Santissimo Sudario di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo is a 17th regional church at Via del Sudario 47 in the rione Sant'Eustachio. It is one of two small churches close together in this short street off the north-west corner of Largo di Torre Argentina, the other being San Giuliano dei Fiamminghi at number 40. Picture of the church at Wikimedia Commons here.
The dedication is to the Shroud of Turin.
This is the church in Rome for expatriates from Piedmont.
The French expatriate community in Rome obtained permission in the 14th century to erect a little chapel in honour of King St Louis IX, after his canonization in 1297. (He had died horribly of dysentery during the futile Eighth Crusade in 1270.) The site of this was not that of the present church of San Luigi dei Francesi, but well to the south on the old Via Papalis very near the present Sant'Andrea della Valle. One tradition is that it was on the site of the present church of Santissimo Sudario.
The confraternity that founded the church was made up of expatriates from the Duchy of Savoy, a group which was first recorded in 1537 and which was formally erected as the Arciconfraternita della Santissima Sindone in 1592 by Pope Clement VIII. Back then, the political unit of the duchy included territory on both side of the Alps, with the name coming from what is now French Savoy and the economic base being in what is now Piedmont. Hence, the confraternity was dedicated to the famous relic of the Shroud of Turin. The present church was built by the confraternity in 1605, the architect being Carlo di Castellamonte who was himself from Turin. The patron was the duke of Savoy at the time, Charles Emmanuel I.
17th and 18th centuriesEdit
Since Savoy was then an independent state, the church had national status.
In 1687, Carlo Rainaldi added the present façade.
In 1720 the duchy became the Kingdom of Sardinia, and Duke Victor Amadeus II the first king. This was a rather complicated process, brought about through Savoy being on the winning side in the War of the Spanish Succession (the island of Sardinia had been a Spanish possession). In the Treaty of Utrecht 1713 that ended the war, the duke was rewarded with Sicily but was forced to exchange that island for Sardinia through diplomatic pressure seven years later.
The reason why Sardinia gave the title to the kingdom instead of Savoy (the power base) was that the latter was still counted as part of the Holy Roman Empire. However, the capital was Turin.
In 1750 the interior of the church was restored, but on the occupation of Rome by the French in 1798 the confraternity was suppressed and the church shut down.
In 1801, King Charles Emmanuel IV had the church re-consecrated while living at Rome as the private guest of the Colonna family. He had been forced to relinquish his mainland possessions to the French in 1798. However, he decided to abdicate altogether in the following year and after that the church was desecrated definitively and turned into a magazine.
In 1809, after the downfall of Napoleon, it was re-consecrated but its status as the national church of the Kingdom of Sardinia was only restored in 1837 with the king as patron.
In 1861, after the Second Italian War of Independence, the Kingdom of Sardinia became the Kingdom of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II. This was because it had acquired control of the entire peninsula, except for the Veneto under the Austrians and Latium with Rome which was still ruled by Pope Pius IX under a French guarantee.
There was a restoration of the church from 1869 to 1871, supervised by Giacomo Monaldi.
The restoration was finished in the year after the Kingdom of Italy finally conquered Rome. The pope refused to accept the reality of the situation, and declared himself the Prisoner in the Vatican (although he was not coerced by the Italian government, so the title was tendentious). The government requisitioned the formal Papal residence of the Quirinal Palace as the new royal palace, and in response the pope put the palace chapel -the Cappella Paolina- under interdict. This meant that no Mass could be celebrated there.
However, the church of Santissimo Sudario was already under the patronage of the king, and so became the royal Cappella Palatina or palace chapel in Rome. It was, de facto, the church of the royal court until the Lateran pacts of 1929 established relations between the papacy and the Italian government.
In 1946, the Republic of Italy was founded and the monarchy abolished. The property of the Italian crown passed to the Italian presidency, and so did the church. Because the 1929 concordat was not revised, the church remained a cappella palatina but only functioned as a regional church for the Piedmontese in Rome.
The concordat between Italy and the Holy See was finally revised in 1984. One obvious revision was to abolish the category of cappella palatina, and the presidency relinquished responsibility for the church.
The church is now the responsibility of the Military Ordinariate in Italy, although as to why is not clear.
Layout and fabricEditThe church is enclosed by domestic buildings on all sides except the street. It has a simple rectangular plan, with two external side chapels.
It is difficult to view the façade properly owing to the narrowness of the street. It has two storeys, rendered in a cream colour.The first storey has three zones, the central one slightly brought forward. The two side zones do not front the church, but ancillary accommodation which the doorways here access. The central doorway, the one into the church, has a raised segmental pediment but no other decoration. It is flanked by a pair of double rectangular Corinthian pilasters. The two side zones each have a smaller door, above which in turn is a Baruque transom window with a floating gable cornice, and then a rectangular window. The outer corners of the side zones are occupied by another pair of pilasters. These six pilasters support a wide entablature dividing the storeys, but unusually a pair of horizontally rectangular windows is cut into this above the pair of main windows in the side zones. The ends of the entablature bear the two halves of a broken and well-separated segmental pediment.
The second storey, narrower than the first (squeezed by domestic buildings on either side) has a double pair of Ionic pilasters either side of a very large rectangular window and supporting a pediment missing its cornice above the window and with its central angle set back. The window has a cornice on posts supported by corbels. The pediment contains the arms of the House of Savoy in relief, tilted so as to be visible from the street.
Layout and fabricEdit
The simple rectangular interior has five bays, the central third bay being much deeper than the others. Two side chapels lead off this third bay, and the last two bays are occupied by the sanctuary. There is a very shallow sixth bay occupied by the altar aedicule.
The interior decoration of nave and sanctuary is of one design -there is no triumphal arch. The bays are separated by Composite pilasters revetted in red marble, with the walls in between in what looks like green marble with yellow strip inlays. The pilasters support an entablature which runs round the interior and has a green frieze.
The second and fourth bays each have a pair of side doors with doorcases in a brown-veined marble, above which are panels in a purplish-red stone.
The semi-circular barrel-vaulted ceiling covers both nave and sanctuary. The deep central bay has a fresco depicting The Apotheosis of the Savoyard Saints, and the two flanking bays on each side are combined in the vault to have octagonal frescoes each with an allegorical virtue (they look like Charity and Religion). The panels to the sides of the main fresco have more allegories (Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude) with the Savoyard banner (white cross on a red background). The fresco panels are bordered by wide ribs with fernleaf scrolls in god on red.
These frescoes are by Cesare Maccari 1873. The octagonal fresco panels do not have flanking frescoes, but instead a pair of windows is inserted on each side in round-headed lunettes.
There is a wooden floating organ gallery over the entrance.
The far wall of the sanctuary is taken up by the altar aedicule in a way which integrates it into the overall design. The interior entablature is made to step back twice on each side, the angles of the steps pointing outwards slightly. These angles are supported by four Ionic columns in red marble, hence forming the aedicule. The capitals of these have incurved volutes and little winged putto's heads. Above the entablature is a white stucco relief of God the Father by Antonio Raggi, which fronts its own little aedicule with a segmental pediment and pink pilasters. Angels and putti are in attendance.
Between the entablature and sculpture is displayed a copy of the Holy Shroud, an object of devotion, which was commissioned by "Maria Francesca di Savoia". According to the Ordinariate, it was donated when the confraternity received its charter at the end of the 16th century. This is all very confused, and it seems that the copy was actually executed and donated by the Venerable Maria Apollonia di Savoia in 1650.
The altarpiece is a Deposition by Antonio Gherardi, with Savoyard saints shown in attendance on the dead Christ. The moment is shown when the Shroud allegedly received the miraculous image of Christ.
The two side wall frescoes show scenes from the lives of SS Francis de Sales and Anselm -both born in areas once ruled by the Duchy of Savoy, although on either side of the Alps. The actual scenes are St Anselm with Pope Urban II at the Council of Bari, and St Francis of Sales with Bl John Juvenal Ancina of Savoy.
The side chapels are arched niches, flanked by pairs of semi-columns in the same style as the pilasters.
The right hand side chapel is dedicated to one of ruling dukes who was beatified, Amadeus IX of Savoy. The altarpiece showing him having a vision of Our Lady is by Giovanni Domenico Cerrini, and is in an elaborate Baroque frame with an ogee cornice.
The vault in this chapel has an attractive little fresco of putti in heaven, within a stucco flower garland. It is easily overlooked.
Access and liturgyEdit
The Ordinariate tends to be coy about its liturgical activities.
However, an unofficial source has the church open at:
Thursday 20:15 to 22:00, and Sunday 20:15 to 21:30.
The same source mentions a Mass on Sundays at 20:00.