Santi Giovanni e Petronio dei Bolognesi is a 16th century confraternity, titular and regional church located at Via del Mascherone 61, down the east side of the Palazzo Farnese in the rione Regola. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia page here.
This is the regional church for expatriates from Bologna.
During the French occupation, the church was deprived of several important artworks and was actually desecrated in 1810. The most notable of the lost paintings was the 1625 altarpiece, The Mother and Child with SS John and Petronius by Domenichino which only came back to Rome in 1953 and is now in the Palazzo Barberini. The gallery's online catalogue page for it is here and an image of it is here.
The confraternity remained in possession until 1892, when its assets were sequestered by the Italian government which required all religious confraternities to register as secular charities if they wished to retain their assets.
The confraternity only secularized itself in 1940, and so recovered possession of the little complex. However, its ecclesiastical status was restored with the promulgation of new statues in 1985, and it now has Cardinal Achille Silvestrini as its chair.
A thorough restoration was completed in 2000, during which archaeological evidence of a 1st century domus was found under the church.
The last, and so far only, titular of the church is Cardinal Giacomo Biffi , retired archbishop of Bologna. He became cardinal when the title was established in 1985, and died in 2015. The title is currently vacant.
The church is one of the smallest in Rome with a cardinalate title.
Layout and fabricEdit
The church is on a square plan (the interior is a Greek cross) with an added rectangular apse, and shelters under a square tiled roof with four triangular pitches meeting at a lantern. In other words, the internal dome is false. Of the external walls, only the façade is visible because of neighbouring buildings.
The façade is not perpendicular to the major axis because of the angle of the street, which makes the left hand side wall slightly longer than the right hand side one. The anomaly is dealt with by having a narrow triangular void between the façade and the counterfaçade on the left hand side.
There is a tiny campanile over the far right hand side wall, but this is invisible from the street.
The façade, which is painted in a pale orange-yellow with white architectural details, has two gigantic rectangular pilasters on very high plinths occupying the corners. These have stylized derivative Composite capitals, and their outer edges are doubletted. They support a triangular pediment with a broken cornice, and into this pediment is intruded a very large rectangular window with a molded frame. The actual fenestration is recessed, and has a balcony of iron rails in front of it. Above the window, in the gable of the pediment, is a woman's head flanked by decorative billows and curlicues.
The single doorway has a raised segmental pediment over a simple dedicatory inscription dated 1700.
If you look into the central window, you will see how the counterfaçade wall inside is at an angle to the façade.
The square edifice has a small square chamber inserted into each corner, hence the interior is on the plan of a Greek cross with four equal shallow arms. One is the entrance bay, two are side chapels and one is the sanctuary bay. The sanctuary is continued by a transverse rectangular apse of the same width.
The nave is covered by a dome on pendentives, the latter created by arches over the side arms of the cross. The pendentives show The Cardinal Virtues, monochrome frescoes by Pompeo Aldrovandini. The dome itself, which is a segment of a sphere with a large skylight oculus surrounded by a wreath, used to be frescoed in imitation square coffering with rosettes. However, in the 2000 restoration there was discovered under this a very seriously damaged fresco by Aldrovandini of The Saints of Bologna, and this is what you can now see.
The side arms of the cross have archivolts bearing a single row of painted pseudo-coffers.
The inner angles of the cross, the load-bearing piers of the dome, each have a pair of applied Ionic pilasters with swagged capitals, which are rendered to resemble light grey marble. Another pair of these pilasters is folded into the corners of each side arm, and together they support an entablature which runs around the interior.
High up on the side walls of each side arm are two monochrome panels showing Eucharistic symbols.
The counterfaçade has a pretty gallery or cantoria, on brackets with an ogee-curved balustrade. On the wall here is a memorial to Bonifacio Pasi and his son Pietro, who were killed at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The father has a tondo portrait in oils. This is the most interesting of several memorials to Bolognese expatriates in the church.
The apse of the sanctuary is entered through a triumphal arch with two piers in the same style as the nave pilasters. The ornate high altar is against the far wall, and is in polychrome marbles. The two red marble Corinthian columns support a pair of posts fronting an entablature with its frieze in the same stone. These posts are turned inwards, and on them are two incurved volutes which flank a tondo relief of God the Father. A pair of stucco angels are sitting on the volutes.
The altarpiece is anonymous, and shows The Madonna and Child with Saints. A copy of the lost Domenichino is on the pier to the right.
Chapel of St JohnEdit
The chapel to the right is dedicated to St John the Evangelist, and the altarpiece by Francesco Gessi depicts the Death of St John. A monument to Alessandro Algardi by Domenico Guidi used to be here, but has been destroyed.
Chapel of St Catherine of GenoaEdit
The left hand chapel is dedicated to St Catherine of Genoa. It used to be dedicated to the Pietà, with an altarpiece showing The Deposition of Christ by Emilio Savonanzi but this work was taken into the confraternity's oratory when the chapel was re-dedicated in 1728.
The work that replaced it, a portrait of the saint by Giovanni Gioseffo dal Sole, was lost in the French occupation. The altarpiece is now an anonymous depiction of her incorrupt body, sitting on a throne in the church of Corpus Domini in Bologna.
According to an unofficial source, the church is open:
Daily, 16:30 to 19:00.
The only Mass advertised is at 18:00 on Saturday.