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Santa Maria della Mercede e Sant’Adriano is a mid 20th century parish and titular church with a postal address at Via Basento 100, north-east of the Villa Borghese in the Salario quarter (it is the only church in this little quarter). The main entrance is on the Viale Regina Margherita. A picture of the church interior on Wikimedia Commons is here.


The main dedication is to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of Our Lady of Mercy. Under this title she is the patroness of the Mercedarian Order, which administers the parish. In art she is shown sheltering people under her cloak.

The subsidiary dedication of St Hadrian of Nicomedia is in memory of Sant'Adriano, a deconsecrated church in the Roman Forum.


A parish was set up in 1932 at the church of Santa Maria Addolorata a Piazza Buenos Aires, the Argentinian national church and the headquarters of the Mercedarian Order. However the clash of responsibilities led to the parish being moved in 1934, to the convent church of Sante Felicita e Bonosa in Via Tirso which belonged to the Canossian Daughters of Charity. This had been erected in 1918, and after its change of status was given the name of Santa Maria Addolorata in Santa Bonosa. The Mercedarians continued to administer the parish.

This former convent church contained the enshrined relics of St Bonosa, brought from her demolished church of Santa Bonosa in Trastevere together with the church bells.

The convent church was found to be too small, and the order commissioned Marco Piloni to design a new church to replace it. It was completed in 1958, and received a new dedication. Several works of art from the lost Sant'Adriano, deconsecrated in 1937, were taken out of store to embellish it. The reason for this was that Sant'Adriano was a former convent church of the Mercedarians, whose adjacent convent was demolished. St Bonosa was re-enshrined under a side altar.

The church was made a cardinal diaconate in 1967, and the present titular deacon is Albert Vanhoye.


Layout and fabric[]

The plan is traditionally basilical. After an aisle-less entrance bay, there is a central nave of five bays with very narrow and high side aisles. The fifth and last bay has semitransepts instead of aisles, and the fourth bay has a devotional chapel off its right hand aisle. There follows a rectangular sanctuary without an apse, which is slightly narrower than the central nave. A campanile is tucked into the corner between the sanctuary and the left hand semitransept.

The fabric consists of a reinforced concrete frame infilled with pink brick. The aisle side walls to the left are entirely blank, and to the right abut a large convent building which has its frontage on the Via Bonella. (This convent attaches to the entire length of the right hand side of the church.) The aisle roofs are blank, and above them on each side the low central nave walls are mostly made up of a row of horizontal windows. These are almost rectangular, but the roofline over each has a low gable and so the windows are pentagonal.

The central nave roof is pitched, in reinforced concrete with a red composition covering. The nave bays are separated by projecting truss beams. The sanctuary roof is an add-on at the same height and pitch.

The convent building is rather odd. It is three-storey, with a crenelated roofline and Gothic windows in its second storey. To the right of the church façade is a belvedere tower tricked out to look like part of a castle. Why?

The back wall of the sanctuary of the church is visible from the Via Tirso. It is a blank wall made up of a dark grey concrete frame containing fifteen large vertical rectangular panels, three by five. These panels are infilled with smooth limestone slabs. The top beam of the frame forms a triangular pediment with the gable, and the tympanum of this is rendered in pale orange.


The campanile is a plain rectangular brick tower attached to the left hand side of the church's sanctuary (your right hand side, looking from the Via Tirso). It has an open bell-chamber, with six thin concrete piers supporting a low, slightly ogee cupola.

Three of the four bells were originally at the lost church of Santa Bonosa in Trastevere, but the largest was commissioned for the new church.


The gabled façade, approached by steps, is a high-quality Modernist interpretation of a traditional Roman one. However the Modernist principle of form following function is broken here, as the top of the façade is false and rises higher than the church.

There is an external loggia faced in square-cut travertine blocks, with three equal-sized portals having gabled tops and separated by square piers. The triangular tops cut into a large horizontal dark grey concrete beam running across the width of the frontage. Above this, there is stone walling before another similar beam on the loggia roofline. A large aperture over the central doorway also has a triangular top cutting into the latter beam. Four grey concrete pilasters occupy the corners of the loggia and the two piers. These run up to the roofline, and are continued over the loggia roof as support beams to end at the actual central nave frontage.

Above the loggia is a blank wall having no windows, faced in ashlar limestone slabs laid in a diaper pattern like a chain-link fence. This has a border in dark grey concrete at the corners and crowning gable. The angle of the gable is actually slightly more obtuse than that of the border of the ashlar walling below it, and a metal ball and cross finial is on the tip.

There is a bronze sculpture of Our Lady by Giovanni Biggi two thirds of the way up, on its own little shelf and with a projecting canopy. Both of these are segments of an octagon.

Above the two side portals are bronze coats-of-arms by Guarino Roscioli. That of Pope Pius XII is to the right, and that of the Mercedarian Order to the left. In the void over the central portal is a bronze cross adored by angels by the same artist.

Over the central doorway is a dedicatory inscription: D[eo] o[ptimo] m[aximo], templum hoc in honorem, b[eatae] Mariae v[irginis] de mercede, et sancti Hadriani martiris dicatum fuit, kalendis martii MCMLVIII, Pio XII p[ontifex] m[aximus]. ("To God the best and greatest, this temple was dedicated in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary of mercy, and St Hadrian the martyr, on the calends of March 1958, Pius XII being pope"). An odd note is that the title of Our Lady is in Spanish -mercede not misericordia. The Mercedarian Order was founded in Spain -in Classical Latin merces means wages, but it came to mean "favour, mercy" in Late Latin.



The interior is dominated structurally by the colonnades separating the aisles from the central nave. Each column is hexagonal, tall and tapering to its base, and melds with a transverse roof truss beam which meets the matching column on the other side of the central nave. The double pitch of the concrete ceiling is at a slightly more obtuse angle than the truss beams, with the result that each of the latter look like two thin triangles just touching. The concrete columns and beams are painted to resemble purple-red granite.

In between each pair of columns near their tops is a horizontal beam with an obtuse angled bottom surface, and above this is a stained glass window which fits into a slight lunette in the ceiling.

The holy water stoups with angels are after the style of Bernini, and are salvage from the gutted church of Sant'Adriano. On the counterfaçade is a relief carving of the coat-of-arms of the Mercedarian Order, itself salvaged from the demolished convent which was attached to that church.


The stained glass windows, ten in all, depict the history of the Mercedarian Order which was founded in 1218 by St Peter Nolasco. Also depicted are its saints. These windows are of very good quality, and it is a pity that they are so high up. The ones to the left are by János Hajnal, and to the right by Marcello Avenali.

Each of the windows has three scenes, which in the storyline read centre-left-right, so there are thirty scenes in total. The left hand ones are as follows:

1) Our Lady of Mercy Inspires St Peter Nolasco to Found a New Order for the Redemption of Christians Enslaved by Muslims. (St Raymund of Peñafort and King James I of Aragon are also shown.)

St Mary of Cervellon is Clothed as the First Mercedarian Nun, 1265.

Pope Gregory IX Gives Approval to the Mercedarians, 1235.

2) The Foundation of the Mercedarian Order, 1218. (The bishop of Barcelona clothes St Peter and thirteen companions in the habit.)

King James I of Aragon Grants his Patronage and Emblems to the Order.

The Bishop of Barcelona Grants his Patronage to the Order (the cross in the Order's heraldry derives from that of Barcelona Cathedral).

3) Warfare Against the Muslims.

Muslim Pirate Slave-Raids Against Spain, Italy and France.

The Misery of Christians Enslaved by Muslims.

4) Redemption of Enslaved Christians.

The Raising of Ransom Money by Lay Confraternities

The Care of Ransomed Slaves by Mercedarian Brothers and Sisters.

5) St Peter Pascual, Mercedarian Martyr.

St Raymund Nonnatus, Mercedarian Cardinal.

Peter Armengol (a Mercedarian venerated as a martyr, but not officially beatified.)

The right hand ones are as follows:

1) The Death of St Peter Nolasco.

St Peter Nolasco Tortured as a Slave, and Returning to Valencia in a Derelict Boat (legendary).

St Peter Nolasco Venerating Our Lady.

2) Martyrdom of Mercedarians at Montpellier by Huguenots.

St Serapion of Algiers, Protomartyr of the Order.

Mercedarian Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.

3) St Mary of Cervellon.

Natalia of Toulouse (1312-53). She was a Mercedarian nun at Toulouse, venerated as a saint but with no official cult.

Bl Mariana of Jesus (who may soon be canonized).

4) The Missionary Outreach of the Mercedarians

Fray Juan Infante Celebrates the First Mass in the Americas (this was alleged to have happened on Columbus's second voyage, but the documentation is not very good).

Fray Juan de Solórzano Plants the Cross on Cuba (another alleged member of Columbus's crew).

5) The Achievements of the Mercedarian Order: The Multiplication of the Mercedarian Family (several newer congregations, e.g: Discalced Mercedarians, Sister of Our Lady of Mercy, Mercedarian Sisters of Charity, Mercedarian Missionaries of Berríz; The Mercedarian Contribution to the Hierarchy (sixteen cardinals and over four hundred bishops); The Mercedarian Contribution to Science and Scholarship.

The Third Order of the Mercedarians (tertiaries).

The Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.


The sanctuary is a rectangular space narrower than the nave, with a gabled concrete ceiling. The narrow return walls that flank it are decorated with a stucco pattern of lozenges in relief, recalling the façade.

The far wall of the sanctuary, behind the main altar, is completely taken up by a fresco of Our Lady in Glory with the Mercedarian Saints, by Luigi Montanarini. The tabernacle with its throne is by Biggi.

Side chapels[]

In the bottom left hand corner of the church is a shrine to the Pietà, with a statue taken from the demolished church of Santa Bonosa and venerated in the convent church that this church replaced. The walls of this chapel are revetted with marble.

Off the left hand aisle is the baptistery, with a font that was brought from Santa Maria Addolorata a Piazza Buenos Aires when that ceased to be a parish church in 1934. The bronze sculpture of St John the Baptist is by Bertolino.

Off the right hand aisle is a shrine to Our Lady of Mercy, a focus of popular devotion. The room is by R. Molinari, with columns having ancient capitals.

Three of the four side altars were salvaged from the gutted Sant'Adriano. They are:

First right, dedicated to the Sacred Heart and with an altarpiece by Carlo Maratta.

Second right, dedicated to Our Lady of Bonaria and supplied with a new altarpiece by Antonio Mura.

First left, dedicated to the Holy Family and with an altarpiece originally thought to be by Raphael (it is not, but is 17th century).

St Bonosa[]

The second altar on the left has the relics of St Bonosa, enshrined here in 1958. She had endured thirty years of storage after her old church in Trastevere, Santa Bonosa, was demolished in 1888. Then she was enshrined in the convent church of Sante Felicita e Bonosa when that was built in 1918, and re-enshrined when it was demolished for the present church forty years later.

The altar is new, and its dedication preserves that of the lost church. The altarpiece by Angelo Urbani Del Fabbretto, and depicts SS Bonosa and Felicity with seven boys. St Felicity was a Roman martyr legendarily killed with her seven sons (a take on the story of the Maccabean martyrs).

St Bonosa is enshrined under the altar in a glass vessel.


The church is open, according to the Diocese (June 2018):

6:30 to 12:00 (13:00 Sundays), and 16:00 to 19:00 (21:00 Sundays).


Mass is celebrated (parish website, June 2018):

Weekdays 8:00, 10:00, 18:00 (19:00 July and August);

Sundays and Solemnities 8:00, 9:00 (10:00 July and August), 11:00, 12:00 (not July and August), 18:00 (not July and August), 20:00.

There is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursdays, 17:00 to 18:00.

External links[]

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Parish website

Info.roma web-page

Roman Despatches blog with gallery