Santa Lucia della Tinta is an originally 13th century, heavily restored former confraternity church at Via di Monte Brianzo 61. This is in the rione Campo Marzio.
The dedication is to "St Lucy". This is now taken to refer to St Lucy of Syracuse in Sicily.
However, a St Lucy is mentioned in the Roman canon of the Mass. The suspicion (flagged by the Bollandists in the 19th century) is that this commemoration, and by extension the dedication of the church, was originally referring to a local Roman martyr called Lucy. The old Roman martyrology used to list two martyrs called Lucy at Rome: one on 6 July, listed with Antoninus, Severinus, Diodore, Dion and companions, and the other on 25 June with twenty-two companions. Both have been deleted in the 2001 revision of the martyrology, owing to historical obscurity.
The first documentary evidence for the church is an epigraph dated 1002, allegedly found on a re-used tablet which was part of the floor by a staircase (sotto la scalinata vicino all'altare di S. Antonio) in the edifice in the 17th century. It was transcribed by Giovanni Antonio Bruzio:
Ego quidem Romanus indignus presbiter fer ab incunabulis edoctus adque nutritus in ecclesia sce. Lucia que est iusta posterulam IIII portarum posita... nunc facio de bonisq ... qua potui eam dotavi terram et porcaricia mei Romani ... et aliud petium de vinea positum iusta aliam vineam in loco q. dicitur carcere et tertia partem vinee.
So, back then, the church was known as Santa Lucia iuxta Posterulam Quattuor Portarum or "Gateway of the four portals", which is thought to have referred to an egress in an ancient wall defending the riverbank hereabouts.
The circumstances of the church's foundation are unknown, but a good guess is that the church was one of many small parish churches established in the city in the 10th century. This period in the city's history is very badly documented. Nobody knows why or how so many small parish churches were founded in the built-up area back then, through the break-up of the territories of the tituli (the local one was San Lorenzo in Lucina). The new arrangement was that a diocesan priest was made responsible for about two hundred families or fewer, and for the church in which they worshipped.
This guess is undocumented, but the lack of any documentation for the foundation of a parish in the later Middle Ages is probably significant. There is no evidence for parochial status before the 16th century.
From the evidence of the surviving fabric, it seems that the church was rebuilt in the 13th century but this is also not clearly documented -however, see below.
The church was listed under its original name in the Catalogue of Paris in 1230.
A privilegium issued by a certain Pope Nicholas in the second year of his papacy (a long epigraph copy is preserved on a marble tablet in the church) mentions a magister Iohannes Romanucci, ipsius ecclesiae canonicus. That he was a canon here indicates that the church was already being administered by a college of secular prebendaries; a successor of this institution later had the name of Santa Maria Regina Coeli, and was to have its headquarters here until 1825.
The epigraph mentioned is undated, and which Pope Nicholas is mentioned is unspecified. The year 1278 and Pope Nicholas III are given by Hülsen in his book Le Chiese di Roma nel Medio Evo 1927. An alternative view is that the pope was Nicholas IV, and that would make the year 1290. A photo of the tablet is here.
Papal bulls of 1289 and 1290, issued by Pope Nicholas IV, granted indulgences to worshippers here. These, and the privilegium just mentioned, refer to the restoration of the church's fabric -but it is unclear as to whether this involved actual rebuilding, or whether that had taken place earlier in the century.
The Catalogus Taurinensis of about 1320 lists the church with a college of five priests.
Hülsen gives the alternative mediaeval name Santa Lucia dei Galletti, after a noble family who lived locally and who presumably patronized the church. He does not specify his source for this.
The name Tinta emerges in the catalogues of the 16th century, beginning with the so-called Tassa di Pio IV (1559-65). It literally means "dye" and is thought to have been derived from the locality, which contained dyeworks in the Middle Ages.
A visitation ordered of the city's churches by Pope St Pius V gives the first mention of a parish, which then had 360 people making up 72 families. This was too small a number to support the institution. The city had too many little parish churches, and in the 16th century many parishes were suppressed and the churches demolished or given over to other uses such as being headquarters of guilds or confraternities.
Here, the church was taken over in 1580 by the Confraternity of Coachmen (Compagnia dei Cocchieri), which arranged a major restoration.
The Confraternity was not in charge for long, because in 1628 the Borghese family (which lived locally) arranged another major restoration after being granted the patronage by Pope Paul V. This is commemorated by a tablet at the entrance. They apparently arranged for the ceiling to be frescoed by Giovan Antonio Grimaldi in 1664.
The Confraternity did not stay here, and eventually settled at Santa Maria in Cacaberis (now demolished). It still exists as the Sacra Fraternitas Aurigarum Urbis (having mutated from coachmen to charioteers, apparently). It has a website -see "External links".
In 1710, the present façade was added. According to Dimitry Ticconi writing in the Enciclopedia Treccani, the architect was Tommaso Mattei -who could certainly do better than this. To be fair to Mattei, there has been doubt concerning the accuracy of this assertion. The Borghese were replacing him as their in-house architect with Francesco De Sanctis, but the latter only set up his architectural business in the parish of San Lorenzo in Lucina in 1715.
End of the parish
Pope Leo XII (1823-9) ordered a long-overdue review of the parishes of the Centro Storico, with the result that many small ones were suppressed in 1824. The parish here was merged with that of Sant'Agostino. As part of the process, the college of secular prebendaries dedicated to Santa Maria Regina Coeli was moved from here by the pope in 1825. He gave them the church of Santa Maria in Montesanto to administer instead. This is according to Gaetano Moroni writing in 1842.
In the following year, responsibility for the church was given to the Arcisodalizio della Curia Romana, which was an association of lawyers employed by the Papal government. Its patron was Maria Santissima Salus Infirmorum.
There was a restoration in 1911, when parts of a Cosmatesque floor were uncovered under the present floor level when the floor was relaid.
In 1921 the church was formally put in the care of the Arcisodalizio della Curia Romana, which is a pious sodality for people in the legal profession and an offshoot of the Procuratori mentioned above. It moved here from Sant'Ivo dei Bretoni. There is a website here.
From 1975 the church has been attached to a pilgrimage hostel next door at number 62, run by the Fraterna Domus which has its main headquarters at Via Sacrofanese 25, well into the countryside off the Via Flaminia about twenty kilometres outside the city. (The Fraterna Domus complex there has a new church, Santa Maria Madre dell'Accoglienza.)
The Domus is a congregation of lay volunteers, not a religious congregation (which is why it is not listed on the Diocesan website), and was founded in 1968 by Don Francesco Bisinella (1927-2004). He was a Franciscan priest of Bassano del Grappa (VE), and his idea was to provide the sort of hospitality to guests traditional in consecrated religious life, but without requiring those responsible to make religious vows.
The exterior of the church has been given an overdue re-painting, and in 2014 work was done on repairing the roof. Rain getting in had seriously damaged the 18th century ceiling.
The Arcisodalizio remains in charge, and provides the priest who in 2018 was Davide Salvatori of the diocese of Bologna.
Layout and fabric
The building is a long, narrow brick box under a pitched and tiled roof. There is a semi-circular exterior apse. The façade, with a campanile to the left, are architecturally distinct and are added onto the front.
The church is bounded by domestic buildings on both sides, so most of the exterior is invisible. However, it is worthwhile going round to the back in Vicolo del Leonetto to see the 13th century mediaeval apse. It has a little stone arrow-slit of a window, and a decorative cornice with brick dentillations below a row of stone modillions.
The really interesting thing about this, is that the interior of the apse is not part of that of the church. Above it is a window, and if you go into the church you will see that this is in the back wall of the tiny sanctuary.
The façade was added in 1715, and is incorporated into the larger domestic building which occupies the corner of Via di Monte Brianzo and Via del Cancello. It is a poor design, now painted orange with the architectural details in white.
Four thin blind pilasters on two high block plinths support an entablature containing four posts in lieu of pilaster capitals. The inner two of these have tassels. On the frieze of the entablature is a mutilated inscription reading:
Insignis Collegiata S[anctae] M[ariae] Reginae Coeli in ......
This refers to the college of secular priests that was in charge of the church until 1825, which was dedicated to Our Lady the Queen of Heaven.
Over the inner two pilasters is a little triangular pediment, above which is a horizontal projecting cornice supported on a pair of flanking posts.
The single doorway has an unmolded grey marble doorcase with a pair of little curlicues on the sides near the top, and a raised segmental pediment. Above this is a large blank Baroque tablet with the bottom edge curved to match the entablature, in a sunk panel with a stepped edge. The side zones in between the pilasters have a central oval tondo each (the left hand one is a window) bounded by two similarly styled panels above and below.
The campanile is attached to the left hand side of the façade, and its design is just as boring. The street frontage has a doorway and a single window in a wide frame, a thin string course at the level of the pediment cornice and a bellchamber above the façade roofline which has a round-headed soundhole in each face in a recessed panel within a wide frame. There is a shallow pyramidal tiled cap with overhanging eaves.
Layout and fabric
The narrow rectangular nave has two side altars on each side, within shallow arched niches. There is a small, shallow sanctuary.
Apart from the ceiling frescoes, the artworks in this church are anonymous and of liitle importance.
The nave has Corinthian pilasters made to look like red stone in between the side chapel arches, and these support the ceiling cornice via posts (not directly).
The ceiling is flat, wooden and coffered in panels with some acute angles. The three fresco panesl were executed in 1781 by Taddeo Kuntze. The central one depicts The Assumption of Our Lady, with Christ about to receive her and St Lucy looking on, while the two smaller ones flanking this show putti in heaven (one group is playing with an umbrella).
The long 13th century epigraph mentioning "Pope Nicholas" is over the door.
The tiny sanctuary has its walls painted to resemble polychrome marble decoration. Two Ionic pilasters, painted to imitate yellow marble from Siena, support a horizontal entablature with egg-and-dart on its projecting cornice, and above this is a large window containing stained glass with the monogram of the name of Mary.
The altarpiece is a palimpsest. A fresco fragment of the Madonna and Child, 15th century, is set in a larger fresco featuring SS Joseph and Catherine of Siena. This has faded badly. Nibby in 1839 wrote that the image was antichissima, e molto divota.
A portion of the Cosmatesque floor discovered in 1911 has been re-laid in front of the altar, and is the only part of the mediaeval church visible in the interior.
The side chapels are shallow arched niches, with the archivolts and wall surfaces in the same fake polychrome marble as the sanctuary. The altarpieces are affixed to the walls without aedicules.
The first on the right is dedicated to the Crucifixion. The painted wooden corpus is older than the 20th century cross, being 18th century.
The second on the right is dedicated to St Lucy. The altarpiece is anonymous, 17th century.
The second on the left is dedicated to Our Lady Mater Infirmorum, and the 18th century altarpiece shows SS Giles, Yves and Genesius interceding with the Madonna and Child on behalf of the Souls in Purgatory. This work was commissioned by the Arcisodalizio della Curia Romana which was founded in 1723, and which took over this church when it moved from Sant'Ivo dei Bretoni in 1923. The three unusual saints are the Arcisodalizio's patrons.
The altarpiece of the first chapel on the left depicts the martyrs SS Lucy and Geminianus (note the putti above holding palm branches). This is anonymous of the 17th century, too.
A memorial to Pietro Brenda, 1848 has a good double cameo portrait relief.
Apparently the church is open (July 2020):
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays 16:00 to 18:00;
Sundays and Solemnities for Mass at 11:00.
You can ring the bell at Via del Cancello 6 and ask to see the church.
Mass is celebrated:
Sundays and Solemnities 11:00.
No weekday Masses are being advertised.
Despite the historical controversy over which St Lucy the church commemorates, nowadays it is dedicated to St Lucy of Syracuse and her feast-day is 13 December.
The Fraterna Domus published a booklet on the church in 2005:
La Chiesa di S. Lucia della Tinta by Anne Cécile Brame.
Unfortunately, this little book seems to be unavailable from any online source.