Museo di Santa Maria in Cappella

Typology: Religious Museum


Address: Vicolo di Santa Maria in Cappella, 6
Zone: Rione Trastevere (Gianicolo) (Roma centro)


Opening times

For visiting hours and procedures, please visit the official website

Admission only by prior booking at 06 5803737


Ticket: €6.00
Modalità di partecipazione: Booking required


» Obligatory


It is built around the small church dedicated to the Virgin, consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1090 and housed today in a portion of the Santa Francesca Romana Foundation rest home, a few steps from the basilica of Santa Cecilia.

The religious building was assigned to the congregation of the Oblates of Tor de' Specchi in the 15th century and used as a hospital; it later became part of the history of the Doria Pamphilj family when, due to her deep devotion to the saint, the powerful and strong-willed woman Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj gave the impulse to buy houses, towers, barns and fishing places around the sacred building, obtaining from her brother-in-law pope Innocent X, in 1653, full powers over the church of Santa Maria. The entire area purchased by the noblewoman was transformed into a "belvedere" casino with a marvellous garden of delights with rare essences, vines and fruit plants, especially citrus fruits, the beauty of which can still be enjoyed today.
Among the many sculptures that decorated the park known as the "Bagni di Donna Olimpia" was the Snail Fountain, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1652.
In the following centuries, the property was entrusted to tenants and gradually fell into decline until 1857, when Prince Filippo Andrea V commissioned the architect Andrea Busiri Vici to build the Hospital of the Chronically ill, which still operates today as the Santa Francesca Romana Rest Home.
Since the establishment of the first hospice up to the modern nursing home, this complex has been linked to a long tradition of hospitality and care for the sick, the poor and pilgrims, making the place a real port of call for old and new travellers and for all those in need of refreshment, both in body and soul.
The museum itinerary winds its way through various exhibition rooms, narrating the vicissitudes of the church through a historical excursus that proceeds from the Roman era to the nineteenth century, presenting pieces from the travelling exhibition Versus Mare, shown in several Ligurian towns during the summer of 2015.

From the consecration epigraph, which recalls the building's primitive name que appellatur de pinea ("which is called of the pines"), to the fragment of the leonine protome of the bishop's chair, the works on display bear witness to the church's considerable importance, so much so that it became the temporary seat of the papal consistory and for this reason was given the new title "in Cappella" as early as the end of the 12th century.
The liturgical furnishings can be admired along the way, including the precious altar with the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) dedicated in 1113 by Pope Paschal II and the group with a holy water stoup, capital and lion stylus, the pieces of which, datable to the 12th and 13th centuries, were probably assembled in the 19th century.
Of particular interest is the lead reliquary box, datable to the first decades of the 12th century, found in the recess of the altar and containing two small ollae with the relics of Saints Cornelius, Peter the Apostle, Anastasius, Melix, Hippolytus and Marmenia, as inscribed.
Finally, a section is dedicated to the nineteenth-century liturgical furnishings, from candelabra to chalices to patera; of great interest are the remains of the original stained glass windows, in neo-Gothic style, with scenes from the New Testament and the coats of arms of the Doria and Pamphilj families.
The tour ends with a visit to the worship hall with three naves, separated by two rows of five columns with continuous trabeation and a single apse. All that remains of the ancient "cosmatesque" decoration is a slab, perhaps an altar, and fragments of polychrome marble and flooring found during the excavations. The interior decoration is the result of a major nineteenth-century decorative intervention of neo-medieval taste, for which the rich mosaic heritage of Ravenna was a source of inspiration.
The long archaeological excavation work can still be seen in the side aisles, a work site that is still open and has brought to light ceramic finds and wall fragments datable to between the 4th and 5th centuries, evidence of the structures that preceded the construction of the church and of the lively life of the neighbourhood.

Curated by

Culture and leisure › Cultural institutions › Cultural structures

See also

Culture and leisure › Historic places of worship › Catholic Churches
Last checked: 2021-07-13 9:54
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