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Santi Marcellino e Pietro al Laterano

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Santi Marcellino e Pietro al Laterano

English name: Sts Marcellinus and Peter
Dedication: St Marcellinus St Peter the Martyr
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Type: Titular church, Minor basilica
Clergy: Diocesan
Built: 4th cent., restored several times, rebuilt 1751
Architect(s): Girolamo Theodoli
Artists: Gaetano Lapis, Filippo Evangelisti
Contact data
Address: 162 Via Merulana
00185 Roma
Phone: 06-

Santi Marcellino e Pietro al Laterano is an 18th century parish and titular church of ancient foundation at Via Labicana 1 in the rione Esquilino (the ancient rione Monti).

It is dedicated to the 4th century Roman martyrs Marcellinus and Peter, who have their catacombs at Santi Marcellino e Pietro ad Duas Lauros. The Diocese now refers to this church as Santi Marcellino e Pietro al Laterano so as to distinguish the two parish churches, and it has also been called Santi Pietro e Marcellino. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons.[1]


The Siricius InscriptionEdit

The first church here was possibly built by Pope Siricius in the 4th century, close to the Jewish catacombs on the Via Labicana. The evidence for this rests on two marble fragments of separate inscriptions discovered in the foundations of the church. One reads: [..] Natal[..] Sirici[us] + Papa [..] [Ecc]lesiae [..]rique [..]or [..] , and the other: [..]ru[..] proprio fecit. On this evidence it is postulated that the pope consecrated the church himself on the feast day (dies natalis) of the saints, but you can judge for yourself how thin the inference is.

Old churchEdit

A reference to a titulus for these two saints exists for the year 590, but does not specify a church.

The first certain reference is in the Liber Pontificalis for Pope Gregory III in the 8th century, which reads: Fecit etiam de novo eccesiam sanctorum Marcellini e Pietri prope Lateranum. ("He also built from new the church of saints Marcellinus and Peter near the Lateran"). The de novo is ambiguous, but it certainly means that the edifice was built from scratch even if an older church was demolished in order to do so.

A hospice which became a centre for pilgrims visiting the Lateran was then located here, the Ospedale del Salvatore, but the church seems to have been disused in the 12th century.

The relics of the martyrs Marcellinus and Peter were brought to the church in 1256, and the church was restored again the same year by command of Pope Alexander IV. Twenty years later, the hospice and church were given to the Confraternity of those Commended to the Saviour, so the hospital was still functioning.

In 1707 Pope Clement XIII gave the complex to the Aleppine Antonian monastic order of the Maronites, who established a monastery here for about half a century. They had been founded in 1695. Apparently the monastery did not do well, and the church fell into such disrepair that rebuilding was necessary. The monks moved out in 1753 and settlled at Sant'Antonio Abate dei Maroniti, where they remain.

New churchEdit

The present church is the result of this rebuilding by Pope Benedict XIV in 1751, whereupon it became a canonry with four canons of the Lateran. As such it was a dependency of the monastery attached to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, which lent it to some reformed Carmelite nuns formerly at the lost church of Santa Lucia alle Botteghe Oscure. These were called Teresiane del Corpus Domini, and remained there until 1906. (The reference to "Carmelite friars" in other online sources is a mistake; monache means "nuns".) Since 1911 it has been a parochial church served by diocesan clergy, after a few intervening years of disuse.

In 2011 the church was attacked by a gang of anarchists during a street demonstration, and while they failed to gain access to the interior they dragged a statue of Our Lady and a crucifix from the priest's house and kicked them to bits in the street.


The church used to be thought to be the one listed among the tituli as Titulus Nicomedis which was mentioned in a synod in 499. However, this was not universally agreed upon and one alternative opinion was that there was a church of San Nicomedio on the Via Nomentana. Revised scholarly opinion is now suspicious of most of the traditional claims linking the ancient tituli with existing churches, as lack of continuity on one site is known for some. Nowadays, when a new church is built to replace a temporary one it is always on a separate site to ensure continuity of worship, and the same motivation would have operated in early days.

A titulus for Marcellinus and Peter seems to have been established by Pope Gregory the Great in 590, this being transferred from a lost basilica of Santa Crescenzia in Via Mamertina. The titular priest was recorded as being one Albino. However, the next priest listed after him was Rainiero in 1099, and the "Catalogue of Pietro Mallio" compiled for Pope Alexander III describes the title as attached to Santa Maria Maggiore. This is the evidence for thinking that the church was abandoned in the 12th century until restored in the 13th.

Among the later titular priests were Louis d'Albret, Oliviero Carafa, Jorge da Costa, Philippe de Luxembourg, Louis d'Amboise, Georges II d'Amboise, Pope Pius IX and Jean-Marie Lustiger.

The las titular was Aloysius Matthew Ambrozic, archbishop emeritus of Toronto, who died in 2011. The title is currently vacant.


The church stands below the present street-level, indicating its ancient foundation. The present building is on a square plan and is almost cube-shaped, the main body of it being slightly lower than it is wide and long. The fabric is rendered in pale orange with the architectural details in white travertine.
2011 Marcellino e Pietro in Laterano

The entrance façade is embellished in a style close to Neo-Classicism, indicating that the Baroque was becoming unfashionable. It was designed by Girolamo Theodoli, who was an Italian nobleman as well as an architect. He also designed the campanile at Santa Maria dei Miracoli (his best known work is the Teatro Argentina).

The central portion of the façade projects, and has two pairs of gigantic Ionic pilasters in shallow relief flanking the entrance. Another pair of these pilaster strips is folded into the internal corners created by the façade's projection; two more pairs decorate the outer corners of the façade, and the last two are round the corners where the side walls are recessed. These support a powerful and deep entablature which runs along the sides of the church, but not round the back where the building abuts onto the former convent. The frieze of this on the façade bears an inscription proclaiming Pope Benedict's rebuilding, and the pediment above the projecting portion contains his coat-of-arms. The doorway has a simple triangular pediment, too. There is a central rectangular window below the entablature, the lintel of which intrudes into the architrave.

The roofline of the church over the façade is higher than the cornice, and on either side of the pediment it bears a pair of stone flaming urns. Behind these is a pair of tiny lead saucer domes on cylindrical drums and bearing ball finials. The attractive and rather low main dome is set on a drum with four buttresses and four oeil-de-boeuf windows, and has five steps. Its lantern is tall, with four arched windows separated by volutes and topped by ogee curves. The cap is shaped like an upturned goblet, and supports another ball finial.

The side walls of the church are more simply treated, and the central section of each is recessed and has a rectangular window high up.


The interior is clearly influenced by the work of Francesco Borromini. It has a Greek cross plan.

The altarpiece by Gaetano Lapis, painted in 1751, depicts the Martyrdom of SS Marcellinus and Peter. Underneath the mensa is an urn with relics of the martyr St Marcia.

The altar on the right side is dedicated to St Gregory the Great. The altarpiece shows The Mass of St Gregory, and is by Filippo Evangelisti. Next to it as a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes; the ceiling was painted by N. Caselli in 1903.

On the left side is an altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, with a copy of Guido Reni's The Virgin in Glory with Angels, St Joseph and St Rita. Next to it is the Chapel of Reconciliation.

On the first column on the left from the entrance is an image of SS Marcellinus and Peter, placed here in 1256, with an inscription recording Pope Alexander IV's restoration of that year.


This is the station church for the third Saturday of Lent.

The feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11 February, is celebrated here with special solemnity.

The patronal feast of the church is that of SS Marcellinus and Peter, on the 2 June (celebrated here first Sunday in June as a solemnity, but in the general Church calendar with an optional memoria). They are always celebrated and venerated together.

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

List of cardinals

"Romeartlover" web-page with 18th century engraving

Info.roma web-page

Roma SPQR web-page (click for gallery)

Newspaper article on the sacrilege

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