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Santi Gioacchino e Anna ai Monti is an 18th century former convent church in the rione Monti. The postal address is Via Monte Polacco 5, but its entrance is at the west end of Via in Selci and is directly opposite the stairs down to the Cavour metro station. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia page here.
When it was built the church was actually dedicated to St Joachim on his own, and to St Francis of Paola who was the founder of the Minim religious family. The original name was San Gioacchino alla Suburra.
Do not confuse this church with Santi Gioacchino e Anna al Tuscolano -the church in Monti is not titular.
The church is a relatively late foundation, and did not exist before the 18th century. A foundation year of 1589 can be found in online sources, and this is a result of confusion with the neighbouring convent of Santa Maria della Purificazione ai Monti.
According to Armellini quoting from a biography of the foundress, a rich priest called P. Francesco Narici provided a patrimony for a new convent in Rome of Minim nuns in 1722, the Suore Paolotte or Suore Oblate di San Francesco di Paola. This was intended as a female partner community for the Minim friars nearby at San Francesco a Paola, but was not originally on the site of the present church. The foundress was Maria Diomira di San Giuseppe, who set up her community initially in a house in the Suburra but later moved it to another one near the church of Santa Prassede. Only in 1731 did the nuns buy a house on the site of the present convent, where they settled down. As finances allowed, they bought neighbouring properties and so established a decent landholding.
The struggle to build a proper convent was protracted. The sisters initiated the project in 1746, but had to put it on hold in 1753. Available funds only allowed a re-start in 1770, and final completion of the church and convent in 1780. The former was consecrated in 1781 by Pope Pius VI. The architect was Giovanni Francesco Fiori.
The famous Esquiline Treasure, a hoard of precious objects dating from the 4th century, was found by workmen digging somewhere in the convent's property. The exact location of the discovery is unknown. It has been claimed that the treasure was found during the construction of the convent and that its sale helped the nuns to finish it, but it was actually found in 1793 -after the complex was finished. Perhaps it was discovered in a laying out of the convent garden after building work had finished.
The unfortunate nuns enjoyed their convent for less than a hundred years. In 1873 the complex was sequestered by the Italian government, together with almost all other convents in Rome, and (unless they have changed their name) the Paoline do not exist in the Diocese any more.
The church was apparently closed and stripped of its artworks. The convent was eventually made into a Roman headquarters of the Carabinieri or national military police of Italy. However the church was kept consecrated, and so was re-opened as a spiritual and liturgical centre for the Carabinieri. As such it has been dependent on the parish of San Martino ai Monti, with its own diocesan priest in charge.
The Carabinieri vacated the convent around the turn of the millennium, and this left the church with no pastoral justification. However, Pope St John Paul II approved its being lent to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as a place of worship for the Ethiopian expatriate community at Rome. The priest in charge of the community is Melate Tsehay Ghebre Tinsae Hailu. However, this is still a functioning Roman Catholic church and the priest in charge of the church is Don Giovanni Ippolito.
There has been a recent restoration, and the façade has been re-painted.
The overall exterior plan of the edifice is based on a short rectangle, with an attached five-sided apse at a much lower elevation which contained the nuns' choir (apparently). The roofs of nave and apse are pitched and tiled, and the nave roof is hipped at the apse end. There is a little campanile or bellcote attached to the top of the left hand side wall, which is invisible from the street.
The 18th century late Baroque (tardobarocco) façade has four gigantic pilasters with derivative Composite capitals, the volutes of which are unusually prominent. The central two are tripletted, that is, they look as if the front pilaster is partially hiding two more. These pilasters support an entablature with a blank frieze and posts above the pilaster capitals. The tripletted pilasters support matching posts. There is a crowning triangular pediment, enclosing a segmental pediment which itself contains a small elliptical pediment. This segmental pediment is brought forward into the vertical plane defined by the entablature corner posts, and its ends are further brought forward over the tripletted posts. The portion of the triangular pediment behind it, including the gable tip, is also brought forward.
There are five rectangular windows. Two are on each side, one above the other in between the pilasters, and one is above the door and intrudes into the entablature. The top two of the side windows have scallop-shell decorations above them. In front of the door there are a few steps. The doorcase is unusually tall, as it encloses a transom window as well as the door, and above it is a raised segmental pediment resting on strap corbels and containing a putto's head with swags.
The recently restored façade is now in a tan colour with architectural details in pale grey.
Inside, the church has a Greek cross plan with a nave having a central saucer dome, which is false because it has no exterior aspect. There is a chapel in each side arm, and a slightly longer rectangular sanctuary. The apsidal construction visible behind the church on the outside is not now part of the interior.
The cupola has four pendentives formed by the ends of the barrel vaults over the arms of the cross. The dome itself has a central tondo with a stucco representation of The Dove of the Holy Spirit in Glory, which is accompanied by winged putto's heads. There is no other decoration; the rest of the cupola is divided into four sectors by wide ribs. The pendentives have the four symbols of the Evangelists, each with four birds, wings. The barrel-vaulted ceilings of the cross arms have been embellished to look as if they have square coffering with rosettes.
The piers supporting the dome have diagonal faces which are simply decorated with large panels, but each diagonal face is flanked by a pair of bunched Corinthian pilasters below the mouth of the barrel vault. These pilasters support an entablature which runs round the entire interior, and which is not highly decorated.
The overall decoration after the recent restoration is rather cool, in light greys and a pale tan.
Maria Agnese del Verbo Incarnato Edit
A very interesting holy water stoup bears an epigraph in memory of the most famous of the sisters in the convent, Maria Agnese del Verbo Incarnato who died in 1810. She was a visionary and a prophet, and certain revelations and visions that she had concerning the Devotion to the Precious Blood and its propagation were instrumental in persuading St Gaspar del Bufalo to found the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The stoup itself is supported by a pair of putti,and is backed by an alabaster slab with double volutes to the sides and the epitaph above. The putti stand on a pedestal with two red marble vases in half-relief, and this pedestal is flanked by a pair of panels in green marble.
The sanctuary is rectangular, with a door on each side having a segmental pediment. Over each door is a balcony with a pin balustrade which is just slightly corbelled out. The altar aedicule is bowed, that is, convex and has a pair of piers in green marble facing out diagonally. The outer faces of these have ribbed pilaster strips applied with gilded Corinthian capitals, offset by triglyphs on the inner faces. These two piers support a pair of deep posts which are part of a very ornate entablature having a molded architrave, flower swags on the frieze and both egg-and-dart and dentillation on the cornice. These decorative elements are gilded. On each post is a winged putto's head, and another one is over the round-headed altarpiece. The posts support two halves of a split and separated segmental pediment, and into the gap is inserted a gilded glory with more putto's heads and which is surmounted by a cross.
The anonymous late 18th century altarpiece depicts Our Lady as a Girl with SS Joachim and Anne.
Side chapels Edit
One of the side chapels is dedicated to the Crucifix, and has a frontal embellished with alabaster. The other one seems to have been dedicated to St Francis of Paola, the founder of the Minims. The picture there is not fitted to the frame, and apparently the original painting was of the Immaculate Conception.
Access and liturgyEdit
The present access arrangements, and times of any Masses in the Roman rite, are not being advertised.
The feast of SS Joachim and Anne, the parents of Our Lady, is celebrated on 26 July and there should be Mass here on that date. The two saints used to have separate feast-days, St Anne being on this date and St Joachim on the Sunday in the octave of the Assumption in August. Hence, many older churches in Rome have dedications to one or the other (for example, see San Gioacchino ai Prati di Castello or Sant'Anna dei Palafrenieri). However, these two celebrations were combined in 1970. The Church was keen that at least one married couple be venerated together as saints.
The Ethiopian community celebrate their Eucharistic liturgy on Sundays at 9:30, the liturgical language being Ge'ez. There is another liturgy on Thursdays at 17:00, intended for young people.
Catholics, whether of the Roman or Ethiopian rites, should not receive Communion at these Eucharists. The Orthodox take this seriously.
Nolli map (look for 62) This shows the old convent, which had no proper church.
Annas Rom Guide (in Danish)