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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in March 2010.

S. Grisogono (Book 6) (Map C3) (Day 6) (View D10) (Rione Trastevere)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 S. Grisogono
 S. Agata in Trastevere and Torre degli Anguillara
 Lost Churches (S. Bonosa and S. Eligio dei Sellai)
 Nuova Fabbrica del Tabacco

The Plate (No. 119)

As introduction to the text accompanying this plate Giuseppe Vasi wrote: Non Ŕ inferiore alle primarie Basiliche la magnificenza di questa chiesa (the magnificence of this church is not inferior to that of the largest basilicas of Rome) as if he wanted to apologize for having included S. Grisogono in Book 6, which covered parish churches, rather than in Book 3, which was dedicated to the main basilicas of Rome.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) S. Grisogono (more commonly S. Crisogono); 2) Street leading to S. Maria dell'Orto; 3) Oratorio della Confraternita del SS. Sacramento. The small map shows also 4) S. Bonosa; 5) S. Agata in Trastevere; 6) Torre degli Anguillara; 7) Nuova Fabbrica del Tabacco (approximate location).


The view in February 2010

S. Grisogono was a landmark of Trastevere, a characteristic which is even more true today than it was in the XVIIIth century. The church was located in a small square along the main street of Trastevere which with slightly different names (Via della Lungara, Via della Lungaretta and Via della Lungarina) crossed the whole rione from Ponte Rotto to Porta S. Spirito.
In 1888 Ponte Garibaldi, a new bridge, linked Trastevere to the rest of Rome; the bridge became the starting point of a large alley perpendicular to Via della Lungaretta and which crossed Trastevere from north to south; this led to pulling down most of the monastery adjoining S. Grisogono; a few years later Oratorio della Confraternita del SS. Sacramento was also demolished.
Because of these changes S. Grisogono greatly gained in visibility, but on the negative side it must be said that on some days the noise of the traffic can be heard inside the church.

S. Grisogono

(left) Interior; (right) one of two ancient porphyry column at the end of the main nave

St. Crisogono was a Bishop of Aquileia, at the time an important town in north-eastern Italy, who was put to death by Emperor Diocletian. The foundation of the church dedicated to him and to other martyrs is thought to have occurred in the Vth century; in the VIIIth century the floor of the church was raised by five feet to reflect the new level of the surrounding ground which had been modified by floods. In 1116-37 the church was entirely rebuilt by Cardinal Giovanni da Crema who further raised its level by fifteen feet. The design of the church is similar to that of the early great basilicas. The granite and porphyry columns which were used in the construction are thought to have belonged to baths built by Emperor Septimius Severus in Trastevere, although their exact location has not been identified.

(left) Side entrance; (centre) detail of the ceiling with the heraldic symbols of Cardinal Scipione Borghese; (right) detail of the floor, a Cosmati work modified by Cardinal Borghese who replaced some of the porphyry discs with his heraldic symbols

Between 1620 and 1627 Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V, commissioned Giovan Battista Soria a major renovation of the church, which mainly affected the fašade and the ceiling. The bell tower was modified by the addition of a pyramidal spire, similar to that of S. Maria Maggiore; the added weight however led to closing the windows of the lower storeys, in order to strengthen the construction.
You may wish to see the church before these changes in a 1588 Guide to Rome.

(left) Detail of the fašade with the eagles of Cardinal Borghese and the symbol of the Trinitarian Order; (right) decoration of the portico with the symbol of the Trinitarian Order and the chains making reference to its action to ransom Chistian slaves

In 1489 Pope Innocent VIII assigned S. Grisogono to the Carmelites and in 1629 Cardinal Borghese built Oratorio della Confraternita del SS. Sacramento, a chapel opposite S. Grisogono, specially dedicated to the devotion of Madonna de Noantri, a wooden statue of Virgin Mary, which once a year was brought to S. Grisogono at the end of a long procession.
In 1847 Pope Pius IX assigned S. Grisogono to the Trinitarians, who removed the coats of arms of Cardinal Borghese from the fašade and the side entrance and replaced them with a red and blue cross, the symbol of their order.

S. Agata in Trastevere and Torre degli Anguillara

(left) S. Agata in Trastevere; (centre) detail of the fašade; (right) Torre degli Anguillara

S. Agata was built in the XIIth century but it was entirely renovated between 1671 and 1711; the fašade by Giacomo Onorato Recalcati has several references to works by Francesco Borromini (in particular the role given to stucco decorations). The church belonged to several brotherhoods; in 1908 it was assigned to the brotherhood of Oratorio del SS. Sacramento and Madonna de' Noantri was relocated to this church, which became the starting and ending point of the processions which take place in July of every year.
The Anguillara, named after a fief they had near Bracciano, were a very prominent family in the XIVth and XVth centuries, but subsequently they lost their importance. They had their house-fortress in Trastevere. In 1887, when the building was bought by the City of Rome it was very run down and it housed a workshop for enamels and painted glasses. In the next fifteen years major modifications were made to turn it into a conference hall for lectures on the works of Dante Alighieri (the building is also known as Casa di Dante); only the tower retained its original appearance, with the exception of the added battlements. The website of Casa di Dante (external link) has several images of the building before and after the restoration.

Lost Churches

(left-above) 1870 ca map: 1) S. Bonosa; 2) S. Eligio dei Sellai; 3) Oratorio della Confraternita del SS. Sacramento; 4) site of the excubitorium (barracks) of VII Coorte dei Vigili; (left-below) 1924 map; (centre) a restored medieval house and a column of a medieval porch in the proximity of S. Grisogono; (right) coat of arms of Pope Pius IX and a fragment of a relief above the modern entrance to the excubitorium

The enlargement of the river bed in the late XIXth century led to pulling down the church of S. Bonosa which was built on the assumed site of the house of the martyr, a woman who was executed at the time of Emperor Aurelian. The church which was pulled down was a XIIth century building, which was widely modified in the XVIIIth century when it belonged to the cobblers' guild; the cobblers dedicated S. Bonosa also to Sts. Crispin and Crispinian, their patron saints.
In 1902 the church of S. Eligio dei Sellai was pulled down because of its precarious condition; it was an XVIIIth century building designed by Carlo de Dominicis for the farriers' guild.
In 1866 excavations in a garden behind Oratorio del SS. Sacramento led to the discovery of ancient barracks at some twenty feet below the current ground level. The barracks belonged to the Vigiles, a body of fightfighters/policemen set up by Emperor Augustus; each of its seven units (cohorts) was responsible for patrolling two of the 14 regiones into which ancient Rome was divided. The VIIth Cohort controlled Regio XIV - Transtiberim and Regio IX - Circus Flaminius. Unfortunately the mosaics which decorated some of the rooms were lost during WWII.

Nuova Fabbrica del Tabacco

(above) Fašade of the former tobacco factory; (below) detail of the inscription

This imposing building by Antonio Sarti has a vague resemblance to the Colonnade du Louvre in Paris, owing to its colonnade above a high base. The Latin inscription adds to its importance: PIUS IX P. (ontifex) M. (aximus) OFFICINAM NICOTIANIS FOLIIS ELABORANDIS A SOLO EXTRUXIT ANNO MDCCCLXIII.
It means that the building was a tobacco factory (Nicotianis foliis is a reference to the tobacco leaves introduced in Europe by French diplomat Jean Nicot). In 1863 Pope Pius IX moved to this site the tobacco factory which had been located near S. Maria dei Sette Dolori. The fountain at the centre of the square was designed by Andrea Busiri Vici in the same period.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Chiesa di s. Agata in Trastevere
Da Gregorio II. fu eretta quella chiesa l'anno 731. nella casa di sua madre, ed appresso fecevi un monastero di monache, che vi stettero per alcuni secoli; ma passate queste altrove, vi succederono alcuni Preti secolari; indi eretta la Congregazione de' Preti della dottrina Cristiana, da Gregorio XIII. fu ad essi conceduta questa chiesa col monastero annesso. Quasi incontro evvi la
Chiesa e Convento di s. Grisogono
PerchŔ non si sa di qual tempo sia la fondazione di questa magnifica chiesa, si crede esser una di quelle edificate da' Fedeli in tempo di Costantino Magno, tantopi¨, che le colonne della nave di mezzo mostrano essere state di vari tempj de' Gentili, perchŔ di granito egizio, e ineguali di proporzione; e fu dedicata in onore di s. Stefano, di s. Lorenzo, e di s. Grisogono. Da Gregorio III. fu notabilmente ristaurata: aggiungendovi un monastero per li monaci venuti dall'Oriente in tempo della persecuzione delle sagre Immagini; ed Ŕ notabile, che fra questi visse Stefano IV. mentre era giovine. Dopo i monaci vi succederono i canonici di s. Salvatore, e nell' anno 1480. i frati Carmelitani della congregazione di Mantova. Il Card. Gio. de Crema, essendone titolare, rinnov˛ la chiesa, e poi il Card. Scipione Borghese la orn˛ con un prezioso ciborio, e col superbo soffitto dorato, in cui si vede il santo Titolare dipinto dal Guercino da Cento. Incontro alla porta maggiore evvi l'oratorio della confraternita del Carmine eretto nell'an. 1543. sotto Paolo III. per associare il ss. Sacramento agl'Infermi. Indi camminando a destra, si trova nel vicolo la
Chiesa di s. Bonosa
Piccola ma antica Ŕ questa chiesa eretta, come si crede, nella casa della santa Titolare. Nell'anno 1480. volendosi rifare l'altare maggiore, fu trovato il corpo della Santa insieme con altre reliquie; ottenuta poi dall'universitÓ de' Calzolari, vi aggiunse il titolo de santi Crispino, e Crispiniano martiri.

Next plate in Book 6: S. Giacomo a Scossacavalli

Next step in Day 6 itinerary: Ponte Sisto