San Filippo Neri nel Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne is claimed to be the only private church in Rome, but in effect is the chapel of the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne at Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 141 in the rione Parione.

However, it has been proclaimed a church by papal decree. The palace is nevertheless private, and still belongs to a member of the Massimo family. It has an English Wikipedia page here.

The dedication is to St Philip Neri.


The Massimo family lost their old palace when it was burned down in the Sack of Rome in 1527, and when they rebuilt it just afterwards they called it alle Colonne in memory of the ancient columns which the previous building had contained. The architect was Baldassarre Peruzzi, and the result is considered his masterpiece.

The chapel is on the second floor, and occupies the room where a miracle performed by St Philip Neri took place on 16 March, 1583. A son of the head of the family named Paolo Massimo had died, and the saint was called to bless the body. When doing so, the corpse revived and the two had a spiritual conversation before the boy died again. The father gave his testimony to this at the canonisation of St Philip in 1595.

Meanwhile, the family converted the room into a chapel with a barrel-vaulted ceiling supported by four marble columns on each side bearing an entablature.

There was a major re-ordering in the 18th century, when the present three polychrome marble altars were established.

In 1839 Pope Gregory XVI visited the chapel and proclaimed it to have the dignity of a public church. This was an odd thing to do, and lacked any pastoral motivation. Rather, the gesture was aimed at enhancing the family's status. The papal government after 1815 had a disastrous policy of wishing to enhance the status of what was later called the Black Nobility, at the price of alienating the ordinary citizens.

Another restoration took place in 1883, during which frescoes were executed in the vestibule by Annibale Angelini and a patterned ceramic tile floor laid which came from the factory of Passalboni di Gubbio.


There is no external presence.

The main altar, dedicated to St Philip, has a 19th century altarpiece depicting the miracle, and the saint's rosary and spectacles are preserved as relics. The 19th century reliquaries are by Ludovico Seitz.

The left hand altar is dedicated to St Frances of Rome, but the altarpiece depicts Our Lady with four Saints. This is a panel painting of the second half of the 15th century by Nicola di Maestro Antonio of Ancona, and definitely the most interesting work of art in this church.

The right hand altar is dedicated to St Clement, and the relics of the saint there were donated by Pope Clement XI.


The church is only open to the public once a year, on 16 March (the anniversary of the miracle). This is the absolutely minimal act of conformity possible to the requirement that a church is, by definition, open to public worship.

External linksEdit

Article in Italian

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