|Santa Maria in Campitelli|
|English name:||Our Lady at Campitelli|
|Titular church||Cardinal Montezemolo|
|Built:||1659 - 1667|
|Artists:||Melchior Cafà Il Baciccia|
|Address:|| 9 Piazza di Campitelli
Santa Maria in Campitelli, also known as Santa Maria in Portico, is a Baroque parish and titular church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under a local Roman title of hers, Our Lady in the Portico.
The origins of the church are obscure, but it seems to have begun in the early 15th century as a small chapel dependent on Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the Capitoline hill. (The name Campitelli is thought to be possibly derived from Campodoglio, the Italian name for the hill.)
The first documentary reference is to a priest appointed to it in 1566, and in 1618 a papal decree created an independent parish and entrusted it to the Congregation of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God. They have administered the parish since then.
A new church was consecrated by the congregation in 1648, but in 1656 (or 1658) a small ancient icon of Our Lady at the (now demolished) church of Santa Galla Antiqua nearby was believed by many people to have miraculously halted an epidemic. This took place when the icon was carried through the streets of the city in expiation. This latter church of St Galla used to have an alternative name of Santa Maria in Portico, hence the icon was given this title. Pope Alexander VII took an interest, and agreed that a new church should be built by the city as a shrine for the icon on the site of the only recently rebuilt parish church. This shrine church was designed by Carlo Rainaldi in the late Baroque style between 1659 and 1667, and the icon gave its title as the alternative name. The official name used by the Diocese is now Santa Maria in Portico in Campitelli. It has been a titular church since 1660.
The consecration of the new church only took place in 1728, and the unusual delay may have been caused by debts incurred in its construction, or by delays in finishing its interior decoration. The cost was borne by the city council, not by the diocese, and this may have had something to do with it.
The current Cardinal Deacon is Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo.
The plan of the church is very unusual, and is the result of the initial rejection by the Clerks Regular of Rainaldi's original proposal of an elliptical plan. The revision involved the collaboration of the architect of the Clerks, Giovanni Antonio de Rossi. There are two elements, the first being a nave with two large transepts forming a Greek cross. In the interior corners of the cross-plan are inserted four chapels enclosed by walls. The presbyterium is the second element of the plan, and is another cross except that here the transepts are shallow. There is a semi-circular apse. Four more chapels are inserted into the angles of the cross, making eight in the church overall.
The "info.roma" web-page reproduces both the plan of the actual church and Rainaldi's original proposal.
The nave and nave transepts have pitched and tiled roofs, and the transept roofs are lower than the main nave roof. The presbyterium roof is flat, and about half the elevation of the nave roofline. It is mostly taken up by the octagonal drum of the dome, which has an oeil-de-boeuf window in each side except that over the altar. The dome itself is a segment of a sphere, slightly less than hemispherical, and is tiled with square tiles. There is a lantern with eight narrow round-headed windows separated by pilasters bearing vertical double volutes which support a cog-wheel entablature. This lantern is crowned by a lead cupola bearing a ball finial.There is no proper campanile, but a tall belfry is placed over the first chapel on the left. It is formed of three tall brick pillars, connected by arches at the top. The four bells are hung in the spaces between the pillars.
The façade is built of travertine, and is dominated by strong vertical lines. This effect is achieved by incorporating large columns in the round into the façade, instead of decorating it with pilasters or semi-columns as is usual with Baroque churches. This feature arguably heralds the later neo-Classical style of architecture. The verticality is accentuated by having the entire central section of the nave frontage brought well forward, from ground level to pediment, as well as the corner elements (although not so far).
The main entrance is flanked by two Ionic columns, with capitals having four volutes each with swags. These support a raised segmental pediment (short pilasters are inserted between capitals and pediment), and the central section of this is recessed. It contains a winged putto's head, which is of a child more mature than the usual run of Baroque putti and looks as if it might have been carved from life. The door lintel bears a proclamation of indulgence.
This doorcase is inserted into a propylaeum which has two Corinthian columns bearing a raised triangular pediment with the base cut away, this pediment intruding into the façade's second storey. To either side of this, in the recessed zones of the façade, is another pair of Corinthinan columns which support the entablature of the first storey. This has a dedicatory inscription on the frieze, which runs under the pediment of the propylaeum. The cornice projects, and is decorated on its underside with rosettes. A final pair of columns occupy the projecting corners.
The side entrance frontages are recessed again from the nave frontage described, but the entablature with its inscription runs across them, too. The two entrances are squeezed into narrow spaces, and each has a pair of Ionic pillars bearing an entablature but no pediment. Above each is a rectangular window with a tympanum containing swags, the projecting arc of which is supported by a pair of little Doric pilasters. Finally, the outer corners of the first storey are occupied by a pair of Doric pilasters (not columns).
The second storey has a large rectangular central window in the same style as those over the side entrances, except this has Corinthinan columns and the tympanum contains a large scallop shell. This window and its decoration is inserted into another propylaeum, piggybacking on the first storey one, and this has Corinthian columns supporting a segmental pediment which is inserted into the main triangular pediment of the façade. This segmental pediment contains the coat-of-arms of the city of Rome, a reminder that the church was a civic rather than a papal project. On either side of this upper propylaeum the second storey has the same design as the first one. The crowning pediment is decorated with rosettes, and has two sections either side of its middle recessed to match the rest of the façade.
The two buildings either side of the church frontage used to make up the convent of the Clerks Regular. The smaller one is still their congregational headquarters.
The unusual plan creates intricate and enjoyable perspectives which make this one of the most architecturally satisfying of Roman church interiors. It is coolly decorated in a pale grey, which serves to draw attention to the splendour of the shrine over the high altar. A prominent entablature with a heavy dentillate cornice runs round the interior, and this is broken at the entrance into the domed presbyterium by an enormous archway with two arcs, one inside the other like a reflection rainbow. This is supported by two pairs of enormous partly ribbed Corinthian columns standing in front of pilasters to the same scale and size, and has rosette coffering on its soffit. The design is reproduced in the triumphal arch into the apse, except that this has only one arc. Either side of the dome is a large lunette window within an arch which geometrically matches the two just mentioned. The windows are surmounted by arcs of rosette coffering, reflected by the further coffering on the soffits of the enclosing arches. The interior of the dome has coffering of the same style.
Shrine of the Madonna del PorticoEdit
The shrine of Our Lady was designed in 1667 by the Maltese sculptor Melchiorre Cafà - it is sometimes also attributed to Giovanni Antonio de Rossi. The shrine has as a 'gloria', a architectural use of light for dramatic effect. It was made less than a year after Bernini's throne of St Peter in the Basilica of St Peter, and surely imitates this. Note the twisted barley-sugar columns. The icon of the Madonna is small, only about 25 cm high, and is of gilded bronze and enamel. Tradition claims that it appeared miraculously in 524 at the hospital of St Galla, a Roman woman who was helping the poor, and was venerated by Pope Gregory the Great. It is further said to have been carried in processions since 590. However, scholars have dated it to the 11th century, so the tradition is uncertain to say the least. There is a staircase behind the 'gloria' allowing a better view, but you must ask permission at the sacristy if you wish to climb these stairs.
Since the original icon is not easily accessible for veneration, a reproduction is located in the second chapel on the right.
Other notable art-worksEdit
The first chapel on the left is the Altieri family chapel, fitted out in 1708 by Sebastiano Cipriano. It is dedicated to Blessed Ludovica Albertoni, and the marble altarpiece by Lorenzo Ottoni shows the Holy Family appearing to her in a vision. The ceiling fresco depicting the Assumption is by Giuseppe Passeri. (There is another Altieri chapel at San Francesco d'Assisi a Ripa Grande, containing Bernini's famous sculpture of Bl Ludovica).
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to St Giovanni Leonardi, the founder of the Clerks Regular, and the altar has a relic of him. It was designed by Giovanni Battista Contini, and the altarpiece is the Glory of San Giovanni Leonardi by Marcello Sozzi (?) of 1860. The vault fresco of St John the Baptist in Glory is by Giacinto Calandrucci. The left main transept has the Birth of St John the Baptist by Il Baciccia.
The third chapel on the left is the Capizucchi chapel, and is an early work by Mattia de Rossi. The altarpiece is the Conversion of St Paul by Ludovico Gimignani, and above it is a 16th century fresco of the Madonna and Child rescued from the old parish church demolished to make way for the present building.
In the sacristy is kept a Byzantine portable altar which by tradition belonged to St Gregory Nazianzen . It bears a mosic with very small tesserae, depicting Christ with Our Lady and St John.
In the conch of the apse is a fresco by Giovanni Battista Conti again, showing Pope Alexander VII offering the church to Our Lady.
The first chapel on the right has a painting of St Michael the Archangel by Sebastiano Conca.
The second chapel on the right has Our Lady with her Parents, SS Joachim and Anne by Luca Giordano. The fabric of this chapel was preserved from the previous, demolished church. The fresco here of St Anne in Glory is by Michelangelo Ricciolini (?).
Cardinals' Tombs (selection)Edit
- Lorenzo Altieri (died 1741) nephew of Paluzzo Paluzzi Altieri degli Albertoni
- Filippo Casoni (died 1811)
- Raimondo Capizucchi , O.P., (died 1691) -with magnificent polychrome marbles.
- Guglielmo Pallotta (died 1795)
- Paluzzo Paluzzi Altieri degli Albertoni, (died 1698) adopted nephew of Pope Clement X.
- Francesco Landi Pietra (died 1757)
- Bartolomeo Pacca sen. (died 1844)
Since the time of the Old Pretender , whose son Henry Benedict Cardinal Stuart was Cardinal Deacon of the church from 1747 until his death in 1807, the church has been a center of devotion for the conversion of England.
The church is accessible to the physically disabled. A tape-recorded guide is available near the entrance, and laminated icon-card reproductions of Our Lady of the Portico are on sale in a vending machine.