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Santi Claudio e Andrea dei Borgognoni is an 18th century French national church at Via del Pozzetto 160, on the south side of the Piazza San Silvestro. The church itself is in the rione Trevi, although the boundary with the rione Colonna runs down the street outside. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia page here.
The church is familarly known as San Claudio; it is the only one in the city dedicated to him. An alternative and older full name used in the sources is Santi Andrea e Claudio dei Borgognoni, but the Diocese now prefers the name as given.
Borgognoni translates as "Burgundy" in English, which is a source of rich confusion since there are many different Burgundies in history. Here, the name refers to the Free County of Burgundy (in French, Franche Conté de Bourgogne). For most of the Middle Ages this political unit was notionally part of the Holy Roman Empire but, in practice, practically independent although subject to unsuccessful French predatory attention. As a result of dynastic convolutions it was annexed to Spain in 1493, and it is as part of the Spanish royal dominions that it concerns us here.
In conclusion, the church has nothing to do with the present-day region of France called Burgundy.
The story is that twelve emigrés in Rome from the Free County formed a confraternity in the early 17th century to help visiting fellow countrymen. They obtained an oratory on the site of the present church, and founded a hospice for pilgrims in 1662. This oratory was officially proclaimed as the national church of the Free County Burgundians, and was re-dedicated to the two patrons of the confraternity.
France annexed the Free County in 1678, which is why this church's successor is now a French national church.
The old building fell into disrepair at the end of the 17th century, and was completely demolished and replaced by the present structure, which was consecrated in 1731. According to a tablet on the façade, it was erected in 1729.
In 1793 the Confraternity was suppressed, and the administration of this church consolidated with that of the other French churches in Rome: San Luigi dei Francesi, San Nicola dei Lorenesi and Sant'Ivo dei Bretoni.
In 1886, by agreement between the Holy See and the French government, the church was put in charge of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, who are dedicated to the cult of the Blessed Sacrament and are known in Italian as Sacramentini. They undertook a major re-ordering of the interior at the end of the 19th century.
The congregation has the rare privilege of leaving the Sacrament exposed on the altar for veneration by anybody who visits the church.
Layout and fabricEdit
The church is basically a dome on a Greek cross with very short arms. There is an entrance bay, the main nave which is the area under the dome, a rectangular presbyterium and a pair of chapels in the side arms. Two tiny external chapels are tucked into the corners.
The church used to be on its own piazza, the Piazza di San Claudio. This was joined onto the Piazza di San Silvestro to the north by demolishing the intervening block, making one large piazza which used to contain a bus station (removed in 2011). As a result, the dominant view of the church is now its left hand side elevation, which was not the intention of the architect. This aspect is not very pretty, as this elevation is basically a limestone cliff of two storeys separated by a cornice. The first storey has two pairs of blind pilasters flanking large raised panel in shallow relief, while the second storey has a recessed window with a slightly curved top flanked by two more pairs of pilasters supporting a triangular pediment with a broken cornice and a small oculus. The brick building on the left intrudes on the façade in a way which is unsettling.
The campanile is on the lower left hand corner of the church, and is joined to the abovementioned frontage. It is a rectangular kiosk with an ogee-curved lead cupola. The two round-headed soundholes on the two exposed faces are at different levels.
The dome is obscured by frontage elements of the edifice. It is a lead hemisphere with a lantern, and large round windows with raised frames are inserted into its base at the four cardinal points. The lantern is a cylinder with four narrow round-headed soundholes, a projecting cornice and an ogee lead cupola topped by an onion and a ball. The soundholes are separated by volutes at the base.
The attractive late Baroque entrance façade has two storeys separated by an entablature with a molded architrave, a strongly projecting cornice and a frieze of which bears an inscription commemorating the confraternity: Comitatus Burg[ensis] S[anctis] Andreae Ap[ostoli] et Claudio episcopo nationis dicatus.
The first storey has four Composite pilasters supporting this entablature. The two at the corners are doubletted at the edge, and the pair on either side of the single entrance are tripletted stepwise so as to bring the central zone of this storey slightly forward. These inner pilasters abut a large arched aspidal niche containing the entrance, with a molded archivolt springing from Doric imposts which are continued as a string course within the apse. The doorcase has a trapezoidal tablet above the lintel, bearing the date 1729 and protected by a cornice fragment. The tympanum has a pair of swags with ribbons.
In between the pilasters on either side are two round-headed niches in the same style as the central arch. They contain two colossal statues, one of St Andrew on the left by Luca Bréton and one of St Claude by Guglielmo-Antonio Grandjacquet, both executed in 1771.
The second storey of the façade has a pair of clustered Doric pilasters with recessed panels, flanking a large rectangular window with a trapezoidal pediment containing crossed fronds tied with ribbon. The pilaster clusters incorporate a curve back to the edge of the storey, where there is a pair of simple sweeps ending in a pair of flaming urn finials. The pilasters support an undersized segmental pediment containing a coat-of-arms (Barberini bees?), and on top of this is a metal cross finial flanked by four flaming torch finials.
A modern circular mosaic featuring the Blessed Sacrament has been placed over the door.
Layout and fabricEdit
The interior space is dominated by the dome, which is supported by four arches leading into the arms of the Greek cross on which the church's layout is based. One is for the entrance bay, one is for the chapel of St Peter Julian Eymard on the right, one is for the chapel of the Resurrection on the left and one is the triumphal arch of the sanctuary. These arches spring from an entablature which runs round the church, supported by Corinthian pilasters in pairs at the corners of the layout. These pilasters, and the frieze of the entablature, are revetted with what looks like yellow marble from Siena.
The intradoses of the arches are decorated with stylized foliage in gold, while the very short barrel vaults over the cross arms also have gilded stucco decoration focusing on a small fresco panel in each vault crown.
The pendentives of the dome have stucco representations of the four Evangelists, in white on a gilded background. The entablature on which the dome rests has an inscription extolling the Blessed Sacrament on its frieze. The inside of the dome itself has an unusual and rather fussy design, featuring a sort of attic plinth above the entablature cornice. From this spring four very wide ribs focusing on the oculus containing the Dove of the Holy Spirit, and in the four sectors thus created are frescoes of angels in heaven. Stucco angels are at the tops of the ribs. Four round windows cut equally into the plinth and the frescoed sectors; these have wide frames embellished with curlicues, and have a cross motif in stained glass.
There is also modern stained glass in the other two windows in the church, over the entrance and in the left hand chapel. They feature the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Conception.
The altar used to have an altarpiece by Pietro Barberi, but this was replaced by the Sacramentines. The rather overwhelming arrangement there now consists of an enormous gilded glory surrounding what looks like a heraldic
crimson and white velvet fall topped by a crown, itself focusing on a tabernacle venerated by angels and topped by a crucifix with its own glory. The altar frontal is panelled in alabaster.
When the Blessed Sacrament is nowadays exposed, it is left in a monstrance on the pro populo altar in front of the main altar instead of replacing the crucifix as seems to have been the original practice.
In a lunette above the main altar is a fresco of God the Father by Antonio Bicchierari.
Chapel of St Peter Julian EymardEdit
The right hand chapel contains the shrine of St Peter Julian Eymard, the founder of the Sacramentine congregation (died 1864). His relics are preserved in a polychrome marble sarcophagus by Corrado Mezzana, which has an open grated front so that you can see the corpse. This shrine is inserted between the altar and the altarpiece, which features St Charles Borromeo in Ecstasy by Placido Costanzi of 1731. The chapel was originally dedicated to St Charles.
On the side walls of this chapel are frescoes of SS Andrew and Claudius (the latter looking rather wild).
Chapel of the ResurrectionEdit
The left hand transept is the Chapel of the Resurrection, with an altarpice by Jean-François de Troy. A little icon of the Madonna and Child is enshrined here.
Chapel of St JosephEdit
The chapel of St Joseph is one of the two little 19th century chapels in the corners either side of the entrance. This one is to the right. The altar is ornate neo-Baroque, featuring an unusual pale green marble in its pair of columns and its side pilasters. The altarpiece of St Joseph with the Child Jesus is by Guido Francisci, as presumably are the two side panels featuring angels venerating them.
There are two modern works by Cleto Luzzi here of 1949, one featuring the dream of St Joseph instructing him to marry Our Lady, and the other the flight into Egypt after Christ's birth. They are in a very realistic style, and the latter is especially striking. The frescoed angels at the entrance to this chapel may not be to everyone's taste.
Chapel of the Immaculate ConceptionEdit
This is the other of the two 19th century side chapels, to the left. It contains a full-length icon of the Madonna and Child on a gilded background, looking as if it was inspired by the St Petersburg style of Russian icon painting of the later 19th century. Our Lady is shown standing barefoot on a floating cloud, dressed in the traditional red dress with blue overmantle. The Christ Child is shown holding the Blessed Sacrament as a Host and Chalice; this is a symbol of the Last Supper, when Christ gave himself to the disciples under the appearance of bread and wine.
The wall in this chapel is panelled with a brecciated green marble and alabaster, and has gilded ribbed Corinthian pilasters in very shallow relief.
Appeal to visitorsEdit
It is requested that visitors do not talk in the church while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, nor walk in front of it without genuflecting (if you are not a Catholic and hence do not do this, please walk from one side to the other at the back by the entrance).
Also, please be discreet about taking photos and do not use a flash (as you shouldn't in any church with worshippers present, anyway).