Santi Quirico e Giulitta is an 18th century convent and titular church of ancient foundation at Via Tor dei Conti 31/A in the rione Monti, tucked away next to the Hotel Forum just south of the Piazza del Grillo and facing over the remains of the Forum of Nerva. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia page here.
The dedication is to SS Quiricus and Julitta.
The name is often given as Santi Quirico e Giuditta. This is historically inaccurate.
This is a very old foundation. The first church here was built by the 6th century, because an ancient epigraph (lost at the start of the 17th century, but transcribed) records that Pope Vigilius (537-555) consecrated an altar here dedicated to SS Stephen and Lawrence. (These two were venerated together as deacons who had been martyred.) The pope also apparently commissioned an apse mosaic featuring the two saints, as this was mentioned by mediaeval writers.
The orientation of this first church was the reverse to what it is now, with the apse separated by a short space from the temenos wall of the Forum of Augustus. Also, it has been noticed that the floor level was the same as that of the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum. Both of these facts hint that the Forum was still clear of the massive amount of debris about to bury the Roman and Imperial Fora in subsequent centuries, and further that the Forum was still perhaps functioning as a civic space.
The present dedication to SS Quiricus and Julitta is first mentioned in the Itinerarium Einsiedeln, a pilgrims' guide of the late 8th century. The next reference dates from the 12th century.
According to the unreliable legend, the saints were a mother and very young son who were martyred at Tarsus in Asia Minor in the persecution of Diocletian, about 304. The present Roman martyrology lists them merely as martyrs of Asia Minor at an unknown date. (Julitta was also rendered as Julietta, hence Juliet in Romeo and Juliet).
Middle ages Edit
The Fora are now thought to have been definitively ruined in the 9th century, after several serious earthquakes. Archaeological evidence shows that they then became mediaeval neighbourhoods, with the recycling of ancient stonework and architectural elements a major occupation. The locality once occupied by the Imperial Fora became a crowded urban area called the Pantani, allegedly because it was marshy after the ancient drainage had collapsed. This church was in charge of a parish occupying the eastern end of this.
In the church's long history there have been several major restorations, beginning with that under Pope Paschal II (1099-1118) who provided the present campanile at the start of the 12th century.
This was one of several small churches in the locality in the Middle Ages. It is the only one to survive -the others that made it to modern times are San Lorenzo ai Monti, Santo Spirito ai Monti, Santa Eufemia, Santa Maria in Campo Carleo, Sant’Urbano ai Pantani, Santa Maria Annunziata ai Monti and Santa Maria in Macello Martyrum. All these were cleared in the 19th and 20th centuries to reveal the ancient archaeology beneath.
In the late Middle Ages the church was in the care of a college of secular priests.
In 1475 Pope Sixtus IV ordered a restoration in honour of the Jubilee of that year. It had been thought that the present entrance doorway is a re-used survivor of the work, but recently this was put in doubt. The church is on record as having an external entrance narthex or portico, which was used for meetings.
San Ciriaco Edit
There has been historical confusion between this church and two others, especially as regards the cardinalate title.
The second was just to the west of the church of Santa Maria in Via Lata, on what is now the east end of the Piazza del Collegio Romano. This was the very important Benedictine monastery of San Ciriaco in the Middle Ages. It was also known as San Ciriaco de Camilliano, or Santi Ciriaco e Niccolò because it incorporated an older church called San Niccolò de Pinea. The name was also given as Quiriaco or Ciriaco.
It was founded for monks in the 10th century, but by the 13th century was inhabited by nuns. It claimed the relics of St Cyriac, formerly enshrined at San Ciriaco a Via Ostiense, together with companion martyrs Largus and Smaragdus. Further, it was a Lenten station church and also claimed descent from the lost ancient titulus just mentioned. In other words, the cardinalate of Sancti Ciriaci in Thermis was regarded as attached to this church (without ever having been formally transferred).
However, in the 15th century the nuns had become grossly degenerate. As a result, the nunnery was suppressed as a disgrace and the church closed by a papal decree of Eugene IV in 1435. The Lenten station was transferred to Santa Maria in Via Lata. It was unusual for a church of such high status to have been suppressed in this way. The Palazzo Doria Pamphilj was to take over much of the site, but that lay in the future. Nuns indulging in recreational sex and having babies were not unknown at the time (witness the Venetians, who had plenty of them), and the real reason might have been the practice of black magic by the nuns here -which would have desecrated the church.
The relics of St Quiriacus were initially taken to Santi Quiriaco e Giulitta, but were later transferred to Santa Maria in Via Lata.
In conclusion -if you find a reference to San Quirico (instead of Quiriaco) in the sources or in publications, do not assume that it refers to Santi Quiriaco e Giulitta.
The church was heavily restored again in 1584, when the orientation was reversed so that the main entrance was transferred to what had been the apse (which was demolished). The old portico was replaced by the present sanctuary.
In 1587 the old title of Sancti Ciriaci in Thermis was formally transferred to this church as Sancti Quirici et Iulittae. Since the demolition of San Ciriaco de Camilliano the title had been an orphan, with no church. The first titular priest was the future Pope Leo XI, who as Alessandro de' Medici had been made a cardinal three years earlier and had been informally attached to this church. It was he who oversaw the restoration.
In 1608 there was another re-ordering on the orders of Pope Paul V . This involved the raising of the floor level by four feet, to try and cure the problem of water getting in. (This issue seems to have been the reason why the relics of St Quiriacus were removed). Also a new façade was built.
In the reign of Pope Urban VIII (1623-44) the interior was restored, and new altarpiece paintings provided.
Unfortunately, in 1716 the church was gutted by fire. Pope Innocent XIII ordered it to be rebuilt, but this did not happen immediately. In 1722, the ruin was granted it to the Dominicans of San Marco in Florence, who founded a convent here. Work on rebuilding the church began in 1728, to a design by Filippo Raguzzini (much of the previous fabric was re-used), and it was re-consecrated in 1734. The façade was finished in the following year, either by Raguzzini or perhaps by Gabriele Valvassori.
The latter built the convent just south of the church, which was under construction from 1750 to 1753. This was the first time in its history that the church was conventual.
Modern times Edit
In the 19th century, Dominicans of the Roman Province took over from their brethren of Florence and oversaw a restoration of the interior in 1856.
The convent was secularized in 1873. The friars continued with the administration of the church itself until 1921, when diocesan priests took over. Meanwhile, the parish was suppressed in 1910 as being too small. In 1930 there were archaeological excavations under the church (following an initial exploration in 1910).
Since 1951, the church has been served by Regular Tertiaries of St Francis (Terz' Ordine Regolare di San Francesco) or TOR. The latest restoration was carried out by them in 1965 to 1970, the same period when the old convent became the Hotel Forum which it remains.
The titular of the church from 2007 has been Cardinal Seán Brady of Ireland.
The church has a single aisle-less nave with a narrower sanctuary, both under the same pitched and tiled roof. The campanile is at the far right corner of the nave. There are no external side-chapels.
The façade is slightly back from the street, on a tiny piazza. It is rendered in a sort of pale greyish green with white architectural details, and as a Baroque piece of architecture has less regard than usual for Classical forms. As a piece of design, it is incoherent and does not really work.
There are two storeys, separated by a floating entablature with a dedicatory inscription on the frieze referring to the saints (SS MM Quirico et Julittae dicatum). The first storey has two pairs of pilasters in a debased Doric style, which do not reach the main entablature but support two separate cornices either side of the entrance pediment (the left hand pilaster is obscured by the building next door). The horizontal zone between these cornices and the entablature has three identical blind archivolts, decorated with an acanthus and curlicue motif at their keystones and with the central one over the entrance.
In between each pair of pilasters is a large blank rectangular panel with a raised border and with the border also passing around a trapezoidal device on top.
The doorway has been dated to the 1475 restoration, and attributed to Baccio Pontelli. It has a very tall doorcase, the lintel of which is decorated with a wreath and ribbon motif. Above this and below a projecting cornice is an inscription recording the restoration by Pope Sixtus IV by means of a Latin epigram: Instaurata videt Quiricus cum matre Iulita quae fuerant longa die diruta templa, principe sub Sixtu delubris nulla vetustas hic reficit pontes, moenia, templa, vias ("Quiricus with his mother Julitta sees the temple restored which was ruined for many days, under the rule of Sixtus there is nothing old in shrines, he repairs bridges, walls, temples and roads"). This might have been composed by Aurelio Lippo Brandolini.
A revisionist opinion concerning this doorcase is that it was salvaged in 1750 from the demolished church of San Bernardo when the present Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano was built.
Above the cornice is another inscription on a rectangular tablet commemorating the restoration by Pope Paul V, which has a Baroque frame flanked by a pair of volutes and crowned by a spilt segmental pediment in two sections.
The second storey has, firstly, a large curve-topped window directly above the entablature, with a molded frame and a floating arc cornice. This is flanked by a pair of raised square panels with quarter-circles chamfered out of their corners. Above these is a pair of small vertical rectangular windows with floating horizontal cornices and balustrades, and above the large window is another large window, this time rectangular, also with a balustrade. This window extends well into the gable, for there is no pediment. The roofline has a projecting molded cornice.
The early mediaeval campanile is not easily visible from the ground, as the former convent has been built up to and around it on the three sides not occupied by the church. The visible bellchamber is of simple form, a rather squat cube with two well separated narrow arched sound-holes on the west face and a pair separated by a little marble column on the south face. There is a string course between these and the roofline of the tiled pyramidal cap.
The architect of the 18th century interior was Filippo Raguzzini, who provided a very simple decorative scheme.
There is a single nave of four bays, which since 1730 has been covered by a barrel vault. There are four arched niches on each side, the archivolts springing from Doric imposts and the piers having very shallow blind pilasters running up to an entablature that runs round the interior. This has a strongly projecting and molded cornice. The spandrels of the arches have frescoes of putti, now rather faded. The walls are all in a creamy white which now looks greyish.
The middle two arches on each side are occupied by chapels, and the far one by what looks like an opera box intended for choral events -this architectural element is called a cantoria. These two timber cantorie are identical, and are cantilevered out on brackets with baluster pins in yellow and the rest in white. Note the fretwork screens running along the tops of their balustrades, which were to protect the anonymity of the musicians (the idea being that they were accompanying the liturgy, not giving a performance). The right hand cantoria is now occupied by the organ, and so the screen has been partly dismantled.
There is a very good wooden pulpit on the pier between the second and third arches, also cantilevered out with a separate sounding-board. It was executed in walnut in 1733.
The ceiling has triangular lunettes over the arches, which on the left contain windows with stained glass. The large central panel has a fresco by Pietro Gagliardi of 1856 depicting The Apotheosis of SS Quiricus and Julitta. This shows the saints as a little boy with his mother, surrounded by a swarm of angels and putti and with God the Father signalling an enthusiastic welcome at the top. The painted decorations in the rest of the vault are by Giovanni Luciani.
The marble floor was laid in 1956, after the previous one apparently collapsed. It includes a memorial-slab to the priest who provided the funds for the work, Don Bonaventura Macchiarola.
The impressive high altar dates from 1600, although the polychrome marble work on it it was restored in 1736. Four alabaster Corinthian columns support four posts, the inner pair being brought forward slightly and supporting a segmental pediment with the central section recessed. The anonymous altarpiece dates from 1631 (the purchase is recorded) and depicts the patron saints. Mattia Preti has been suggested as the artist.
Above the aedicule is a large window with good modern stained glass depicting The Resurrected Christ. This is flanked by frescoes depicting Christ on the left, and Moses on the right. On the right hand side wall is an early 19th century depiction of St Paschal Baylon, a low-key reminder that the church is in the charge of Franciscans.
The vault has a depiction of the Lamb of God by Gagliardi.
The first recess on the right was the baptistry before the parish was suppressed in 1910. The font was then given to the church of Sant'Elena on the Via Casilina, but a rather perished fresco of The Baptism of Christ survives on the wall.
Chapel of SS Joseph and Dismas Edit
The first chapel on the right is dedicated to St Joseph and St Dismas (the Good Thief).
The altarpiece shows The Holy Family, and is described as being by Giuseppe Plumier 1749. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are accompanied by an infant St John the Baptist, to the left the Visitation is depicted and in the background the Crucifixion with the stoning of St Stephen. St Thomas Aquinas is depicted in the tondo portrait above the altar, which is also by Plumier. An unusual feature is that the tondo is incorporated into the white and black marble frame of the altarpiece, which was hence painted with a bite taken out of it.
Chapel of St Dominic Edit
The second chapel on the right has a painting by Ercole Ruspi 1855, depicting St Dominic to whom the chapel is dedicated. Here is also a 18th century icon of Our Lady of Mercy.
On the pier beyond this chapel is a memorial to Francesca Merolli 1858. It has an attractive oil portrait of the unfortunate young lady, who died when she was only twenty-three.
Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary Edit
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, and has an interesting compound altarpiece within a frame in alabaster and Sicilian jasper. The main depiction by Ruspi again shows SS Dominic and Catherine of Siena venerating an inset icon of Our Lady, which is a copy of a 15th century work. Around the main depiction are fifteen miniature depictions of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which are anonymous. The overall work is 19th century, but the miniatures are thought to have been commissioned by the Dominicans for their 1728 rebuilding. A possible attribution is to Michelangelo Catoni.
Chapel of SS Vincent Ferrer and Antonius Edit
The first chapel on the left is dedicated to SS Vincent Ferrer and Antoninus of Florence, and the altarpiece painting of them in prayer before the Christ Child is anonymous (there is an attribution to Agostino Masucci, 1741). St Vincent is shown with angel's wings, an allusion to his nickname of "The Angel of the Final Judgment" (the dominant theme of his preaching).
On the pier beyond this chapel is a neo-Classical monument to a parish priest, Gregorio Maria Terenzi 1826.
The sacristy vault has a depiction of The Martyrdom of SS Quiricus and Julitta by Gaetano Papini 1751.
The crypt is accessed from the right hand side of the sanctuary. Excavated in 1930, its three chambers are now occupied by the Museum of Cribs (see below).
Fabric from the original 6th century edifice can be seen here. The apse has remnants of frescoes, in two registers. The lower one has painted draperies and a representation of the Lamb of God, and is 9th century. The upper one has unidentifiable fragments of standing saints, and is of the later Middle Ages. The site of the original altar can be discerned.
Here is the tomb of Cristina Egitta Bonaparte Stuart, a niece of Napoleon who died in 1847.
Museum of Cribs Edit
This crypt is the home of the Angelo Stefanucci International Museum of Cribs, which is a private collection of anything to do with Christmas cribs set up here by the eponymous founder in the 1967. There are thousands of crib-figures from all over the world, made from all sorts of materials some amazingly tiny.
The museum is now administered by the Italian Association of Friends of the Crib , also founded by Stefanucci and recognised by the Church.
Opening times of this charming little museum are 17:00 to 20:00 Wednesday and Saturday only, except in the Christmas season when it's open every day and in August when it's closed.
Entry is free, but donations are very welcome. The entrance is via the church (this is according to the museum's own website).
The church is open (unofficial source):
Daily 8:30 to 12:00, 17:00 to 20:00.
Mass is celebrated (unofficial source):
Weekdays 9:00 and 18:00,
Sundays 10:30 and 18:00.
(The 18:00 Masses are at 19:00 in summer.)
The patronal feast of SS Quiricus and Julitta is celebrated on 16 June.
Hotel Forum Edit
The Hotel Forum (the old convent) are rightly proud of the views from their roof-terrace restaurant, and have a web-cam on their website which visitors can access. This gives a good close-up view of the campanile (click on "Monastery tower" in the English-language version). Alternatively, you could patronize the restaurant and look for yourself. You do not need to be a guest to do this, the food is good (although expensive) and the view of the Forum is stunning. (If you are thinking about staying here, though, avoid being put in room 222 which is closet-sized.)
The hotel has an impressive original Baroque entrance doorway at the far end of its frontage on the Via della Madonna dei Monti.
Annas Rom Guide (in Danish)