Santa Maria dè Calderari and has been demolished in order to extend the area of the Piazza dei Cinque Soli. To locate the street corner on which it stood, take a line east from the south frontage of teh Via di Santa Maria dè Calderari and another line north from the east side of the building containing San Tommaso ai Cenci. Where these two lines meet was the left hand corner of the oratory's façade. The site is now occupied by a car park.
The plan of the oratory was rectangular, with a small shallow rectangular apse. It was large in comparison with other confraternity oratories, as big as the nearby church of Santa Maria in Publicolis and larger than San Tommaso.
As a result of being unfinished the church is hemmed in by buildings that would have been demolished had it been completed, and so it is not easy to find.
It has two entrances. One leads off the Piazza delle Cinque Scole, and the other is on the Via di Santa Maria del Pianto. If you wish to visit, it is best to check both of these as one or the other only may be open. The church is usually only open for liturgical events, but these are advertised on a notice by the south door.