Santissimo Crocifisso alla Via Ostiense is a demolished 16th century chapel on the Via Ostiense between the Porta San Paolo and San Paolo fuori le Mura. The present postal address is Via Ostiense 106, on the west side of the road just to the left of the entrance of the Centrale Montemartini .
The dedication was to the Holy Cross, although it is also referred to as the Cappella dei Santi Pietro e Paolo.
San Menna Edit
There might have been a monastery church here, a thousand years ago. The Station church for Wednesday of the fourth week in Lent is San Paolo, and in early mediaeval times it had a so-called collect church (location for the assembly of the procession) called Sancti Mennae. This church was located "outside the Porta San Paolo". However, it cannot have been just outside (about where the Piramide metro station is) because the distance covered by the stational procession would have been too long. A location down the Via Ostiense, around the site of the later chapel of Santissimo Crocifisso, is likely. The church vanished by the 13th century.
Mediaeval chapel Edit
The little chapel, which might have replaced the church, used to stand on the pilgrimage route to and from the basilica of San Paolo, along the Via Ostiense. In mediaeval times it was regarded as the place where SS Peter and Paul said goodbye to each other before going off to their respective places of martyrdom. It hence apparently had the original name of Cappella della Separazione ("Chapel of the Parting"), but the date and circumstances of its foundation are unknown.
It used to stand on the other side of the road from the marked site, actually in the road on the eastern side.
In 1562, the chapel was granted to the Confraternity of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini by Pope Pius IV. In 1568, they demolished it and rebuilt it on a new side, on the west side of the road and out of the way of the traffic.
There used to be a crucifix here which was an object of popular veneration, hence the dedication was changed.
The chapel is described as demolita agli albori del secolo XX, or at the beginning of the 20th century, for road widening. Actually the Via Ostiense was re-laid as a tram route which opened in 1897 (this became the famous tram number 5 to Garbatella), and it seems that the chapel was demolished as part of the works needed for this.
This was actually quite a substantial edifice. It was rectangular, with a single altar, and was quite high. The pitched and tiled roof had a horizontal projection over the entrance providing a sort of canopy, and a gabled campanile or bellcote stood on a plinth over the near left hand wall. This had a round-headed opening for the single bell.
The façade had a single entrance, flanked by a pair of large vertical rectangular windows. A pair of smaller horizontal rectangular windows were near the top of the façade, and a small oculus or round window was in the gable. On the lintel of the doorcase was this inscription: Capella hospitalis SS Trinitatis convalescentium et peregrinorum, fundata fuit anno MDLXVIII ("Chapel of the hospital of the Holy Trinity for convalescents and pilgrims, it was founded in the year 1568").
The major decorative feature was an aedicule over the doorway. This had a pair of thin free-standing marble columns with cushion capitals, standing on a pair of horizontal brackets and supporting a gabled arch. This aedicule sheltered a mediaeval bas-relief of The Parting of SS Peter and Paul, as well as a tablet reading:
In questo luogo si separarono S. Pietro e S. Paulo andando al martirio et disse Paolo a Pietro: La luce sia con teco, fundamento de la chiesia et pastore di tutti li agnelli di Christo, et Pietro a Paolo: Va in pace, predicator de buoni et guida de la salute de giusti ("At this spot SS Peter and Paul separated from one another while walking to martyrdom, and Paul said to Peter: The light be with you, foundation of the Church and pastor of all the sheep of Christ, and Peter to Paul: Go in peace, preacher of good things and guide to the salvation of the just".)
According to Armellini, the altarpiece depicted St Philip Neri, patron of the confraternity. The altar was flanked by two life-sized depictions of St Peter and St Paul, and below these were two aedicules having marble frames with Cosmatesque inlay. These must have been salvaged from the mediaeval chapel.
The mediaeval bas-relief of The Parting of SS Peter and Paul was kept when the chapel was demolished. In 1975, it was attached to a building "near" the site of the former chapel, above a tablet with this epigraph:
Nei pressi di questo sito una devota cappellina in honore del santissimo Crocifisso, demolita agli albori degli secoli XX per l'allargamento della via Ostiense, segnava il luogo dove, secondo una pia tradizione, i principi degli apostolo, Pietro e Paolo, vennero separati nell'avvio al glorioso martirio. L'anno del giubileo MDCCCCLXXV, il comune di Roma, auspice l'associazione fra i Romani, pose.