The seminary has had a long history, being founded in 1563, but only established itself in commodious premises at the Lateran in 1913. Before then, it was located at the Collegio Romano where the venerated icon of Our Lady of Trust emerged into history in the early 19th century.
The original icon, and the devotion to it, originated with a Poor Clare sister of Todi called Sr Chiara Isabella Fornari (1697-1744). It has been alleged that the original artist was Carlo Maratta who gave it to Sr Chiara, but the alternative suggestion that one of her fellow sisters painted it is much more likely on stylistic grounds.
A copy of this icon was at the seminary by 1837, when Our Lady's intercession being invoked was given as an explanation as to why none of the seminarians fell victim to a virulent influenza epidemic in that year. The seminary has had a devotion to the icon ever since.
In 1917, the icon was formally enshrined in the new chapel as part of an appeal to Our Lady to keep safe those seminarians on active duty in the First World War (there was no dispensation from conscription for them). All of them returned unharmed after the war.
In 1965, a remodelling of the chapel was completed, with the icon enshrined on the far wall behind the altar where it was blessed by Bl Pope Paul VI. Subsequent pontiffs have created the tradition of coming to the seminary to venerate the icon on her feast-day, celebrated on the last Saturday before Lent.
The seminary complex is large. The original 1913 core consists of four-storey blocks arranged around two square courtyards or cloisters (one infilled -the western one), and is at the end of the driveway to the right of the baptistery of San Giovanni in Laterano.
The large chapel occupies the wing between the two courtyards. It stands above a ground-level crypt along the western side of the main cloister, which incorporates a covered walkway. If you have permission to visit, you go through the main entrance (three arched stone portals), straight on into the cloister garth garden and you can see the left hand side wall of the chapel on your right.
The layout comprises a single nave, rather narrow for its height and length, followed by a wider transept. Then comes a shallow rectangular apse. The fabric is in red brick, and the roofs are pitched and tiled. The nave, ends of the transept and sanctuary have separate double pitches which make up a Latin cross.
The nave side wall each have five tall vertical rectangular windows. The left hand wall has another one of these windows where it abuts the front college range, and a wider one in between this and the first of the five. Below the roofline runs a row of small rectangular windows, nine in total with the one over the larger main window itself being larger with a little dormer over it.
Because the northern range of the second (western) courtyard is wider, the right hand side wall of the chapel has no larger main window but only the row of five and another of the same size in the equivalent place.
The transept ends each have a pair of tall rectangular windows near the corners.
The Sixties re-fitting left the interior all in white, looking rather stark. The ceiling is rib-vaulted. Welcome colour is provided by modern stained glass in the nave windows, which depict The Way of the Cross.
The sanctuary intrudes into the structural nave, and is paved with green marble. The transept ends contain the choir.
To the right of the altar is the interesting tabernacle, which is a chased silver box in a large recess shaped like a Greek cross. The recess is framed in white marble the slabs of which protrude slightly, and the insides of which are lined in green marble. The box has its own white stone frame in the middle of the cross, in the form of a trapezoid with the short side uppermost.
The Easter candlestick is a small ribbed marble Corinthian column, which looks old (how old?).
The far wall of the sanctuary is entirely taken up by a mosaic of six angels venerating the venerated icon of Our Lady and with the Dove of the Holy Spirit above. The icon is vertically elliptical, and is within a gilded glory set in a shallow round-headed niche. Two of the angels hold a scroll reading Mater mea, fiducia mea ("My mother, my trust"), and two others hold a Crown of Thorns over the niche.
The seminary's premises are extra-territorial, and are administered by Vatican City. The usual security arrangements apply, and admission is by pass. No casual visitors are allowed. The easiest way to visit the chapel is by knowing a seminarian, and asking him as to how to go about it.