ROMAN ITINERARIES – MONTI DISTRICT  – ITINERARY 1

Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides

MONTI DISTRICT – ITINERARY 1

Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome GuidesThe Monti District Itinerary 1 will bring you just around the Lateran Square. “Laterano” is the name of that area of the Celio Hill that closes in front of the Asinaria Gate. According to the tradition, this area took its name from the Roman gens of the Laterans, a patrician family that had their houses here. The name of the Laterans is indeed known by ancient Roman historians: Tacitus, for example, recalls the name of Plautius Lateran, ally of the Pisons in the conspiracy against Nero, who paid with his life for plotting against the emperor.

The Lateran houses (some remains of which are thought to have been found between Via dell’Amba Aradam and Via dei Laterani) passed into the property of Domizia Lucilla, mother of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. So, the area has returned, in modern times, numerous archaeological testimonies of its building phases, including a base for an an equestrian statue that could have been the original of the famous bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius, a copy of which is on display in Piazza del Campidoglio.

The original one is in the Capitoline Museums, that you could visit choosing the Museums and Galleries Tour organized by Rome Guides.

THE ASINARIA GATE

The first remains to visit in our Itinerary are those of the Asinaria Gate, so called from the name of an ancient Roman road, which departed from this gate. In ancient times, the Asinaria Gate was one of the many Lesser Gates of the Aurelian Walls, built by the Emperor Aurelian from 271 to 275 AD, and it was without towers, because it was believed to be easily defensible in case of enemy attack.

Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome GuidesAt the beginning of the 5th Century, however, the Emperor Honorius gave the order to adapt the walls of Rome to more modern criteria, which however did not stop the barbarian hordes of Alaric eight years later. On this occasion, the Asinaria Gate was fortified between two mighty semicircular towers, with the addition of the internal counter-door castle, which allowed those who entered and those who left to be locked inside, as in a watertight bulkhead.

Next to the Asinaria Gate, the Aurelian Walls resume their path. On the right they protect an open-air market very popular with the Romans, the Via Sannio Market, active from Monday to Saturday, a sort of younger brother than the more famous Porta Portese Market. Continuing further along Via della Ferratella, the Aurelian Walls stop at Metronia Gate, called Metrovia Gate in ancient times, another non-main access to the city of Rome.

The Monti District Itinerary 1 starts from the Asinaria Gate, enters the square and the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, and then leads us to the Holy Stairs and the Lateran Baptistery; from there, it will take us to the Church of Santo Stefano Rotondo, and then along (in the Itinerary II) Via di San Giovanni in Laterano to discover the church of San Clemente and the Ludus Magnus, finally ending at the Church of Saints Peter and Marcellin.

A clarification: in the square of San Giovanni in Laterano there are two monuments which, according to the most recent subdivision of the districts, belong nominally to the Esquiline Distric. Therefore, although the Triclinio Leoniano and the Scala Santa (Holy Stairs) are to all intents and purposes an integral part of a single complex, that of the Lateran, they will be treated within the itineraries of the Esquiline District.

Via di S. Giovanni in Laterano – Via Labicana – Via Merulana – Via delle Terme di Traiano – Via Nicola Salvi – Via del Colosseo – Via del Cardello – Via del Buon Consiglio – Via dei Frangipane – Via degli Annibaldi – Via Cavour – Salita dei Borgia – Piazza San Pietro in Vincoli – Via delle Sette Sale – Viale del Monte Oppio – Via dei Quattro Cantoni – Via dell’Olmata – Via Paolina – Via di Santa Prassede – Via in Selci

The Lateran Square and the Lateran Basilica

THE LATERAN SQUARE

The Lateran Square has been, in the course of its history, a place of festivals and gatherings.

Think of the Ferragosto Celebration, dedicated to the Holy Face, when a procession departed from the demolished church of the Colosseum bringing the acheropita image (acheropita means “of miraculous and authentic origin”) of the “Saviour” to the Lateran Basilica.Pope Pius V suppressed this traditional procession because it led too often to fights and riots, perhaps also due to the great Roman hot temperatures of August.

Another great feast was the one in which the newly elected Pontiff rode a white mule and, followed by an imposing procession, went to the Lateran Basilica to take possession of the Episcopal Chair.

The Lateran Square, however, is not only “the square of God”, but also the people’s square. It was here that the funerals of two famous Italian politicians, Togliatti and Berlinguer, were celebrated, and it is in this square that, since 1990, the famous Concert of May 1st is held, on the occasion of Labour Day.

THE HISTORY OF THE SQUARE

The urban layout of the square is very old.

Pope Melchiade (311-314) called a synod in 313 to better arrange the organization of the Roman church to coincide with the Constantinian announcement of the public recognition of Christianity. The defendants gathered at the house of Fausta, in the Lateran. Fausta, Constantine’s wife, was also sister to his opponent, Maxentius, and it guaranteed the success of their political agreement. Fausta, however, had to be Christian, and certainly not pagan like her brother Maxentius, if she allowed the bishop of Rome and the other participants in the synod to use her house for the meeting.

In this property the Christians had already been meeting for some time for the celebration of the Eucharist: it was therefore a domus ecclesiae, that is a private house serving as a place of worship.

THE EQUITES SINGULARES BARRACKS

This house was located where the Lateran Basilica is now, and this is a sign of the historical and religious continuity of the area starting from the domus ecclesiae.  However, still under the basilica, the remains of the Roman age, probably Severan (193-211), were identified as barracks for the personal guard of the emperor: the Equites Singulares, which were dissolved by Constantine who knew them to be faithful to Maxentius and who assigned the place of the barracks to the construction of the original Lateran Basilica. In this way, the domus ecclesiae, Seat of the Bishop of Rome, and the Lateran Basilica were joined forever in a relationship of historical reciprocity.

To the person of Constantine and his contemporary Pope, Sylvester, the first builder of the Basilica, is linked the legend of the conversion of the emperor himself, splendidly depicted in the Chapel of St. Sylvester in the Church of Santi Quattro Coronati.

THE LATERAN BASILICA (OUTSIDE)

At the beginning, the Basilica was dedicated to Christ the Saviour and only with Pope Gregory the Great, at the beginning of the 6th Century, the dedication was extended to the two St. Johns, first the Baptist and then the Evangelist. The Basilica suffered several historical vicissitudes, for example the sacking of the Vandals of Gensericus, who plundered its treasure, including some sacred objects that were said to have come from the Temple of Jerusalem and that may have been those looted by the Emperor Titus in the war of 70 AD. Later, Pope Hadrian I (772-795) rebuilt the narthex, while the basilica had to be rearranged in 950 by Pope Sergius III after a violent earthquake had damaged it.

In 1300 the great Italian painter Giotto was called to decorate the “Loggia del Giubileo”, from which Pope Boniface VIII called the first of a still successful series of Holy Years. Unfortunately, in 1360 a terrible fire damaged the Loggia, to the point that today only one precious fragment of Giotto’s fresco remains inside the Cathedral.

BAROQUE AND NEOCLASSICAL AGE

In the 17th Century, Pope Innocent X, protector of the great baroque architect Francesco Borromini, commissioned him to completely rearrange the ancient basilica to assume a more modern appearance. Borromini carried out a real transformation, with the great pillars instead of columns and the wide and severe aedicules of the apostles, transforming the directionality of the early Christian basilica into a large hall, almost an imaginary atrium, which ended in the Gothic ciborium and the admirable mosaic apse.

The facade of the basilica, however, was completed only in 1735 by Alessandro Galilei under Pope Clement XII. In it dominates the 18th Century reference to an architecture as much neoclassical in ornamental references as baroque in the windows and entrances. In the centre is the profile of a classical temple resting on two gigantic columns: the inscription recalls how the Lateran Basilica is the mother and the chief of all the churches of Rome and the world. At the top of the building are the statues of Christ, the two St. John and the doctors of the Greek and Latin churches, to indicate that Rome inherits and holds all the Christian theological tradition.

On the left, in the portico, you can admire a statue of Constantine, dated to the 4th century AD and coming from the Baths on the Quirinal.

The main door of the basilica is particularly important because the two doors of the Basilica, mounted here in 1660, are the original ancient Roman ones, which were previously in the Roman Forum, specifically in the Curia, the Senate of Ancient Rome. They were transferred here by Pope Alexander VII, whose noble emblems stand on the frames placed at the doors because they were slightly smaller than the space for the basilica’s door.

THE LATERAN BASILICA (INSIDE)

Splendid, inside the basilica, is the ceiling of the nave, in large wooden lacunars, with the coats of arms of the popes who had it built or restored: Pius IV Medici (1562), Pius V Ghislieri (1567) and Pius VI Braschi (1775). The Cosmatesque floor obviously appears to have been altered by Borromini’s work. The aedicules, with the columns in antique green, are like large doors from which the apostles appear, six on each side, with St. Paul and St. Peter at the two summits.

Then, Borromini also transformed the minor aisles, reducing them to rooms connected to the side naves and arranging the funerary monuments removed from the oldest church, so that most of the remains of the original Basilica began to play a decorative, symbolic and funerary role.

CHAPELS AND FUNERARY MONUMENTS

Let’s go to visit now the chapels of two important Roman families, in a certain sense the most recent and the oldest for nobility. The first, in neoclassical style and decorated with a Deposition by the sculptor Tenerani, is the chapel of the Torlonia family; the second, on the architecture of Giacomo della Porta (1570) with paintings by Cavalier d’Arpino, is one of the chapels that in Rome belonged to the Massimo family. Outside this last chapel stands a splendid 15th Century statue of St. James by the sculptor Andrea Bregno.

Not to be overlooked is the modern monument to Cardinal Gasparri, who represented the Holy See at the time of the signing with Benito Mussolini of the Lateran Pacts, which were signed in these very palaces.

Significant is the modern tomb of Alexander III, who died in 1581, wanted by Alexander VII Chigi, because he was a fellow countryman (both were originally from Siena).

This is followed by the tomb of another Pope, Sylvester II: the tradition says that the tomb slab with the inscription sweats and makes bone noises when the time of death of a pope approaches, because Pope Sylvester II was so interested in esoteric sciences that he became famous as a magician and prophet.

In the far left aisle there is the sepulchral monument of Clement XII, in which the columns and the porphyry urn of the tomb were transferred here from the Pantheon atrium.

THE TRANSEPT

Even the transept of the church is no longer the early Christian one, but the one rebuilt at the end of the 16th Century by Giacomo della Porta and frescoed by many artists, including the painters Cavalier d’Arpino, Paris Nogari and Orazio Gentileschi. The altar of the Holy Sacrament is adorned with four bronze columns, according to the legend coming from the Temple of Jerusalem or from that of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitol.

In the right arm of the transept opens the Chapel of the Crucifix, where there is the tomb of the great humanist Lorenzo Valla, who ascertained the non-authenticity of the document containing the Donation of Constantine (probably the most clamorous false historical document of the Christianity).

THE TABERNACLE

In the middle of the transept stands the high tabernacle built for Pope Urban V, between 1367 and 1369, by Giovanni di Stefano with the generous offerings received from the King of France Charles V, who is commemorated on the same tabernacle with the lilies of his coat of arms. Embellished with eight Fourteenth-Century statues of “Saints and Virtues“, the tabernacle is decorated with the image of the Coronation of Mary. Inside it, at the top, behind a metal grid, there are two silver reliquary busts containing the relics of the heads of Saints Peter and Paul; these reliquaries are modern, however, because the original ones, dating back to the Middle Ages, had to be melted down to pay the heavy tribute that Napoleon had imposed on Italy and the Pope with the Treaty of Tolentino, requisitioning numerous masterpieces of art.

Why are the heads of the two Apostles here in San Giovanni in Laterano, since the other earthly remains are in the basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul Outside the Walls? It happened that, during the terrible barbarian invasions, the Roman church took care to hide the most precious holy relics. It is said, therefore, that the remains of the two Princes of the Apostles were secretly transferred to the catacombs of the Basilica of St. Sebastian, on the Appian Way. It is narrated that, after the danger had passed, while each of the bodies was moved to its original location, the heads went to enrich the treasure of relics in the Papal Cathedral.

Under the canopy stands a more recent altar, which contains the oldest wooden one, and on which only the Pope can celebrate Mass. In the Confession, then, is buried Pope Martin V Colonna, who died in 1431.

PRESBITERY AND APSE

The presbytery and the apse were rebuilt under Pope Leo XIII, and this architectural operation by Francesco and Virginio Vespignani led to the destruction of the rare Gothic ambulatory of Nicholas IV (1288-1292), with the ancient mosaic in which the face of the “Savior”, a 5th Century masterpiece that had been lost, was inserted. The current mosaic in the apse is therefore a total remake of the oldest, of which he exploited numerous fragments, and depicts the mission of the apostles and the Saints, as well as the commissioning pope Nicholas IV and St. Francis (Niccolò IV was Franciscan), who were sent around the world to spread the Gospel.

Returning to the transept, you should not overlook the tomb of Pope Leo XIII, the Pope of the famous encyclical Rerum Novarum. Through the door underneath his monument, you can walk down a corridor where there is a marble panel dating back to 1291 listing the relics preserved in the basilica itself, including a fragment of Christ’s tunic and the Samaritan woman’s well margella. After the old sacristy, also known as the Sacristy of the Beneficiati, there is the new sacristy where the Treasure of the Basilica is kept: although it has suffered several robberies, it is still rich in extraordinary pieces of jewellery adorned with precious stones and embossed and chiselled figures. Among the most important reliquaries are the Cross of Constantine, the box containing the tunic of St. John and the one with the Cilician of Mary Magdalene.

THE MEDIEVAL CLOISTER

At this point all that remains is to visit the cloister, built between 1225 and 1236 by the Vassalletto family, father and son, but completed only by the latter. Pairs of small columns, sometimes cylindrical, sometimes twisted, decorated with delicate reliefs and shining cosmatesque mosaics cage the four arms of the portico, letting the delicate light filter through, in an atmosphere full of harmony and spiritual peace that is exalted in the “closed” garden, an almost inaccessible place of an imaginary paradise. Under the porticoes of the cloister it is possible to admire some fragments of the ancient basilica, including a very important 5th century portrait believed to be of St. Helena, Constantine’s mother, and the Sepulchre of the Hannibaldi, another Roman family of the late Middle Ages, by Arnolfo di Cambio.

Now, you can leave the cloister and then the Basilica through a door located in the right arm of the transept that leads directly into the portico, built by Domenico Fontana at the behest of Pope Sixtus V and frescoed by Cesare Nebbia. In a niche there is a bronze statue of the King of France Henry IV.

If you want to visit this marvellous Church with a Tour Guide, check our Main Basilicas Tour.

Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides
Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides
Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides
Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides
Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides
The Lateran Obelisk

THE LATERAN OBELISK

As you walk out onto the square and look back, you can see the Blessings Lodge and the two twin bell towers of the 13th Century: in front of them stands one of the most characteristic and majestic monuments of Rome, the Lateran Obelisk.

This obelisk was originally erected in the 15th Century BC by the pharaohs Thutmose III and Thutmose IV in front of the great temple of Ammon at Karnak. To be more accurate, Thutmose III had it prepared with almost all the inscriptions, but only his nephew, Thutmose IV, had it transferred from the quarry to the great feast hall of the temple. In Egypt, the cusp and the upper part of the obelisk were covered with gold foil, which exalted the sunlight and its son, the Pharaoh, lord of the two lands, as the inscription itself recalls.

It was the Emperor Augustus who wanted to transfer it to Rome in the Circus Maximus, as he had already done for the one that now stands in Piazza del Popolo, but since this was the highest obelisk of the existing ones, the enterprise was not tackled. The order of transportation was given three centuries later by Constantine with destination Constantinople, but the death of the emperor in 337 interrupted the transfer and the obelisk remained in Alexandria awaiting boarding. Constantine’s son and successor, Constantius, gave the order to embark in a very large ship, but he changed destination, directing the obelisk to Rome and allowing it to reach “his colleague” who had been waiting for it for three hundred years.

THE LATERAN OBELISK IN THE 16TH CENTURY

After the end of Rome’s role as Capital of the Empire, the obelisk fell and broke into three parts. More than a thousand years later, Pope Sixtus V approved a research project and, at a depth of seven meters, the papal archaeologists identified the obelisk. After a year of work, on August 3 1588, the granite obelisk surmounted by the Cross, on a base with four lions, returned to soar to the sky for a total height of 47 meters, where the statue of Marcus Aurelius used to be. A few years later, a fountain was placed next to it for greater decorum of the square and also for greater public utility.

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Via Merulana and the Lateran Palace

VIA MERULANA

In front of the obelisk opens Via Merulana, whose name seems to derive from “merulo”, that is from the battlements of walls of ancient buildings, or perhaps from the ancient Roman gens Merula.

The oldest route of this street went from the hospital of St. John straight to the place of the current Victor Emmanuel Square. At the beginning of the street you can see some surviving arches of the Claudius Aqueduct, which enters the city at Porta Maggiore (Major Gate) and heads towards Labicana Street (52 A.D.).

THE LATERAN PALACE

Between the transept and the façade of the Lateran Basilica stands the 16th Century Lateran Palace, which enjoys extra-territoriality and where the Cardinal Vicar of the Pope has his official seat. It was the architect preferred by Sixtus V, Domenico Fontana, who built this grandiose building on the site of the ancient medieval Patriarch who, after the exile of the Popes in Avignon, was in a state of considerable abandonment. Sixtus V, however, preferred to remain in the Vatican and not to resume the habit of fixing his residence in the Lateran; from that moment on, therefore, the fate of the palace changed often, turning it into a hospital, a hospice, an archive and finally, with Gregory XVI in 1838, into the Gregorian Museum, which under the pontificate of John XXIII was transferred to the Vatican and reopened by Pope Paul VI.

DECORATIONS OF THE PALACE

Large portals, windows with curved and triangular tympanums and a belvedere loggia characterize the late 16th Century architecture of this building which contains a three-order portico with the third consisting of telamons supporting the last cornice. Splendid are the regal staircase and the stucco decorations and frescoes on the main floor and the loggias, in particular the so-called Hall of the Obelisks where the four obelisks restored by Sixtus V are depicted: those of St. Peter’s Square, Lateran Square, St. Mary Major Square and People Square, as well as the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius restored under the same pontiff.

Also historic is the Hall of the Popes, decorated with the figures of the first nineteen Popes and the civil enterprises of Sixtus V: the construction of the Felice Aqueduct, the fountain of Termini, the port of Terracina and the drainage of the Pontine Marshes. It was in this room that the Lateran Pacts were signed on 11 February 1929.

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The Lateran Baptistery

THE LATERAN BAPTISTERY

Proceeding then towards Amba Aradam Street, which takes its name from the victorious battle that the Italians won over the Ethiopian troops in 1936 during the colonialist invasion war of Ethiopia, you will find, on the left, the Baptistery, also originally called “San Giovanni in Fonte” (St. John in Spring), under whose foundations the remains of a Roman villa of the I Century AD came to light, which was later replaced by a thermal building during the II Century AD.

THE HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTERY

The Baptistery was built by will of Constantine together with the Basilica, but it was largely modified under the papacy of Sixtus III (432-440). It is believed that the plan of the oldest baptistery was circular, while the Liber Pontificalis reminds us how it was equipped with a large tub of porphyry covered with silver, for baptism by immersion, which bore in the center the golden simulacrum of the lamb of God, while a golden ampulla and seven silver deer poured water into the tub at the edges of which were the silver statues of Jesus and the Baptist.

In the following centuries many other modifications took place, and in 1540 the dome, now precarious, was replaced by a tiburium.

The main facade of the Baptistery, severe and solemn, consists of a large “serliana” without the central arch where, between the two tall middle columns, is placed the entrance. Inside, a ring of eight porphyry columns with Corinthian capitals supports an architrave on which stand eight other smaller columns of white marble. On the architrave, an inscription by Sixtus III recalls the saving power of Baptism and the hope of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the centre is a basin of green basalt. Paintings and canvases allude to the story of St. John the Baptist and Constantine. Higher up, on a Borrominian cornice, in monochrome medallions, are the basilicas erected by Constantine: St. John, the Baptistery, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Lawrence, St. Cross and Saints Peter and Marcellin.

THE BAPTISTERY’S CHAPELS

The Baptistery also contains some chapels, of which the one of St. John the Baptist undoubtedly stands out, still decorated with rich columns and ancient architraves, perhaps coming from the Baths of Caracalla, as well as a special door with bronze doors: if you should meet a particularly courteous custodian, you could ask him to move the door knockers, and you could hear a series of very melodious and intoned sounds, similar to those of an organ, that according to tradition would represent a small echo of the music of Paradise.

Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides
Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides
The Saviour's Hospital

THE SAVIOUR’S HOSPITAL

Once again on St. John’s Square, all we have to do is talk about the Saviour’s Hospital, built by Giacomo Mola between 1630 and 1636. It was called “of the Saviour” because it was run by the Company of the Recommended Saviour, which kept the acheropita image of “Christ” and then transported it in a procession that was suppressed by Pius V. This hospital experienced numerous transformations and enlargements, ending up incorporating the oldest one of St. Michael’s, where according to tradition St. Francis of Assisi met the papal messengers in charge of taking over his Rule. The ancient pharmacy still exists today in the hospital.

In the reconstruction commissioned by Pope Clement VIII in 1592, the hospital became able to accommodate up to 180 patients, but the latest reconstruction carried out by Mola replaced it with an even larger building. Then, Pope Urban VIII decided to keep the dedication to the Savior with the ancient effigy of Christ between two candelabra, which can still be seen at the beginning of the street.

For decades, the hospital was the place where a traditional Corpus Christi procession took place, with the canons of St. John crossing the entire hospital with songs and music. Under Pius IX, in 1867, this practice was also suppressed because it bothered the patients too much.

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From the Hospital to the Church of St. Stephen

Between the back of the Saviour’s Hospital and the entrance to the monastery of the hospital nuns, there is the Church of Saints Andrew and Bartholomew, with its elegant 18th Century façade and 15th Century portal decorated with the image of the “Saviour”. Inside, on the right, there is a Byzantine-style fresco with the “Madonna and Jesus Child” from an ancient church that has now disappeared: Santa Maria Imperatrice in Santi Quattro Coronati Street, built near the arches of the remains of Nero’s Aqueduct. Tradition says that this image of the Virgin Mary spoke to Pope Gregory the Great, to whom, according to the legend, the Holy Spirit also spoke in the form of a dove. It was for sure an interesting conversation…

At the corner with the Church of Saints Andrew and Bartholomew, you can take Santo Stefano Rotondo Street, which flanks the remains of the ancient St. Michael’s hospital, reduced to a portico of eight columns dating back to Roman times, which preserves, walled up, a relief with the face of the “Savior” in front of which four people are kneeling in prayer. The street then crosses the area of the lost Villa Fonseca, where in the 18th Century excavations were carried out in the remains of some Roman villas that returned some sculptures, that today are preserved in several museums in Europe.

The Church of St. Stephen Round

THE CHURCH OF ST. STEPHEN “ROUND”

A small fragment of the Claudio Aqueduct forms part of the boundary wall of the Church of St. Stephen “Round”.

This temple, dedicated to the first of the Christian martyrs, whose history is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, has a circular plan and is the oldest in Rome of this type, built by Pope Semplicio (468-483) on the model of the first Christian sanctuaries in the Eastern world.

The building, containing a ring nave delimited by columns and in itself contained within a square fenced area, looks like the transformation, in the Christian sense, of a Roman macellum, i.e. an ancient market. In reality, the only visible remains dating back to Ancient Rome are the findings of a mithraeum that was probably used by soldiers, followers of the cult of Mithras and housed in the nearby Castra Peregrina.

MOSAICS AND FRESCOES OF THE CHURCH

The entrance is the one rebuilt under Pope Nicholas V in 1453, whose inscription recalls how the church was already in ruins in those years. The interior of the church preserves 34 of the original columns, all recycled from older Roman monuments, and an Episcopal chair believed to belong to Pope St. Gregory the Great. Interesting are the 7th Century mosaics commemorating the transfer of the relics belonging to the Saints Primo and Feliciano, visible in the homonymous chapel, from a cemetery on Via Nomentana to this church.

Most of the walls of the church are frescoed with “scenes of martyrs“, whose tortures constitute the most complete and gruesome catalogue of torture possible. The frescoes, largely painted by Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta, had the didactic function of psychologically preparing young Jesuits who, under a false name, would go to Protestant countries (we are at the end of the 16th Century) to secretly buy back the church of Rome. If discovered, these missionaries would have suffered the most painful tortures, so much so that the death would have been desired by them as a liberation from suffering.

THE ROMAN AQUEDUCT

Leaving the church, let’s stop to admire in front of you, isolated and imposing, one of the pillars of the Neronian wing of the Claudio Aqueduct. Not far away, there is the Fountain of the Navicella with the small marble ship in the centre and, behind it, the Church of Santa Maria in Domnica. We could enter it, but the Church is in another district of Rome, the Celio, marked with the number XIX: so, our Monti District Itinerary 1 ends here, and you could go back to the Lateran Square to start the second route.

Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides
Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides
Monti District Itinerary 1, Monti District – Itinerary 1, Rome Guides