Sante Orsola e Caterina was a small 12th century (?) confraternity church on the east side of what is now the Via del Teatro di Marcello, opposite the main entrance to the convent of Tor de’ Specchi. This is in the rione Campitelli.
The church had its first documentary reference in 1180, when it was known as San Nicola dei Funari or in Vincis. The occasion wa the consecration of an altar dedicated to St Nicholas by Pope Alexander III , which meant either that the church was founded then or it had been rebuilt. The name was a reference either to rope-makers working in the area, or to two local landowning families.
In the Middle Ages, it served as one of the many small parish churches in the area. However, by the 17th century the parish failed and the church was basically redundant, having become a chapel in the responsibility of San Marco.
It was granted to a pious confraternity, the Confraternita delle Sante Orsola e Caterina, in 1663 by Pope Alexander VII, who also had the church rebuilt and rededicated. The confraternity had been founded in 1599, and used to run a mental hospital in the Piazza Colonna with a chapel attached called Sant'Orsola dei Pazzarelli.
The interior was lavishly restored in the 18th century, and was restored again in the late 18th century when the confraternity gave up responsiblity for the church to the Chapter of San Marco. In the process the old name of San Nicola dei Funari was resurrected, although the church continued also to be known by its previous name.
It was demolished in the late 1920's as part of a scheme to provide a trunk road from the centre of the city to the southern suburbs, which entailed the widening of what had been a rather narrow street. Most of the buildings on the western slope of the Campodoglio, including this church, were removed.
The church used to be in the street of Via di Tor de’ Specchi, now the north end of the Via del Teatro di Marcello, tucked into the western slope of the Capitoline Hill.
To the right of the main, northern entrance of the convent is a shop called Bandiera e Beletti, and the right hand edge of its façade has a white pilaster. Take a line across the road from this to mark the site of the church on the other side. The façade was in the middle of the northbound lane of the road, while the church itself started at the pavement and extended into the shrubbery.
The church was surrounded by domestic buildings on all sides and above, and the façade was separated from the main body of the church by a short entrance passage.
The nave had two bays, the first of which had a side altar to left and right. This was about the same length as the next section of the nave, which was separated from the presbyterium by a triumphal arch. There was no separate apse.
As mentioned, the façade was set into a domestic building. It was of two storeys, separated by a cornice and with each storey bounded by a pair of Doric pilasters. The first storey was dominated by the entrance propylaeum, which had a pair of free-standing Doric columns on high plinths supporting an entablature with a triangular pediment broken at the top. The imposts of the capitals of the columns were at the level of the string course dividing the storeys. This monumental entrance was flanked by a pair of side doors, much smaller than the main one, and above each was a square window.
The entrances were approached by a short flight of five steps, one of which was a carved fragment of ancient architrave. Over the main entrance was a 17th century fresco depicting St Ursula Adoring Our Lady.
The second storey had a lengthy dedicatory inscription on a tablet, set into the broken top of the propylaeum pediment. This read:
Alexandro VII Pont[ifici] Opt[imo] Max[imo] quod ecclesia olim parochialis S[ancti] Nicolai de Funariis, Basilicae S[ancti] Marci sua munificentia unita ut archifraternitati S[anctarum] Ursulae et Catarinae in usum perpetuum concederetur, ad beneficia propensior annuerit Ill[ustrissi]mus Rev[erendissi]mus D[omi]nus Oratius Matteius Prim[iceri]us.
This storey was topped by a triangular pediment with a cornice but no full entablature, and had a rectangular window in each upper corner. Above the inscription was a large 17th century fresco of St Ursula Venerating Our Lady, which was painted directly onto the wall without any frame.
Above the crowning pediment were the windows of a domestic apartment.
The interior was very richly stuccoed in the 18th century, and was a sad loss. The ceiling vault was supported by Ionic pilasters with swagged capitals, and curved pilasters were inserted into the chamfered corners of nave and presbyterium.
The sanctuary had a transverse elliptical saucer dome, coffered with rosettes focussing on a central gloria. The altar was placed against the far wall, and had an icon of St Nicholas in a Baroque glory.
The two side altars were dedicated to St Ursula and St Catherine respectively, and had anonymous 17th century altarpieces depicting them.