Santa Dorotea is an 18th century Baroque parish, titular and conventual church at Via di Santa Dorotea 23, in the northern part of Trastevere near the Ponte Sisto. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here. An English Wikipedia page is here.

The dedication is to St Dorothy.


This is an ancient church (although rebuilt twice), and is first attested to in a Papal bull of Pope Callixtus II in 1123, being referred to under its first dedication of San Silvestro alla Porta Settimiana.

In 1445 it was recorded under the double dedication of SS Silvestro e Dorotea, the latter being an obscure martyr of Caesarea in Cappadocia (modern Kayseri in Turkey) who might have been killed in the early 4th century if she existed at all. 

In 1475 the church was rebuilt and given full parochial status, and the relics of St Dorothy were enshrined here by Giuliano De Datis, the parish priest, in 1500.

In 1517 St Cajetan founded the Oratory (or Confraternity) of Divine Love in the sacristy. This is considered to have been a major event in the beginnings of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. In 1566 the church was re-listed under the present dedication. In an adjacent house, the first free public school in Europe was opened in 1592 by St Joseph Calasanz.

In 1727 the parish was suppressed, and in 1738 the church was granted to the Friars Minor Conventual. They demolished it again, and rebuilt it as the chapel of their new convent on the site. The rebuilding was entrusted to Giovanni Battista Nolli by Giovanni Carlo Vipera, Minister-General of the Conventuals. They both have sepulchral monuments in the church.

The parish was re-erected in 1824, and the church restored and re-consecrated in 1879.

It was made titular in 2014, and the first cardinal priest is Javier Lozano Barragán.

There was an English-speaking outreach at the time by one of the friars attached to the parish, Fra Osvaldo Tini. He has moved on, and this has ceased (2019).


Layout and fabricEdit

The church is incorporated into the convent buildings, and is joined onto domestic accommodation on both sides. So, only the façade is visible from the street.

There is a transversely double-pitched and tiled section of roof just behind the façade, and then another longitudinal double pitch running back to the integral semi-circular apse which is pitched in sectors. Underneath the roof in the middle is a false saucer dome, and the tall cylindrical lantern of this protrudes. It has four large rectangular windows in round-headed niches, and a shallow tiled cupola.

The campanile is over the right hand side of the apse. It is a plain rectangular block with a tiled pyramidal cupola and a single round-headed soundhole on each side.

To see the lantern and cupola, albeit from a distance, you need to go along the Lungotevere Farnesiana north-west of the Ponte Sisto, and catch a glimpse over the garden wall of the Villa Farnesina. 


The restrained and simple façade is coved (concave), and is rendered in a very pale orange with the architectural details in white.

Four gigantic rectangular Composite pilasters dominate the design, rising from the ground to the entablature supporting the triangular pediment. The outer ones are tripletted, looking as if there are two other pilasters half-hidden behind each. The doorcase fits snugly in between the inner pair, and has a segmental pediment containing the emblem of the Franciscan order (two crossed arms with a cross above). Above this is a large tablet with a dedicatory inscription mentioning Pope St Silvester, and between this and the entablature is a large window with a shallow arched top. Squeezed between the top of the window and the entablature is a pair of crossed palm fronds in honour of the martyrdom of St Dorothy. Then there is a pair of little square windows in the frieze below the pediment. The composition has no other decoration.


Layout and fabricEdit

The overall plan is on a U-shape, being a rectangle with an attached apse. First comes a short nave with two chapels on either side, and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. Then comes the transept, which has a frescoed saucer dome with an oculus and with the pendentives incorporated. The short arms of the transept contain two further chapels. The presbyterium has a short barrel vault with a fresco, leading into the apse.

The interior is typically richly decorated, as appropriate to the late Baroque or tardobarocco style. The arches of the nave, transept and presbyterium spring from very wide, diagonally facing piers under the dome which contain cantoria or opera-boxes for solo musicians and singers. From these piers spring four wide ribs containing rosettes, which meet at the oculus and divide the dome into four frescoed panels.

The frescoes in the dome, sanctuary and nave vaults depict scenes from the life of St Dorothy as well as Franciscan saints, and are by Gaetano Bocchetti, 1931. He lived from 1888 to 1990, so was 102 when he died. Although better known as an impressionist painter, he was certainly capable of figurative work in a realistic style as can be seen here.

The polychrome marble floor under the dome, with the Franciscan emblem of the two crossed arms showing the stigmata in the palms, is of the 19th century restoration.


The high altar is against the far wall of the apse, which has a conch, and is flanked by a pair of Corinthian pilasters revetted with what looks like red marble. Under the altar itself is a 19th century marble reliquary containing the bones of St Dorothy.

Above the altar is a round-headed altarpiece showing SS Dorothy and Sylvester Venerating an Icon of Our Lady by Michele Bucci, late 17th century. His pictures in this church are the only ones of his in Rome. The work incorporates an earlier icon of Our Lady of Divine Love (Madonna del Divino Amore), of about 1600, which recalls the confraternity that was a forerunner of the Theatine order.  

The new fresco in the conch depicting The Martyrdom of St Dorothy is by Gino Terreni.

The parish have provided an altar "pro populo" in front of the sanctuary rails, which is just a table. To its right is a cippus or marble stone in the form of an ancient altar, which has an inscription recording the enshrinement of St Dorothy in 1500. On it is now a crucifix claimed to be 12th century (hardly).

Side chapelsEdit

The side chapels are described in anticlockwise order, starting from the bottom right.

The first chapel on the right is dedicated to St Joseph Calasanz, and the altarpiece depicting The Apparition of St Cajetan to St Joseph Calasanz is by Gioacchino Martorana of Palermo, 1782. This is his only work on view in Rome.

The second chapel on the right is dedicated to St Anthony of Padua, and the altarpiece showing Our Lady Appearing in a Vision to St Anthony is by Lorenzo Gramiccia of Rome, 1756.

The third chapel on the right is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, and the altarpiece is by Giorgio Gaspare von Prenner of Vienna, 1763.

The third chapel on the left is dedicated to the Crucifixion, and the altarpiece showing the Crucifixion with Saints is the second work by Bucci in the church. The saints are Rosalia, Margaret of Cortona, Bonaventure and Nicholas.

The second chapel on the left is dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, and the altarpiece depicting The Musical Ecstasy of St Francis is by Liborio Mormorelli, late 18th century. A band of angels is serenading the swooning saint.

The first chapel on the left is dedicated to St Joseph of Cupertino, and the altarpiece of him is by Vincenzo Meucci of Florence, 1753.

Access and liturgyEdit

As an 18th century rebuild, the church gets little attention from visitors and seldom features in guidebooks. Perhaps as a result, it is not often found open apart from the times of liturgical events.

Mass is celebrated (parish website, June 2018):

Weekdays 18:00;

Sundays and Solemnities 9:00, 11:00, 18:00.

Confessions are heard Saturdays, 16:00 to 19:00, during the Sunday Masses and also on Thursday, 17:00 to 19:00. However, the Thursday slot is not in the church but in a chapel in the convent.

The parish website advertises the following liturgical events on weekdays:

Office of Reading 7:30, followed by Lauds and Mass at 8:00.

Rosary at 17:30, followed by Vespers at 18:00.

First Friday devotions at 18:30.

A Mass in English at 19:00 on the first Wednesday of the month seems to have ceased.

The feast of St Dorothy is celebrated with solemnity on 6 February.

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Parish website

Nolli map (look for 1206) (Shows the mediaeval church.)

"De Alvariis" web-page on Flickr

Info.roma web-page

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