Sant'Ivo dei Bretoni is a 19th century national church, replacing a mediaeval one, at Vicolo della Campana 8 in the rione Campo Marzio. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.

It is dedicated to St Yves Hélory, patron of Brittany. (Bretoni can be spelled in other ways, for example Brittoni, but this is the form preferred by the Diocese.)

History[edit | edit source]

Origins[edit | edit source]

The foundation of this church is, in itself, undocumented. However, it is considered to have been the successor of an early mediaeval church called Sant'Andrea de Mortarariis (or de Marmorariis), which had its first mention in a bull of Pope Innocent II (1130-43). This was dependent on the great Benedictine nunnery of Santa Maria della Concezione in Campo Marzio from 1194, but was in ruins in the early 15th century.

It is thought not to have been on the actual site of Sant'Ivo, but to have been just to the south where the junction of the Vicolo della Campana and Via della Scrofa forms a little piazza.

The instigator of the project to found a hospice for Breton pilgrims and expatriates at Rome was Cardinal Alain de Coëtivy.  He apparently obtained the ruinous church from Pope Nicholas V, and Pope Callixtus III (1455-1458) confirmed this in 1455 together with the foundation of a confraternity formed of expatriates from Brittany to run the new institution. At the time, Brittany was still an independent duchy but was soon to become part of France. Independence was lost in 1491, and the annexation was formalized in 1532.

Old church[edit | edit source]

The new confraternity, the Confraternita di Sant'Ivo dei Brittoni, erected a fairly substantial new church with a hospice attached which took up the entire triangular city block where it was located. The church occupied about half the area. It seems that this was not immediately after its foundation, but was at the start of the 16th century. If so, the church of Sant'Andrea must have been patched up for use over some time. Also, the latter's campanile was left standing.

In 1582 the confraternity was united with that running the French national church of San Luigi dei Francesi. This was an act of predatory nationalism, instigated by King Henry III of France, as the majority of people in Brittany still spoke Breton rather than French. However, the church and hospice maintained the Breton link informally despite being regarded as one of the national churches of France.

New church[edit | edit source]

Oddly, the church was made parochial by the time of the Nolli map in 1748, which seems to reflect a loss of interest on the part of the French.

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 complex fell into serious decay in the mid 19th century. As a result, in 1875 the old buildings were demolished after the ancient campanile collapsed, apparently onto the church. A new, much smaller church was built on part of the site of the old one and was completed in 1890. The work was paid for by the French government, and the architect was Luca Carimini. Ancient Roman artefacts found in the foundations were taken to San Luigi for display.

A restoration of the façade and interior was completed in 2003, after they had fallen into decay again. The church has recovered some vitality recently, and now has its own blog (in French).

Appearance of the Old Church[edit | edit source]

The old church had an alignment of south-west to north-east, and occupied the entire east side of the little triangular piazza on the Vicolo della Campana. Its south-west corner elbowed out into the street, and had a façade facing down it. Before the 1875 demolition, if you looked up this street from its southern junction with the Via della Scrofa you would have seen this little façade, which looked as if it belonged to a very small church. This was seriously misleading, because this façade fronted a trapezoidal narthex which widened out to the actual church frontage, and did not occupy its entire width.

This façade had two storeys separated by an entablature, and with a triangular pediment on top. Both storeys had Doric pilasters on their outer corners. The entrance was sheltered by a raised cornice supported by strapwork corbels, and in between the lintel and this cornice was a dedicatory inscription on a tablet. The second storey had a large horizontal elliptical tondo in a raised frame, which looks as if it should have had a fresco although the surviving depictions do not show one. The tympanum of the pediment had a small coat-of-arms.

The layout of the actual church was basilical, with nave and aisles but no transept. There were five pillars in the arcade on each side, and a semi-circular apse. A passage led from the right hand aisle to a side entrance on the Via della Scrofa, and a separate side chapel on the plan of a clover leaf was accessed to the right at the end of the right  hand aisle.

The campanile was next to the near end of the right hand aisle, and is depicted on an engraving by Vasi which is on the "Romeartlover" website (see links below). It was a typical Romanesque campanile, of two storeys above the roofline with the top one having an arcade of three soundholes on each side. The lower storey had corresponding blind arcades, and is depicted in the Pinelli watercolour of 1834. Unusually, the cornice separating the storeys was decorated with little hanging arches.

The main altar had an altarpiece of the patron saint by Giacomo Triga. There were altars at the ends of the aisles; the right hand one had an Annunciation by Bonaventura Lamberti, and the left hand one St Joseph by Carlo Maratta.

Relics of Old Complex[edit | edit source]

The frontage of Via della Scrofa 11 dates back to the time when it was part of the hospice. High up on the façade is a small plaque displaying the heraldic shield of Brittany. A similar device is now in the cloister at San Luigi.

In the weekday chapel at San Luigi is kept a very small marble altar, consisting of a slab on a short length of column with four narrower columns supporting the corners. This is claimed to be 12th century and to have been associated with Sant'Ivo, which if true means that it comes from the original church of Sant'Andrea.

Exterior[edit | edit source]

Layout[edit | edit source]

The new church was laid out with its major axis perpendicular to that of the old one, and located at the latter's far end. The plan is rectangular, to which is added a semi-circular apse entered through a triumphal arch. There is a semi-circular external chapel halfway up each side wall of the nave, entered through a little arcade on two columns.

The far wall of the presbyterium of the old church occupies the new church's major axis as far as the triumphal arch, where the old church's top right hand corner was. The new church's apse continues as far as the far wall of the old clover-leaf chapel.

Façade[edit | edit source]

For some reason, Caramini built the new façade in a Florentine Romanesque style which was nothing like the old church's façade. He went so far as to use a grey stone for the work, which contrasts badly with the local and more familiar honey-coloured stone and proved to be of poor quality. Allegedly this was to further the resemblence to a Florentine building, or perhaps he had a cousin who owned a quarry.

The church is incorporated into a larger secular edifice, hence the façade is surrounded by the latter's frontage. It has three storeys, separated by projecting cornices. The first one contains the entrance propylaeum, which is inserted into an enormous arched recess the archivolt of which intrudes upon the second storey. This propylaeum consists of a pair of Composite columns on high plinths with capitals in a derivative style, supporting an entablature which in turn supports a large segmental pediment with a substantially recessed tympanum. The little barrel vault thus created is coffered, and the tympanum itself is occupied by a majolica relief of Our Lady and Child in a tondo, being venerated by two saints. This artwork was apparently over the entrance door into the old church from the vestibule. The pediment is decorated with finials formed of rosettes and cloud-puffs. On either side of the entrance is a blank round-headed niche with scallop shell decoration in the conch.

The second storey has an identical device in relief on either side of the archivolt. It is a lozenge-shaped shield showing the arms of Brittany, hanging from a ring in a lion's mouth and surrounded by a garland of fruiting boughs. Four ribbons are waving above. These devices crumbled badly before 2003.

The third storey has a round window with a plaited molded frame and a complicated fenestration derived from a cross, circle and two squares. It is flanked by a pair of round-headed niches with pediments supported by strapwork corbels; these have scallop shell decorations as well but upside down. The crowning triangular pediment is embellished with strapwork modillons and dentillation, and below it is a dedicatory inscription: Deo sacrum in hon[orem] S[ancti] Ivonis presb[yteri] advocati pauperum

Interior[edit | edit source]

Layout and fabric[edit | edit source]

The little church has a single nave, a three-sided sanctuary apse and a chapel on each side of the nave. The interior is richly decorated in a neo-Renaissance style, with lots of white marble in shallow carved relief and imitation Cosmatesque inlays on the walls. It is dominated by the large triumphal arch, which has pink granite Corinthian columns supporting a semi-circular archivolt with coffering on its intrados (a motif repeated in the propylaeum outside). A pair of stucco angels holding a wreath and crown is in the spandrels.

The floor is imitation Cosmatesque as well, and is really very good.

Sanctuary[edit | edit source]

The apse has an arcade of three arches separated by red marble Corinthian columns, and a large conch which culminates in a lunette window. The central arch contains the small main altar, which has a gilded metal bust of the patron saint in a niche flanked by a pair of Corinthian pilasters and containing two columns in the same style, all in green marble. 

The side arches contain the exits to the sacristy, and above these are cantorias for solo musicians. There is a low altar screen cutting off the apse, with fretwork stone decoration recalling the fenestration of the round window in the façade. At the right end of this is a little stone statue of St Yves, in a mediaeval style. He is holding a bag of money, because he was famous for his charitable donations in his home city of Chartres.

The frescoes in the apse conch and ceiling vault are by Ludwig Seitz. The former shows Christ in Glory, Venerated by French Saints. The saints are, left to right: Clotilde, Martin, Yves, Louis the King, Bernard and Genevieve of Paris.

Side chapels[edit | edit source]

One of the two semi-circular side chapels is dedicated to the Sacred Heart, and has a white marble statue.  The other is dedicated to Our Lady, and has an icon of the Madonna of the Angels.

They contain eight tondi showing portraits of saints by Riccardo Mancinelli from Orvieto. The saints are helpfully labelled, and are: Francis de Sales, Radegund, Denis of Paris, Joachim, Germaine Cousin, Anne, John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. The artistic quality varies from quite good to dreadful; St John the Evangelist looks completely insane. St Germaine is too clean, because she was badly abused and forced to sleep with the sheep by an evil stepmother and so was covered in sheep-shit and insect parasites. Despite (or because of) that, she was a true mystic.

The altar balustrades are in the same style as that of the sanctuary.

Access and liturgy[edit | edit source]

The church is now in fairly regular use, but does not seem to be open except for liturgical events.

Mass is celebrated, in French:

Sundays and Thursdays at 18:30

External links[edit | edit source]

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.