Santa Maria delle Grazie alle Fornaci is an 18th century Baroque parish and titular church at Piazza di Santa Maria alle Fornaci 30, just south of Vatican City and north of the San Pietro train station in the Aurelio quarter.
The church was originally founded in the 14th century, and served a small suburb which became important as a site for preparing materials for the building of the new St Peter’s. The name Fornaci refers to kilns used for making bricks for the work.
At the end of the 17th century it was rebuilt by Francesco Multò for the Discalced Trinitarians (a Spanish reform of the Trinitarian order), whose monastery was adjacent, and in 1720 Filippo Raguzzini added the façade.
In 1850 it took over parochial responsibilities for the area from Sant’Angelo alle Fornaci, which had just been destroyed in the suppression of the Roman Republic. In the process, it suffered a thorough restoration by Andrea Busiri Vici.
A campanile in Baroque style was added in the 1950’s.
The Trinitarians remain in charge of the parish.The church was made titular in 1985. The title of the cardinalate adds fuori Porta Cavalleggeri to the name of the church. The previous cardinal deacon was Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy, who died in 2014. The title was granted to Mario Zenari in 2016.
The plan is based on a Greek cross, with a very short nave and two transepts of the same length. The sanctuary has an integral semi-circular apse.
There is a very low central octagonal drum dome which was never completed but which was capped by eight tiled roof pitches which meet at the apex without a lantern. The other roofs are also pitched and tiled, and the walls are of brick.
The two-storey façade is false, as it is substantially higher than the nave behind it. It features eight Corinthian pilasters, the inner two pairs flanking the door being double. The entrance has a segmental pediment crowned by a coat of arms in stucco featuring an angel, and in between the pilasters are two pairs of round-headed niches crowned by triangular pediments. The top storey has one window with triangular pediment, flanked by six pilasters (inner ones double) and crowned by an ogee pediment with a little segment on top.
A campanile was built on the right hand side of the apse in the 20th century, a square Baroque tower with pale yellow walls and white architectural details. The large open sound-holes are balustraded, and there is a double pagoda cap in lead.
The interior decoration is restrained, being mostly in pale yellow with white detailing.
The high altar in the apse has an aedicule in polychrome marble. The altarpiece is a venerated icon of Our Lady of Graces, painted by Gilles Halet.
The first altar on the right has a stucco statue by Giovanni Battista Maini, and side paintings by Francesco Scaramucci. The second chapel has a Holy Trinity with Saints of the Order of the Reformed Trinitarians by the Neapolitan Onofrio Avellino. The third chapel is dedicated to St John of Matha, a founder of the order, and the altarpiece depicting him is by Francesco Fusi.
The chapel on the left has an altarpiece of the Holy Family by Giuseppe Chiari, and lateral paintings by Niccola Ricciolini on the right, and on the left by Pietro Bianchi. Two lunette frescoes are by Marco Benefial, detailing scenes from the life of St John the Baptist. The cupola frescoes are by Pietro da Pietri.
The church is open:
Weekdays 7:00 to 12:00 (9:00 July and August), 16:00 (17:30 July and August) to 19:30.
Sundays 7:30 to 13:00 (12:00 July and August), 17:00 (17:30 July and August) to 19:30.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 7:00, 9:00 (not July, August), 18:30.
Sundays 8:00, 9:00 (not July, August), 10:00, 12:00 (not July, August), 18:30.
Rosary and Vespers at 17:50.