|Santa Maria in Via Lata|
|English name:||Our Lady at Via Lata|
|Type:||Titular church, Minor basilica|
|Titular church||Edward Idris Cassidy|
|Architect(s):||Pietro da Cortona|
|Address:|| 306 Via del Corso |
|Phone:||06 83 39 62 76|
Santa Maria in Via Lata is a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Picture of the church at Wikimedia Commons.
According to legend, the church stands on a site where Sts Peter and Paul and the Evangelists Luke and John stayed. Most important of these traditions is the one claiming that St Paul lived here (more below).
The appellation comes from the ancient Roman street here, which roughly corresponds to the present Via del Corso.
The first Christian place of worship here was a 5th century oratory in the Roman building beneath the present church.
The upper level of the church was added in the 9th century.
The church was rebuilt in the late 15th century, c. 1491. It was renovated or rebuilt in the 17th century.
The current titular deacon of the church is Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy, titular archbishop of Amanzia, who was appointed in 1991 and who holds it pro hac vice since 2002.
The façade and portico are by Pietro da Cortona, and were designed c. 1660. The new facade was closely
guided by Pope Alexander VII whose family, the Chigi, hoped to develop a palace-chapel enclave in the area along the lines of that of the Pamphili in Piazza Navona. The curious upper story is an example of a fastigium, an arcuated lintel supported by columns and set within a triangular pediment. This architectural device was associated with the audiences of Roman emperors and was appropriated by early Christianity for depictions of the Enthroned Christ. The fastigium was also utilized by Roman Emperors for their viewing boxes at the hippodrome, which may in part be the appeal for Alexander VII whose large-scale redevelopment of Rome focused on improving the Corso as the main axis of the city and the site of horse races during Carnival.
It is claimed that St Paul spent two years here, in the crypt next to the church, when he was in house arrest waiting for his trial. This conflicts with the tradition of San Paolo alla Regola. It is also claimed that St Peter, Paul's secretary Luke and Peter's disciple Martial, first bishop of Limoges, lived here.
The altar has been attributed to Bernini, but is now though to be by Santi Ghetti. Above the altar is a 13th century venerated icon of the Vergine Advocata, the Blessed Virgin, said to have caused many miracles. Relics of the 3rd century Deacon and martyr Agapitus lie beneath it.
The cosmatesque pavement is from the older church on the site.
The tomb of the poet Antonio Tebaldeo (1453-1537) is at the end of the left aisle. It was designed in 1776. He was a friend of Raphael, who painted a portrait of him of which a copy is found here; the original is in the Vatican Pinacoteca.
The lower level has been excavated, and the remains of a large Roman warehouse, some 250 meters long, were found. The 5th century chapel and welfare center that were constructed in the building have been identified. There are murals from the 7th-9th centuries; they have been detached from the walls to preserve them. A relief by Cosimo Fancelli was plaved here in the 17th century, when the first excavations were carried out.
The upper level church is usually open from 17.00 to 19.00. The crypt, which is well worth seeing not only because of its Pauline connection, but because it served as a church granary and diaconia in late antiquity is available for viewing Fridays and Saturdays between 16.00 and 18.00. E-mail Sr. Franco Amatori at email@example.com. A small offering is suggested for seeing the crypt.
Frescoes from the early diaconia and church are on display at Rome's Crypta Balbi museum.