SS. Pietro e Marcellino (Book 3) (Map A3) (Day 1) (View C9) (Rione Monti) and (Rione Campitelli)
Book III is dedicated to Pope Benedictus XIV and SS. Pietro e Marcellino was built in 1753 during his pontificate. This explains Vasi's
decision to include this minor church in the most important book. The plate
shows us how unpopulated this area of Rome between S.
Giovanni in Laterano and S.
Maria Maggiore was. No obstacles disturbed the view in the distance
of the church and monastery of SS. Quattro Coronati. The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map below.
In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) The street leading to Porta Maggiore;
2) The street leading from S.
Giovanni in Laterano to S.
3) The street leading to Colosseo;
4) SS. Quattro Coronati. The small map shows also 5) Sacello della Madonna. The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Campitelli (left) and Rione Monti (right).
Now at the crossroad between Via Labicana and Via Merulana the church is some meters below the street level. SS. Quattro Coronati can still be seen behind the curtain of low buildings on the right. Via Merulana, the street linking S. Maria Maggiore with S. Giovanni in Laterano, was enlarged at the end of the XIXth century and this led to the pulling down of the church of S. Matteo a Via Merulana.
The church was designed by Marquis Girolamo Theodoli and it has an elaborated and curved dome contrasting with the very simple fašade. Small pillars with the heraldic symbols of the Pope are quite common, especially those with the eagles and dragons of Paulus V. The result however when applied to a very simple coat of arms like the stripes of Benedictus XIV is not that brilliant.
In the heart of Rome this place lives in the past. The church, erected in very remote times on previous buildings, sacked by Robert Guiscard, was restored and protected by towers and high walls like the monasteries on the Aventino. It is dedicated to four (Quattro) martyrs of Diocletianus and the name (Coronati = crowned) is due to a painting where they are shown with laurel wreaths. The area was outside the scope of Renaissance and Baroque Rome and no attempts were made to brighten its medieval aspect. So today the nun who leaves the monastery, crosses the large inner courtyards and in a few moments gets into Rome, is actually moving through the centuries.
At the foot of the slope leading to S. Quattro Coronati there is what is likely the most ancient
sacred image in the streets of Rome. The image is located along the street followed by the procession which accompanied
the newly elected pope to S. Giovanni in Laterano for the formal ceremony during which the pope
took possession of his charge. According to the legend at this spot a female pope (Papessa Giovanna) was
caught by labour pains and her sex was discovered. The madonnella is most likely a XVth century painting but the existence
of a sacred image located at this site is documented since the year 1000.
Next plate in Book 3: Ruine
dell'antico Tempio dei SS. Pietro e Marcellino
or to Book
3 or to my Home
Page on Baroque Rome or to my Home Page on Rome
in the footsteps of an XVIIIth century traveller.