Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Fontana di Trevi is a 17th century former parish church with a postal address at Vicolo dei Modelli 73, in the rione Trevi. It is famous as the church overlooking the Trevi Fountain, as the frontage is on the Piazza di Trevi. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia page here.
The dedication is to St Vincent of Saragossa and St Anastasius the Persian, jointly. This rather odd combination is not alone in Rome -see Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio alle Tre Fontane, and Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio alla Regola (now demolished).
The name as given is the official one used by the Diocese. Most published sources refer to the church simply as Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio. Also found is Santi Vincenzo ed Anastasio, which is in old-fashioned correct Italian.
Since 2002, use of the church has been granted to a worshipping community of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church -Comunità Ortodossa Bulgara dei Santi Cirillo e Metodio. This is dedicated to SS Cyril and Methodius, Apostles of the Slavs.
However the church remains Roman Catholic, and Mass in the Roman rite is celebrated here. The Diocese still lists the convent as a Cistercian monastery, although there is only one monk in residence.
The church has its first documentary mention in 962, in a bull of Pope John XII where it is listed as a dependency of San Silvestro in Capite. The original dedication was to St Anastasius alone, and in the catalogues in the later Middle Ages it is listed as San Anastasio de Trivio. However, the saint was obscure and so the church was also listed as dedicated to St Anastasia (Sanctae Anastasiae). The dedication to St Vincent was then added, and the Anonimo Spagnuolo has S. Vincenzo y Anastasia. The present name is first recorded in the reign of Pope Pius V.
This was one of the many parish churches founded in the city in the 10th century, as the large territorial parishes of the original tituli were broken up. It stayed parochial for most of its existence.
Viscera of the popesEdit
The Quirinal Palace was founded as a papal residence in 1583, and became the official residence of the popes until 1870. This technically made the popes parishioners of the church, since the palace was located in the parish (the parrochia papale).
So, beginning with Pope Sixtus V, when a newly deceased pope was embalmed his viscera were removed and put in a jar which was then kept in this church. The custom continued even after the popes were evicted from the Quirinal and moved to the Vatican, but was stopped by Pope St Pius X. The last pope to have his guts put here was Leo XIII. In total there are twenty-two sets of organs.
These are referred to as praecordia, which originally meant "diaphragm" in Classical Latin but came to mean the contents of the abdominal cavity.
The church became conventual in 1612, when it was handed over to a community of Jesuates (Gesuati). This originated at Siena in 1360, the founder being Giovanni Colombini. The Roman convent of this little religious order used to be at the church of San Salvatore de Cornutis nearby, but this was demolished in 1612 in order to extend the Piazza del Quirinale and build the Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi (the church and convent were allegedly already in a state of great disrepair).
The Jesuates were also in possession of the convent and church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, as from 1448.
The mediaeval church was completely rebuilt in a project initiated in 1640 on the orders of Cardinal Jules Mazarin. To 1643 the work was under the supervision of Gaspare De Vecchi, but from 1646 until completion in 1650 the architect was Martino Longhi the Younger who was responsible for the spectacular façade.
However, the Jesuates were not to be in possession for very long. The order had already become degenerate, and in 1668 Pope Clement IX suppressed it.
Other religious congregationsEdit
The church was handed over to the Clerks Regular Minor, or Minorites. This religious order was based in Rome at San Lorenzo in Lucina, and remained in charge until the end of the 18th century. Then they were ejected, at the beginning of the Napoleonic period.
The Clerks returned after the definitive restoration of the papal government in 1815, and arranged a restoration in 1818. However, in 1839 the little complex passed to the Camillians at Santa Maria in Trivio nearby, who moved here. They oversaw their own restoration in 1850.
In 1910, the parish was suppressed as being too small.
In turn, the Camillians passed the church on to the Cistercians at Casamari in 1935.
On 24 May 2002, Pope John Paul II granted "liturgical use" the church to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. This was done to express his gratitude at the warm welcome he received from that Church during his visit to Bulgaria earlier in the same month. While it is still formally owned by the Diocese, it is therefore now primarily an Eastern Orthodox church under the jurisdiction of Patriarch Neophyte of Sofia.
This entailed the removal of the church from the jurisdiction of the Cistercians, which was not without controversy. There is now a diocesan priest in charge, and the church is dependent on the parish church of Santa Maria in Via. The Cistercian monks of Casamari Abbey continue to maintain the convent, although one can wonder why.
Layout and fabricEdit
The church has a short nave of three bays with side chapels, then a transept bay and finally a sanctuary on a square plan with a semi-circular apse.
The fabric is in brick, but the façade is entirely in limestone. There is a slab campanile just to the left of the transept, of limestone with three bell-arches one above the other and a triangular pediment. This is next to the convent building, which has a partly octagonal plan.
The façade is one of the best examples of the Baroque style in Rome. Unusually, the design begins at the top and works its way down, and it is convenient to describe it in that way.
The dominant feature of the second storey is the set of three nested propylaea, forming three pediments one inside the other (the innermost one is segmental), and a total of six Composite columns. The two outer pairs of columns with their pediments are stepped slightly back in turn.
Within the inner pair of columns is a rectangular window flanked by a small pair of Composite columns. This supports a triangular pediment, into which is nested a smaller pediment supported by a pair of strap corbels on the window frame from which dangle flower sprays. The cornice of this pediment is broken to accommodate a plaque with a putto's head and garland.
On the larger window pediment sit two angels holding onto the coat-of-arms of Cardinal Mazarin. This spectacular piece of relief carving includes a cardinal's hat in on top of the segmental pediment in the nest of three above; this hat is held by a pair of putti, and connected to the shield by stone ropes. The shield intrudes into the tympanum of the segmental pediment. The sculptor was Antonio Raggi.
The nested propylaea stand on an attic plinth. To either side of them is a double curlicue on a sweep, and very unusually the top of each curlicue is mutated into a bare-brested female caryatid supporting a Composite pillar capital on her head. The curlicue is embellished with a cornucopia of fruit.
The attic has a small segmental pediment above the main entrance, flanked by two halves of a larger split and separated segmental pediment. Between the smaller pediment and the window in the second storey is a carving of a young woman's head flanked by swags of roses and curlicues.
Traditionally this is said to be a portrait of Cardinal Mazarin's favourite niece, Maria Mancini (1639-1715) who was the first love (although not the mistress) of King Louis XIV. However, the bust does not much resemble extant portraits of her and an alternative identification suggests her sister Hortense.
The first storey has six columns flanking the entrance, stepped diagonally to match those above. A further pair is at the outer corners, and another two are set back behind these corners (these last two are actually at the corners of the church, since the façade is slightly narrower than it). These support an entablature dividing the storeys, which has a dedicatory inscription reading Anno Iubilei MDCL, Iulius S[anctae] R[omae] E[cclesiae] D[icaconus] Car[dinalis] Mazarinus a fundamen[tis] erexit. ("Julius Mazarinus, Cardinal deacon of the Holy Roman Church, built [this] from the foundations on the year of Jubilee 1650").
The part of this epigraph with the name of the cardinal, whose title is actually unknown, is on a prominent tablet on the entablature over the entrance. He was never ordained, so the reference to "deacon" is actually equivocal -the old pre-sacramental sense of "church servant" has to be read.
Layout and fabricEdit
The church has a three-bay nave, with three side chapels of identical design on each side. Then comes the triumphal arch, then a very shallow transept bay, then a sanctuary with a dome and finally the apse.
There is a fourth, tiny chapel off the right hand end of the transept.
Overall, the church is decorated in a technique known as grisaille. This involves ornamentation, mainly acanthus leaves and scrollwork, painted in monochrome. The colour scheme is white on light grey with some surfaces in cream, and a few of the stucco details in gilt. This rather pallid Baroque interior is a result of the 1850 renovation.
Partly because of the changes in ownership, there are no great works of art to be viewed here.
The nave has no aisles, but three chapels on each side entered through arches with molded archivolts springing from Doric pilasters. Each chapel has a short barrel vault, and some of these have frescoes.
The arches are separated by ribbed Composite pilasters, which support an entablature the cornice of which has modillions (little brackets). This runs round the entire church.
The barrel-vaulted ceiling has three lunettes on each side for windows, and a central fresco panel depicting The Apotheosis of SS Vincent, Anastasius and Camillus. This is ascribed to Silvio Capparoni, 1850, but not conclusively.
The gallery over the entrance bears the organ, which has a pretty Baroque case. The plaque behind it bears an epigraph recording the donation of the church to the Camillians.
The triumphal arch has clustered ribbed Composite pilasters matching those in the nave. The small transept beyond has an undecorated barrel vault with a window on each side. In the side walls are two cantoria or balcony-boxes for solo singers and musicians.
The sanctuary is almost square, and has a slightly elliptical saucer dome with pendentives. The latter have frescoes of four angels carrying symbols of the Cardinal Virtues, and the dome oculus has a fresco of the Lamb of God in a Baroque frame. These are all by Francesco Manno, 1818.
The altar has a balustrade, and to this has now been attached an open iconostasis for the Orthodox liturgy. This has four large icons in a very correct neo-Byzantine style. From left to right, they are: SS Cyril and Methodius, Our Lady, Christ and St John the Baptist.
The high altar is set against the back wall of the apse, and has no aedicule. Instead, the enormous altarpiece is framed by a pair of ribbed Corinthian semi-columns in front of doubletted pilasters supporting the apse entablature. Above the latter is a spectacular stucco sculpture showing the monogram of Jesus in a glory on clouds, flanked by a pair of statues of the patron saints.
The altarpiece is (apparently) by Francesco Rosa, and depicts the two saints; St Vincent is dressed as a deacon, and is defending his faith before the pagan authorities. However there is confusion in the sources and Giuseppe Errante, 1784, has also been given as the artist. This seems to be a result of mistaking this church for Santi Vincenzo ed Anastasio alla Regola.
Behind the apse are kept the twenty-two marble urns containg the viscera of popes, and to the left of the altar is a bronze plaque listing them.
The side chapels are described in anti-clockwise order, beginning to the right of the entrance.
Chapel of the CrucifixionEdit
The first chapel on the right is dedicated to the Crucifixion, and the composite altarpiece is a little crucifix within a glory over an elliptical picture of Our Lady of Sorrows. This has devotional interest only, and it is a pity that it replaced a picture of the Crucifixion by Pietro da Pietri.
Here are memorials to Flavia Folchi, 1826 and Cristiano Schoster, 1829.
Chapel of St JudeEdit
The second chapel on the right is dedicated nowadays to St Jude, and the large picture on the altar is of him. His symbol or attribute is the little icon of Christ hanging from his neck. Many ex-voto offerings are on display, under rather sentimental frescoes of putti on the side walls.
Chapel of St Camillus de LellisEdit
The altarpiece, showing the saint having a supernatural vision inspiring him to found the order, is by Gaspare Serenari. The side wall depictions are by Silvio Capparoni, 1876 and show the saint having a dream and ministering to a sick person. The vault frescoes showing scenes from the saint's life are anonymous.
This chapel used to be dedicated to St John the Baptist, with an altarpiece by Rosa.
Chapel of Our Lady, QueenEdit
The little chapel off the right hand end of the transept contains a modern statue of Our Lady as Queen, and is accompanied by many ex-votos as well as pot plants.
Chapel of Our Lady and St RitaEdit
In the third chapel on the left is an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a fragment of a Renaissance fresco set into a glory. The Eternal Father is in a fresco panel in the vault. The picture on the altar is of St Rita.
Devotion in the church to Our Lady does not focus here, but in the previous chapel.
Here is a memorial to Rabazza de Perellis, 1863.
Chapel of St JosephEdit
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to St Joseph, and the altarpiece shows him on his deathbed with Christ and Our Lady in attendance. This is by Giuseppe Tommasi. The small icon on the altar is of Our Lady of Pompei.
Here are memorials to Alessandro Tassoni, 1818 and Benedetto Tassoni, 1842.
A statue of St Anthony of Padua is in an aedicule on the pier between this chapel and the next.
Chapel of the Sacred HeartEdit
This chapel was refitted by Giacomo Monaldi in 1856, and dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The pictures of angels on the side walls show one holding the Cross and the other the Eucharist, and the altarpiece depicts Christ Showing His Sacred Heart to St Margaret Mary. The little picture on the altar is of St Anne, mother of Our Lady.
This chapel used to be dedicated to St Anthony of Padua , with an altarpiece by Rosa.
Outside is a memorial to Elena Rappini, 1859.
The church is advertised as open daily (tourist website 060608, July 2018):
9:00 to 20:00.
Devout visitors may care to note that the price of the candles on sale is more than twice the local norm. However, they are real candles and not electric light bulbs!
The Bulgarian Orthodox community has its Eucharist at 10:30 on Sunday. Catholics should not receive Communion at it.
According to the Diocese (July 2019) there is a Mass in the Roman Rite at 18:00 on Sunday, except during August.