Santa Maria del Buon Consiglio ai Monti is an early mediaeval confraternity church at Via del Buon Consiglio 19, just south of the Via Cavour near its west end. This is in the rione Monti.
The church has been listed as deconsecrated, but this is not now the case.
This is thought to have been a very old church, with an original dedication to St Pantaleon. The ancient tradition was that the relics of the martyr had been brought to Rome from Nicomedia in what is now Turkey, and were enshrined here.
However the first documentary mention is in 1113, which is the date given in an inscription on a marble slab, decorated with vegetation in relief, beneath the main altar. It reads:
Anno Dominice incarnationis MCXIII, indic[tione] VI, die Kal[endas] Mar[t]ii V, hoc altare consecratum est in honore Domini nostri Iesu Christi et Beatae Mariae semper Virginis et B[eatae] M[atris] et B[eati] Petri et S[anctorum] Ioannis Baptiste atque Evangeliste et omnium apostolorum et sanctorum martyrum Sebastiani et Pantaleonis, tempore Domini Paschalis Secundi Papae et his reliquiis dotatum est: De Ligno sanctae Crucis et de sindone Domini et dente Beati Petri et de coxa S[ancti] Ioannis Baptiste et tunica Sancti Ioannis Evangeliste et de ossibus Sancti Sebastiani et Pantaleonis martyris.
("In the year of the Lord's incarnation 1113, in the sixth indiction on the fifth day of the kalends of March, this altar was consecrated in honour of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Blessed Virgin Mary ever virgin and blessed mother, and of blessed Peter and saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist and all the apostles, and the holy martyrs Sebastian and Pantaleon, in the time of our Lord Pope Paschal II, and from his relic-collection was given: [Portions] of the wood of the Cross and of the shroud of the Lord and a tooth of Blessed Peter and a lower back-bone of St John the Baptist and a tunic of St John the Evangelist and bones of Saints Sebastian and Pantaleon.")
It seems that the fabric of the present building is more or less that of the structure which was here in the early 12th century. It was probably founded at least about two hundred or so years earlier. It is noticeable that the major axis of the building does not run parallel to the street to its right, which hints that the church was one of the earliest buildings in the locality after the ruination of the ancient city.
Middle ages Edit
The church is listed in late mediaeval catalogues as a parish church. In the Catalogus of Cencio Camerario of the early 13th century the name is given as Sancti Pantaleonis Trium Clibanorum ("Three ovens"), which is corroborated by that of Paris which gives it as Trium Fornorum. Hence the church was actually named after three ovens (but why?) instead of acquiring the name through some etymological mutation. A surviving transcription of a lost epigraph of 1260 gives the name as Tribus Foris, but this is thought to be a mistake for Fornis as the epigraph had abbreviated text.
As well as being a parish church in the Middle Ages, this was also a minor place of pilgrimage. The reason was because the saint was believed to have been a doctor of medicine (the Greek name means "all merciful"). The crypt used to contain a holy well, from which sick people could wash in the hope of a cure.
At the start of the 17th century the Basilian abbey of Grottaferrata established a small monastery here, so the Byzantine rite would have been celebrated in the church. The monks remained here until 1638, when they moved to Santi Venanzio ed Ansovino and were replaced by a college of secular priests. This in turn was replaced by a community of Piarists in 1647, which did not persevere and the secular priests were back by the 18th century.
In the early 17th century the dedication was altered to Santi Pantaleo e Biagio, an unusual combination which was the result of a nearby church of San Biagio ai Monti (dedicated to St Blaise) being demolished in 1587. It stood just to the east, where the Via Frangipani started climbing the slope up to San Pietro in Vincoli.
Pope Clement XII gave the church into the care of the Arciconfraternita della Dottrina Cristiana, but in 1753 it was taken over by the Arciconfraternita della Beatissima Vergine del Buon Consiglio. This existed to foster devotion to a famous icon of Our Lady of Good Counsel, enshrined at the town of Genazzano near Rome. They changed the dedication in her honour.
The parish, meanwhile, had failed and was formally abolished in 1772. The territory was united with the parish of San Salvatore ai Monti, the church of which had already received a subsidiary dedication to St Pantaleon during a restoration ten years earlier. An altar to the saint was erected in this church, but has since been removed.
The confraternity has remained in ownership ever since.
Modern times Edit
The tiny convent was occupied by Missionaries of the Precious Blood from the mid 19th century. There was a restoration in 1905.
There was a serious fire in 1974, and apparently the edifice ended up being deconsecrated. However, it was repaired although at the cost of most of its furnishings and artworks. The complex was then occupied by the Comboni Missionaries, who have used it as an outlet for charitable activities. It is now the headquarters of the Associazione Comboniana Servizio Emigranti e Profughi or ACSE, which exists to assist poor immigrants and refugees in the city, especially those from sub-Saharan Africa.
The church is not now deconsecrated, and Masses are celebrated here.
Layout and fabric Edit
The plan is a simple rectangle, with a tiny rectangular apse. There is one external chapel, off the nave on the left hand side. This is incorporated into the convent building on that side, which abuts onto the left hand side wall of the church. On its roofline is the campanile, which has two round-headed openings side by side under a triangular pediment.
Façade EditThe extremely plain gabled entrance façade, rendered in traditional dull orange, has a house butted against the west side of its frontage. This demonstrates the antiquity of the church. The single doorway has a horizontally rectangular window above it.
There is nothing of note except a dedicatory inscription on a marble tablet with chamfered corners above the door. It lists the two subsidiary dedications to SS Pantaleon and Blaise as well as that to Our Lady of Good Counsel.
The plan is a simple rectangle, with a tiny rectangular apse. There are two former side-chapels, the left hand one being external and the right hand one being merely a niche in the side wall. The apse and these two chapels have matching arches with molded archivolts springing from Doric piers.
In the 17th century the left hand external chapel was dedicated to St Blaise, and the right hand niche chapel to St Pantaleon. One of these had been re-dedicated to The Holy Cross and St Joseph by 1825, but it is unclear as to which one (the right hand one is more likely, because of the provision of an altar dedicated to St Pantaleon at San Salvatore ai Monti nearby).
The interior has been stripped of most of its fittings since the fire in the mid 20th century, and the chapels have lost their altars. The arches are painted in a puce colour, while the rest of the walls are in white. The flat ceiling has fake coffering in grey shading with central rosettes, and the entrance has a gallery over it. These two features are from the 1905 restoration.
The polychrome marble high altar survives, and has a good 18th century tabernacle in green and yellow marbles. There is no aedicule but instead a large Baroque glory, in wood with gilded rays and stucco putti, which fills the apse niche. This used to focus on a little icon of Our Lady of Good Counsel which was a copy of the venerated one at Genazzano, but the Comboni Missionaries have replaced this with a modern version which depicts Our Lady and the Christ-Child as Africans. There is another version of the same icon in the external chapel.
It is reported that the sacristy has late 14th century frescoes. One features the Madonna and Child with St Anne, another St Sebastian with Our Lady and a third featuring Christ Pantocrator with SS Lawrence and John the Baptist. The church interior was also frescoed at one time, and remains probably survive under the plaster.
At present, the church is used by the Comboni Missionaries as a centre for aiding indigent immigrants and refugees.
Liturgical activities are (Baobab website, June 2018):
Saturday, the church is open at 15:00 and Mass is at 17:00.
Sunday, the Mass is at 10:30 and may be in French, English or Swahili (with Italian bits).
Monday, there is prayerful reading of the Scriptures from 15:30 to 17:00.
Annas Rom Guide (in Danish)