Santa Lucia alle Botteghe Oscure refers to a demolished 17th century former parish and convent church, which stood on what is now the north side of the roadway of Via delle Botteghe Oscure at its junction with the Largo di Torre Argentina. This is in the rione Pigna. It was replaced in the earlier 20th century with a private convent chapel having a postal address at Largo di Santa Lucia Filippini 20.

The dedication of the church was to St Lucy of Syracuse. The chapel seems not to be formally dedicated, although the convent is named after St Lucy Filippini.

An alternative name used in the sources for the church is Santa Lucia dei Ginnasi. The chapel is referred to as Santa Lucia Filippini.


Old parish church Edit

This was an old foundation, but the first documentary reference dates from 1192. Early names were de Pinea (an early form of Pigna), de Calcariis (lime-burners) and de Apothecis (Latin for warehouses).

In 1560, the Confraternità dei Santi Biagio e Ambrosio dei Copertari e Arte della Lana ("Confraternity of SS Blaise and Ambrose of Rug-Makers and Craftsmen in Wool") was founded here. It had a side chapel dedicated to its two patrons, which survived until the church's eventual demolition. St Blaise was a patron because, according to his legend, he was martyred with a wool-comb.

As recorded in a census of 1566, the church was being run by a college of secular priests and had a small parish of 184 households. In 1596, however, it was taken over by the Confraternità dei Sacerdoti Secolari dei Santi Pietro e Paolo which had previously been at Santa Barbara dei Librai. They also ran a small hospice opposite the church for poor pilgrim priests, who could stay gratis for eight nights. Attached to this was a clinic.

Ginnasi rebuilding Edit

In 1610, the church was granted to Cardinal Domenico Ginnasi whose family palazzo was next door to the east. This Palazzo Ginnasi had been erected in 1585 for Alessandro Ginnasi from Castel Bolognese near Ravenna, the first of the clan to make good in Rome. The architect was Ottaviano Nonni il Mascherino (this edifice has since been demolished and rebuilt).  

In 1630, the cardinal had the church rebuilt and the complex remodelled by Oriazo Torriani. His niece, Caterina Ginnasi, provided paintings for the interior. She was a disciple of Giovanni Lanfranco, who apparently sketched them for her. 

An alternative name after the church was rebuilt was Santa Lucia dei Ginnasi, after the patronal family. 

The cardinal then founded a college here (the Collegio Ginnasi) for twelve poor youths from Castel Bolognese, where he had been born. One wonders what the boys made of being exiled to Rome for their education. He also founded in 1637 a convent of Discalced Carmelite nuns known as the Teresiane del Corpus Domini, which Caterina joined. Hence, the palazzo was thus divided between two institutions. 

The college did not prosper, and after the cardinal's death in 1649 the nuns took over its premises. However, they still had to live adjacent to the priests' hospice (the Ospizio di Santa Lucia dei Ginnasi) run by the Confraternità dei SS Pietro e Paolo, with whom they had to share the church. This proved unacceptable, and the nuns also complained about the quality of their accommodation (ristretto ed oscuro -"cramped and dark"). So, they in turn moved to Santi Marcellino e Pietro al Laterano in 1763.

Then part of the complex was taken over by the Collegio dell'Umbria, which united with another student hostel to become the Collegio Umbro-Fuccioli in 1785. This existed as a residence for students from Umbria studying at Rome.

Church in modern times Edit

After the Napoleonic period the Collegio proved impossible to resuscitate and its part of the complex was granted to the Academia dei Lincei in 1807.

A major re-ordering of the parishes of the Centro Storico took place in 1824, under the bull Super Universam issued by Pope Leo XII. This suppressed the parish attached to the church.

The latter then passed to the newly re-founded Collegio Irlandese in 1826. See Cappella del Pontificio Collegio Irlandese. The Irish didn't stay here long, as they moved to Sant'Agata dei Goti in 1836. They also weren't impressed by the accommodation on offer.

The next congregation to take over were the Maestre Pie Filippini , who had been based at Sant'Agata dei Goti and who swapped places with the Irish. The sisters taught poor girls, and also made room for a while for a school for boys in 1875 which relocated from Santa Maria della Pace. This latter establishment went on to become part of the Istituto Angelo Mai (see San Romano ai Monti.)

Meanwhile, Pope Pius IX suppressed the old priests' hospice in 1856 and granted the church to the Arciconfraternità di Sant'Antonio di Padova. This moved from Santa Maria in Publicolis nearby, and remained in charge until the end.

The Maestre Pie or "Religious Teachers" had been founded in 1692 at Montefiascone by St Lucy Filippini. They are a fairly early example of a congregation of consecrated female religious dedicated to teaching girls, the number of which was to run into the hundreds by the start of the 20th century.

Church replaced by chapel Edit

The Maestre Pie established their Generalate (headquarters) here, and have been in sole residence ever since. However, the church was demolished to widen the street in 1938. In fact, only the right hand side chapel was in the way -but the opportunity was taken to provide a modern building to house the Maestre Pie, now to be found here in the Via delle Botteghe Oscure.

The rebuilt convent contains a large private chapel, but this has no separate architectural identity.

The convent continued to function as the Generalate until declining numbers encouraged the Maestre Pie to retrench. In 2013, the Generalate had been moved to one of the other convents in Rome, at Via della Stazione di Ottavia 72. This is a three-storey villa. The former Generalate became a pilgrimage hotel (Casa per ferie) called the Santa Lucia Filippini.

The chapel is open to guests of the hotel.


The church was on the east side of a small piazza, now the Largo di Santa Lucia Filippini, on the north side of the Via delle Botteghe Oscure.

The church entrance was about under where the wrap-around balcony on the corner of the modern building now is, and the right hand nave wall is followed by the main frontage of the same building on the Via delle Botteghe Oscure. This sports the church's door-case, re-located after the demolition. The balcony mentioned is in imitation of one that used to be on the equivalent corner of the convent.

Exterior of churchEdit

The church had no separate architectural identity of its own, but was incorporated within the building of the convent.

The plan was based on a Greek cross. Firstly there was a nave of two bays, with a pair of pilasters supporting the vault. Then came a third bay, off which opened a pair of large external chapels (the site of the right hand one of these is under the pedestrian sidewalk). Then was a sanctuary occupying a fourth bay, and finally a slightly narrower square apse entered through a triumphal arch.

The church's major axis was not straight; the sanctuary and apse were slightly angled to the left from the orientation of the nave.

There was no façade, but only the domestic frontage of the convent. The door-case was the only element marking the church on the exterior, apart from a small bell-cote with two arched bell openings on the roof of the convent to the north.
2011 Lucia alle Botteghe Oscure

The doorway and statue are from the church, the rest is modern.

This door-case, which survives as the main entrance of the modern convent building on the site, has a fine Baroque frame embellished a its upper corners with a pair of triglyphs decorated with tassels, scallop shells and fleur-de-lys (the latter stylized lilies being an evocation of the virginity of the martyr St Lucy). Over the lintel is a modern tablet proclaiming the Filippini institution. Above this in turn is a segmental pediment broken at the top, into which is inserted a little arched aedicule containing a statue of the Madonna and Child by Pompeio Ferrucci (1565-1637). This sculpture was commissioned for the church in 1630, and was originally inside. It was put over the door when the church was rebuilt.

Interior of church Edit

The two side chapels of the church were dedicated to SS Blaise and Ambrose (right) and the Holy Crucifix (left).

All the pictures in the new church were painted by Caterina Ginnasi, the niece of Cardinal Domenico Ginnasi. These included that over the high altar, The Martyrdom of St Lucy, also a lunette of The Last Supper at the top of the altar aedicule. The apse had a fresco of Our Lady, and an altarpiece of The Martyrdom of St Blaise was in the chapel dedicated to himWhen the church was demolished these works were recovered by the Ginnasi family, and are apparently in the private chapel of their adjacent modern palazzo.

The church also contained several tombs of the same family, including that of Cardinal Domenico and Caterina. Many of these were also transferred to the same chapel, notably these two. Caterina had been instrumental in establishing the Carmelite nuns here, and became one herself.

In the Chapel of St Blaise was the monument to Faustina Gottardi Ginnasi 1646 by Cosimo and Antonio Fancelli, and to Cardinal Domenico which was designed by Orazio Torriani. This had statues of the deceased and of "Faith, Hope and Charity", by Antonio Fancelli again.

The Chapel of the Crucifix contained a memorial to Princess Eleonora Boncompagni Borghese 1704, by Giovan Battista Contini. This was moved to Sant'Alessio all'Aventino when the church was demolished. Also here was a memorial to Cardinal Annibale Ginnasi 1834.

Private chapel Edit

Nave Edit

The convent chapel has no external architectural identity, but is a large room occupying the full width of two storeys of the 1938 block fronting the street. Given that, it could easily function as a church.

The cuboidal space is divided into four bays, and the two storeys by galleries which run down the sides and across the "counterfaçade" (there is no façade). The layout is basilical, with a central nave and side aisles. The aisles are separated by colonnade columns separating the bays, supporting the galleries as trabeations rather than as arcades. These columns are Tuscan Doric, but the galleries are fronted by a second pair of colonnades above the first storey ones, and these columns are Ionic with gilded capitals. Each vertical pair of columns fairly obviously constitutes a concrete support pier, well disguised.

The gallery frontages are done up as an entablature which runs around the interior, and which has a gilded frieze which bears the Latin text of the Magnificat.

The ceilings are flat, and divided into large coffers by longitudinal beams running from the columns and meeting side wall piers in the same style as the columns.

Columns and piers are faked up to resemble pale green streaked cipollino marble -the work is rather crude and obvious.

There are two little side sub-chapels at the ends of the aisles, with polychrome marble Baroque altars which presumably came from the demolished church.

Sanctuary Edit

The sanctuary is an apse with a conch, narrower than the central nave and provided with a triumphal arch supported on two Doric pilasters matching the nave columns. This inner pair of pilasters is matched by an outer pair supporting the gallery ends, and a third pair occupies the curved apse wall. The triumphal arch archivolt is semi-circular, with gilded molding.

The triumphal arch surround, the conch and the apse are frescoed in bright colours in a realistic style. The first shows two Old Testament figures (King David and Isaiah?) with angels, on a royal blue background. The conch shows the Assumption of Our Lady with angels and lilies, and God the Father with the Dove of the Holy Spirit at the top.

The apse has The Last Supper as a take on the famous work by Leonardo, either ridiculous or charming depending on your taste. Amongst the faces of the Apostles is the portrait of Bishop Dominic Conway , who whilst in Rome on the staff of the Pontifical Irish College (1951-1968) served as spiritual father to some of the sisters. 

External links Edit

Official diocesan web-page of congregation

Italian Wikipedia page

"Maestre Pie" website

"Casa per ferie" website

Nolli map (look for 893)

"Romeartlover" web-page

Blog with old photos

"Annas Rom Guide" (in Danish)

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