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Santa Maria della Pace

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Santa Maria della Pace

English name: Our Lady of Peace
Dedication: Blessed Virgin
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Architect(s): Baccio Pontelli, Pietro da Cortona
Artists: Carlo Maderno, Raphael,
Contact data
Address: Piazza Santa Maria della Pace / 5 Vicolo del Arco della Pace

Santa Maria della Pace is a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, on a little piazza named after it and hidden away to the west of the top end of the Piazza Navona in the rione Ponte. It is not easy to find.

Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons. [1]


The first church here, built in the Middle Ages, was the church of the aquarellari, the water-salesmen who provided casks of water from the Tiber to parts of Rome that had no direct water supply.

The present church was built by Pope Sixtus IV, with construction starting in 1482, after he had made a vow to build a new church here if peace was restored between the Papal States and Florence, Milan and Naples. It is said that the site was picked because a drunken soldier had stabbed a statue of the Madonna in the breast, and it had started bleeding; or that a stone was thrown at the image that hangs over the high altar, which started bleeding. The architect was Baccio Pontelli.

It was restored in the Baroque style by Pietro da Cortona, who was hired by Pope Alexander VII, in the years 1656-1667.

The church became very popular after Pope Alexander VII had restored it. For a long time, it was the only church in Rome that offered Mass in the afternoon on a regular basis.

The current titular priest of the church is H.E. Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, who was appointed on February 21, 2001.


The façade and the semi-circular porch is by da Cortona, constructed from 1656 until 1661. The portico, and the Baroque style, is reminiscent of ancient Roman architecture. The approach to the church was originally through a narrow street, but this led to problems when the church became popular. Da Cortona had several houses demolished to design the Piazza Santa Maria della Pace.

Maria della Pace

Campanile of Santa Maria dell'Anima in background.

The cloister, which can be seen even when the church is closed, is by Bramante, built from 1500 until 1504. It is one of his first works in Rome.


The plan of the church is octagonal. It has a narrow nave, and the sanctuary is small.

A venerated painting of the Blessed Virgin and the Divine Child hangs over the high altar. It used to hang in the porch of St Andrew's of the Watercarriers. The high altar from 1614 is by Carlo Maderno, and was designed specifically to enshrine the painting. The choir was decorated by Francesco Albani from 1612 until 1614.

In the Capella Chigi, the first chapel on the right-hand side, is a fresco from 1514 by Raphael of the four Sibyls; Luma, Persia, Phrygia and Tibur, each receiving a revelation from an angel. Raphael died before the chapel was finished, and work was continued by Sebastiano del Piombo. Timoteo Viti, a pupil of Raphael, painted the four Prophets Habbakuk, Jonah, David and Daniel. The painting over the altar, The Deposition, is by Cosimo Fancelli. The chapel was ordered by Agostino Chigi, the 16th century banker.

The Cappella Ponzetti, to the left by the main entrance, has an altar dedicated to Sts Bridget and Catherine of Sweden. Above the altar is a painting of the Madonna flanked by the two saints, made by Baldassare Peruzzi in 1516. The donor, Cardinal Fernando Ponzetti, kneels before St Bridget. The cardinal was murdered by German mercenaries during the Sacco de Roma in 1527.

In the second chapel on the right-hand side of the nave is a chapel with marble decoration by Michelangelo. Peruzzi has also painted the Presentation of Mary - to see this you may have to move around a bit to find the best possible angle, since the light is dim.

Opposite this is the Capella Cesi, designed by Sangallo in 1525. The statues and the reliefs on the Cesi family tomb are by Vincenzo de Rossi.

Figures of Strength and Prudence over the arch, and Peace and Justice on the entrance wall, are by Cosimo Fancelli.

Special notesEdit

After a period when arrangements for access to the church were unsatisfactory, as from 2010 a more regular opening schedule will hopefully be in place. The church is advertised as open on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 9 to 12 in the morning. All photography is prohibited. The adjacent cloisters have different opening arrangements, and may be open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 to 8 in the evening for exhibitions. There is likely to be an admission charge for the cloisters, but not for the church.&nbsp

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