Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini is a 16th century hospice church which is now parochial for the Extraordinary Form, and which is located on the Piazza della Trinità dei Pellegrini in the rione Regola. The postal address is Via dei Pettinari 36/A; this street continues the line taken by the Ponte Sisto and runs along the right hand wall of the church. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia page here.
The dedication is to the Holy Trinity.
Origins of confraternity
The remote origins of the church lay in the period when St Philip Neri was in residence at the church of San Girolamo della Carità. There, a group of laypeople who were his disciples set up a confraternity to indulge in charitable activities in 1540, and named themselves the Confraternita della Santissima Trinità del Sussidio. They received Papal recognition in 1548.
In the Jubilee year of 1550 the members gave accommodation to poor and sick foreign pilgrims in their own homes, and recognized a special activity on which they could focus. As a result, Pope Paul IV gave them a charter as an "Archconfraternity for Pilgrims and Convalescents" in 1558, and granted them the use of a small parish church called San Benedetto in Arenula. A reminder of this church exists as the Via di San Benedetto in Arenula, an obscure back street to the west of the Via di Conservatorio.
The church was in very bad condition, but the brotherhood accepted the tenancy and bought a house next door as a pilgrim hospice.
Construction of church
In the Jubilee year of 1575 they housed a recorded 140,000 pilgrims of both sexes, and the patronage they then attracted from the impressed Roman establishment enabled them to rebuilt the church completely. They started in 1587, finished in 1597 and consecrated it in 1616. In the same project they built a purpose-designed hospice next door.
Meanwhile the parish priest of the old church was proving a nuisance, so the former parish was suppressed in 1601 and this got rid of him.
The architect of the complex was Martino Longhi the Elder.
The fabric was not well built, and the dome threatened to collapse by the end of the 17th century. So, major interventions to prevent this were carried out by Giovanni Battista Contini in 1699.
The hospice could accommodate 500 pilgrims and feed almost a thousand, and it remained the premier accommodation in the city for poor pilgrims until the 19th century. It also served as a hospital during the fighting associated with the French occupations and the Roman Republic. However, after the conquest of Rome by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870 the Papacy refused to proclaim Jubilee years as part of its protest, and the hospice lost much of its rationale. It was closed in the early 20th century, and unfortunately demolished in 1940.
However the Archconfraternity still exists, and is still based at the church.
In the second half of the 20th century, the church was kept open but lacked any pastoral justification for its existence as the neighbourhood is very well provided with churches. The façade was allowed to become dirty and dilapidated, and in fact is now perhaps one of the scruffiest church frontages in the Centro Storico.
But in 2008 the church was made the parish church of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite in Rome, and this has secured its future.
This was done by Pope Benedict XVI in June of that year, when he erected a Personal Parish of the Diocese of Rome for the exclusive celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass or Tridentine Mass). Care of the new parish has been given to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, also known as FSSP, a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Rite whose mission is the formation and sanctification of priests in the cadre of the traditional liturgy of the Roman rite, and the pastoral deployment of the priests in the service of the Church.
The church now has all the appurtenances of parish life, including marriages, funerals and sacraments of initiation.
The foundation of a parish for the Extraordinary Form here meant that San Gregorio dei Muratori, the original Roman centre for celebration of the Form (when it was called the Tridentine Rite), was initially closed. However, it now functions as a dependent parish chapel.
Layout and fabric
The plan of the church is rectangular, and the fabric is structurally based on a nave with side aisles. However, the aisles are divided by blocking walls to give three side chapels on each side of the nave. There is a transept with a central dome which is based on a hemisphere, but is octagonal in lead on a high octagonal drum. This has a lantern on top, with its own little lead cupola. Beyond the transept is a large apse with a semi-circular end.
A matching pair of little campaniles are set on the far corners of the church, behind the dome, and are very difficult to see from the ground. They are on a square plan, in white with a large arched sound-hole on each side. On top are little octagonal drums with cupolas in lead, matching the dome except that they have ogee curves.
The façade is of travertine limestone, and has an orange-yellow discolouration dating from the days when the city heated itself by burning coal. It is slightly coved or concave, very Baroque, of two storeys separated by a deep entablature with a dedicatory inscription on its frieze. The large entrance doorway has a raised segmental pediment containing a winged putto's head, and flanking the entrance are two pairs of monumental Corinthian columns. Where they support the entablature the latter is brought forward, as is the façade between these columns. Here are seen two stucco statues of Evangelists by Bernardino Ludovisi in arched niches with little incurved triangular canopies. Another pair of columns flank the first four, set back so that their outer horizontal tangent is in the same plane as the door, and the outer zones of the first storey are set back further again and have Corinthian pilasters.
The second storey is in the same style as the first, with the same number of six monumental columns except that these are in the Composite style (note the Ionic volutes above the Corinthian acanthus leaves). These columns stand on a very deep plinth set above the dividing entablature, and support a top entablature stepped vertically in the same manner as the latter. Two other statues of Evangelists are here, distinguished by having arc canopies instead of triangular ones, and the corners of the frontage have gigantic volutes. There is a large central window which is crowned by a Venetian curve (an arc between two horizontal lines) in relief over another winged putto's head. The crowning triangular pediment has its central section recessed to match the entablature it is on, and contains a triangle in glory as a symbol of the Trinity.
The confraternity had its own oratory for private liturgical functions, with the same name and dedication as the church. However, it was on the other side of the hospice complex and had its own entrance off the Via delle Zoccolette. The location is marked by the 1950's vehicle apertures in the building next to the entrance of number 27, as the building has been demolished.
The oratory itself had a simple rectangular plan with a small shallow apse, and was quite large as Roman oratories go. There was a single altar, with an altarpiece showing St Gregory the Great Celebrating Mass by Giacomo Zucca.
Layout and fabric
Structurally the church has a central nave with side aisles, but the latter are divided into three chapels on each side by blocking walls. The transepts are very shallow, only as deep as the chapels. The sanctuary has a single bay as wide as the nave, and is follwed by a large and high internal apse with a conch.
The present appearance of the interior results from the early 19th century restoration by Sarti. It looks sumptuous, but looks here deceive. His technique was to use a cement made up of powdered marble and pigment, allowed to dry and then polished. It certainly results in an authentic appearance.
This stuff is called scagliola, and there is a lot of it in Roman churches. It can be very difficult to distinguish it visually from real marble.
The three-bay nave has arcades separated by piers on which are shallow Corinthian pilasters done in scagliola made to resemble yellow Siena marble. These support an entablature which runs round the church, having modillions on its cornice and a frieze in the same colour. Egg-and-dart molding is below the modillions.
Above this entablature is an attic with decorative panels, from which the nave vault springs. Over each arcade arch is a lunette containing a rectangular window, which intrudes into the vault. Unfortunately, the 19th century frescoes of the vault by Raffaele Ferrara have been lost -presumably because the roof leaked. They are described as having been three panels in monochrome illustrating scenes from the history of the church.
The arcade arches have molded archivolts springing from Doric imposts. The impost piers and the intradoses have frescoes of saints.
There is a pretty little wooden organ gallery over the entrance, with carved and gilded putti on its solid balustrade.
The interior of the church is dominated by the eight Corinthian columns, apparently in yellow marble, with gilded capitals which support the pendentives of the dome. They front L-shaped piers in the same order, apparently of red marble. The columns were actually as a result of emergency work carried out in 1699 by Giovan Battista Contini after the dome threatened to collapse.
The dome pendentives are created by four identical arches with coffering in squares and rectangles on their intradoses. These spring from the attic above the entablature, and have molding including a strip of what looks like brown marble.
The pendentives of the dome have frescoes of the four evangelists by Giovanni Battista Ricci, and the oculus contains a depiction of God the Father by Guido Reni 1612. The interior of the dome itself has decoration of coffering and gilded panels in the same style and of the same date as that in the apse conch, dating from 1850.
The floor under the dome has an impressive polychrome marble roundel design with the shield of the Confraternity in the middle. This matches the flooring in the nave and sanctuary.
The single-bay sanctuary has its own barrel vault, bounded by the triumphal arch supporting the dome and an identical arch defining the apse. The conch of the latter is coffered in squares, with gilded relief panels inserted about 1850 by one Zecchini.
The high altar, with its four black-veined African marble Corinthian columns, is by Domenico Pozzi of 1616. It occupies the whole height of the apse, to the conch. The four columns are in a line, and support four very high posts. The middle two of these only support a segmental pediment.
Either side of the sanctuary's triumphal arch is a bronze candlestick, cast in 1616 by Orazio Censore. They were given to the confraternity by the municipality.
The side chapels are described anticlockwise, beginning to the right of the entrance.
Chapel of the Crucifix
The first chapel on the right is dedicated to the Crucifixion. The crucifix over the altar is 18th century. The frescoes are of the school of Giovanni de' Vecchi.
Chapel of St Philip Neri
The second chapel on the right is dedicated to St Philip Neri, who had so much influence on the church's foundation. The altarpiece of 1853 is by Filippo Bigioli from Sanseverino, and depicts the Vision of Our Lady by St Philip. The frescoes depict events in the saint's life.
Chapel of St John Baptist De Rossi
The third chapel on the right is dedicated to St John Baptist de Rossi (1698-1764), who was a priest who followed a vocation among Rome's poor people similar to that of St Philip Neri. He based his operations at this church, and as a result was enshrined in this chapel after his canonization. However, in 1965 the church in Rome of San Giovanni Battista de Rossi was completed, and his relics were enshrined there instead.
The frescoes in this chapel are by Giovanni Battista Ricci, and the altarpiece by Antonio Bianchini depicts the Apotheosis of St John Baptist de Rossi. As well as Christ, Our Lady and St John the Baptist, this depicts St Philip Neri welcoming his disciple.
Chapel of St Matthew
The right transept altar is dedicated to St Matthew, and the statue of the saint is by Jacob Cornelisz Cobaert who was from what is now Belgium. Apparently the little angel was sculpted by Pompeo Ferrucci.
Chapel of Our Lady, Help of the Poor (Succurre miseris)
The left transept altar is dedicated to Our Lady Help of the Poor, St Joseph and St Benedict. This odd dedication is because of the altarpiece, as well as being a reminder of the dedication of the original church. The altarpiece depicting the saints is by Giovanni Battista Ricci, and is painted around an older, small icon of Our Lady which used to be on an outside wall of the Palazzo Capranica. It was given to the Confraternity in 1558. After a long time being in a bad state, it was finally restored recently.
Chapel of St Gregory the Great
Chapel of SS Augustine and Francis
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to SS Augustine and Francis of Assisi, and the Virgin with SS Francis and Augustine by the Cavalier d'Arpino can be seen as the altarpiece there. The frescoes are by Croce again.
Here are monuments to Maddalena Radice 1868 and Maria Radice 1869 by a sculptor called Grancelli or Granchelli. The busts are good.
Chapel of St Charles Borromeo
The first chapel on the left is dedicated to St Charles Borromeo, and the altarpiece of 1677 depicting the Madonna and Child with various saints then recently canonized, including St Charles and St Philip Neri, is by the artist Guillaume Courtois from Burgundy in France (hence he is nicknamed Il Borgognone). The frescoes are by Giovanni Battista Ferretti.
On the adjacent wall there is a monument to Pietro Lupi, 1852.
The sacristy was fitted out by Giacomo Mola in 1644.
In here is a picture of the nobility washing the feet of poor pilgrims at the hospice, a custom introduced by St Philip Neri and which was continued until 1870.
According to the parish website (July 2018), the church is open:
Weekdays 7:00 to 19:30;
Sundays and solemnities 8:00 to 20:00.
Unlike in most Roman churches where the side altars are rarely used, the ones in this church are often used by priests saying a private Mass. Please don't disturb them during your visit.
Mass is celebrated in the Extraordinary Form (parish website, July 2018):
Weekdays 7:15 (not July and August) and 18:30,
Sundays 9:00, 11:00 (solemn high Mass, except July and August) and 18:30.
On Sundays at 17:30 Vespers is sung, followed by Exposition and Benediction, except during July and August. In those two months, the 11:00 Sunday Mass is Low.
Please note that the parish uses the 1962 Missal promulgated by Pope St John XXIII, as is proper. If you are a priest wishing to celebrate a private Mass in the Extraordinary Form here, you must present your celebret beforehand and be aware that earlier recensions of the Missal in the Extraordinary Form are not acceptable for celebration of the Mass. Please take this seriously.
- Italian Wikipedia page
- Interactive Nolli Map Website (Church)
- Interactive Nolli Map Website (Oratory)
- Parish website (Italian version has more material.)
- Virtual tour on parish website (recommended)
- "De Alvariis" gallery on Flickr (no interior photos yet.)