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Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini

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Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini

English name: Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims
Dedication: Holy Trinity
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Clergy: Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter
Confraternity: Archconfraternity of Pilgrims and Convalescents
Built: 15871597
Architect(s): Martino Longhi the Elder Francesco de Sanctis
Artists: Bernardino Ludovisi Guido Reni
Contact data
Address: 36 Via dei Pettinari - 00153 Rome

Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini is a 16th century hospice church which is now parochial, and is located on the Piazza della Trinità dei Pellegrini in the rione Regola. The postal address is Via dei Pettinari 36/A; this street continues the line taken by the Ponte Sisto and runs along the right hand wall of the church. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons.[1]

The dedication is to the Holy Trinity.


The remote origins of the church lay in the period when St Philip Neri was in residence at the church of San Girolamo della Carità. There, a group of laypeople who were his disciples set up a confraternity to indulge in charitable activities in 1540, and named themselves the Confraternita della Santissima Trinità del Sussidio. They received Papal recognition in 1548. In the Jubilee year of 1550 the members gave accommodation to poor and sick foreign pilgrims in their own homes, and recognized a special activity on which they could focus. As a result, Pope Paul IV gave them a charter as an "Archconfraternity for Pilgrims and Convalescents" in 1558, and granted them the use of a small parish church called San Benedetto in Arenula. A reminder of this church exists as the Via di San Benedetto in Arenula, an obscure back street to the west of the Via di Conservatorio.

The church was in very bad condition, but the Confraternity accepted the tenancy and bought a house next door as a pilgrim hospice. In the Jubilee year of 1575 they housed a recorded 140,000 pilgrims of both sexes, and the patronage they then attracted from the impressed Roman establishment enabled them to rebuilt the church completely. They started in 1587, finished in 1597 and consecrated it in 1616, also building a purpose-designed hospice next door. Meanwhile the parish priest of the old church was proving a nuisance, so the former parish was suppressed in 1601 and this got rid of him.

The architect of the complex was Martino Longhi the Elder, but the façade was added by Francesco de Sanctis in 1723. This architect was also responsible for the Spanish Steps. The hospice could accommodate 500 pilgrims and feed almost a thousand, and it remained the premier accommodation in the city for poor pilgrims until the 19th century. It also served as a hospital during the fighting associated with the French occupations and the Roman Republic. However, after the conquest of Rome by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870 the Papacy refused to proclaim Jubilee years as part of its protest, and the hospice lost much of its rationale. It was closed in the early 20th century, and unfortunately demolished in 1940. However the Archconfraternity still exists, and is still based at the church.

In the second half of the 20th century, the church was kept open but lacked any pastoral justification for its existence as the neighbourhood is very well provided with churches. The façade was allowed to become dirty and dilapidated, and in fact is perhaps now one of the scruffiest church frontages in the Centro Storico. But in 2008 the church was made the parish church of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite in Rome, and this has secured its future. It now has all the appurtenances of parish life, including marriages, funerals and sacraments of initiation.

Unfortunately, the foundation of a parish for the Extraordinary Form here has meant that San Gregorio dei Muratori, the original Roman centre for celebration of the Form (when it was called the Tridentine Rite), has been closed and has an uncertain future.

Photos of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini (including photos of the liturgies) may be found on the website of the FSSP Roman Apostolate.[2] Beware -the English version is a skeleton. Use the Italian one.


Layout and fabricEdit

The plan of the church is rectangular, and the fabric is structurally based on a nave with side aisles. However, the aisles are divided by blocking walls to give three side chapels on each side of the nave. There is a transept with a central dome which is based on a hemisphere, but is octagonal in lead on a high octagonal drum. This has a lantern on top, with its own little lead cupola. Beyond the transept is a large apse with a semi-circular end.

A matching pair of little campaniles are set on the far corners of the church, behind the dome, and are very difficult to see from the ground. They are on a square plan, in white with a large arched sound-hole on each side. On top are little octagonal drums with cupolas in lead, matching the dome except that they have ogee curves.


The façade is of travertine limestone, and has an orange-yellow discolouration dating from the days when the city heated itself by burning coal. It is slightly coved or concave, very Baroque, of two storeys separated by a deep entablature with a dedicatory inscription on its frieze. The large entrance doorway has a raised segmental pediment containing a winged putto's head, and flanking the entrance are two pairs of monumental Corinthian columns. Where they support the entablature the latter is brought forward, as is the façade between these columns. Here are seen two stucco statues of Evangelists by Bernardino Ludovisi in arched niches with little incurved triangular canopies. Another pair of columns flank the first four, set back so that their outer horizontal tangent is in the same plane as the door, and the outer zones of the first storey are set back further again and have Corinthian pilasters.

The second storey is in the same style as the first, with the same number of six monumental columns except that these are in the Composite style (note the Ionic volutes above the Corinthian acanthus leaves). These columns stand on a very deep plinth set above the dividing entablature, and support a top entablature stepped vertically in the same manner as the latter. Two other statues of Evangelists are here, distinguished by having arc canopies instead of triangular ones, and the corners of the frontage have gigantic volutes. There is a large central window which is crowned by a Venetian curve (an arc between two horizontal lines) in relief over another winged putto's head. The crowning triangular pediment has its central section recessed to match the entablature it is on, and contains a triangle in glory as a symbol of the Trinity.


The confraternity had its own oratory for private liturgical functions, with the same name and dedication as the church. However, it was on the other side of the hospice complex and had its own entrance off the Via delle Zoccolette. The location is marked by the 1950's vehicle apertures in the building next to the entrance of number 27. The oratory itself had a simple rectangular plan with a small shallow apse, and was quite large as Roman oratories go. There was a single altar, with an altarpiece showing St Gregory the Great Celebrating Mass by Giacomo Zucca.


Internal layoutEdit

The sumptuous interior is dominated by the eight Corinthian columns, apparently in flesh-pink marble, with gilded capitals which support the pendentives of the dome. However, their present appearance results from an early 19th century restoration inspired by Giuseppe Valadier. His technique was to use a cement made up of powdered marble and pigment, allowed to dry and then polished. It certainly results in an authentic appearance.

There are no aisles, but instead the three chapels on each side. Each of these is inserted into a large archway with coffering. The transepts are very shallow, only as deep as the chapels. There is a large and high internal apse with a conch, the latter being coffered with gilded panels inserted about 1850.

Unfortunately, the 19th century frescoes of the nave vault by Raffaele Ferrara have been lost -presumably because the roof leaked.

Side chapelsEdit

The first chapel on the left is dedicated to St Charles Borromeo, and the altarpiece of 1677 depicting the Madonna and Child with various saints then recently canonized, including St Charles and St Philip Neri, is by the artist Guillaume Courtois from Burgundy in France (hence he is nicknamed Il Borgognone).

The second chapel on the left is dedicated to SS Augustine and Francis of Assisi, and the Virgin with SS Francis and Augustine by the Cavalier d'Arpino can be seen as the altarpiece there.

The third chapel on the left is dedicated to St Gregory the Great. All the frescoes and the altarpiece, St Gregory the Great Freeing Souls from Purgatory, are by Baldassare Croce.

The third chapel on the right is dedicated to St John Baptist de Rossi (1698-1764), who was a priest who followed a vocation among Rome's poor people similar to that of St Philip Neri. He based his operations at this church, and as a result was enshrined in this chapel after his canonization. However, in 1965 the church in Rome of San Giovanni Battista de Rossi was completed, and his relics were enshrined there instead. The frescoes in this chapel are by Giovanni Battista Ricci, and the altarpiece by Antonio Bianchini depicts the Apotheosis of St John Baptist de Rossi. As well as Christ, Our Lady and St John the Baptist, this depicts St Philip Neri welcoming his disciple.

The second chapel on the right is dedicated to St Philip Neri, who had so much influence on the church's foundation. The altarpiece of 1853 is by Filippo Bigioli di Sanseverino, and depicts the Vision of Our Lady to St Philip. The frescoes depict events in the saint's life.

The first chapel on the right is dedicated to the Crucifixion. The crucifix over the altar is 18th century.

High altar and transeptsEdit

The left transept altar is dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians, St Joseph and St Benedict. This odd dedication is because of the altarpiece, as well as being a reminder of the dedication of the original church. The altarpiece depicting the saints is by Giovanni Battista Ricci, and is painted around an older, small icon of Our Lady which used to be on an outside wall of the Palazzo Capranica. It was given to the Confraternity in 1558. After a long time being in a bad state, it is finally being restored.

The high altar, with its four black-veined African marble Corinthian columns, is by Domenico Pozzi of 1616. It occupies the whole height of the apse, to the conch. The enormous altarpiece, depicting the Holy Trinity, is by Guido Reni and was painted in 1625 -allegedly only in 27 days. Either side of the altar is a bronze candlestick, cast in 1616 by Orazio Censore. They were given to the confraternity by the municipality.

The right transept altar is dedicated to St Matthew, and the statue of the saint is by Jacob Cornelisz Cobaert who was from what is now Belgium.

In the sacristy is a picture of the nobility washing the feet of poor pilgrims at the hospice, a custom introduced by St Philip Neri and which was continued until 1870.


As mentioned, the dome is supported by eight monumental columns. These were actually as a result of emergency work carried out in 1690 by Giovan Battista Contini after the dome threatened to collapse. The pendentives of the dome have frescoes of the four evangelists by Giovanni Battista Ricci, and the oculus contains a depiction of God the Father possibly by Reni. The interior of the dome itself has decoration of coffering and gilded panels in the same style and of the same date as that in the apse conch.

Celebration of the Tridentine MassEdit

The parish was established by Pope Benedict XVI in June 2008 as a Personal Parish of the Diocese of Rome for the exclusive celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass/Tridentine Mass). Care of the parish has been given to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, also known as FSSP, a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Rite whose mission is the formation and sanctification of priests in the cadre of the traditional liturgy of the Roman rite, and the pastoral deployment of the priests in the service of the Church.

External linksEdit

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