Santissimo Sudario di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo is a 17th regional church at Via del Sudario 47 in the rione Sant'Eustachio. It is one of two small churches close together in this short street off the north-west corner of Largo di Torre Argentina, the other being San Giuliano dei Fiamminghi at number 40. Picture of the church at Wikimedia Commons here.

The dedication is to the Shroud of Turin.

This is the church in Rome for expatriates from Piedmont.



Possible predecessorEdit

The French expatriate community in Rome obtained permission in the 14th century to erect a little chapel in honour of King St Louis IX, after his canonization in 1297. (He had died horribly of dysentery during the futile Eighth Crusade in 1270.) The site of this was not that of the present church of San Luigi dei Francesi, but well to the south on the old Via Papalis very near the present Sant'Andrea della Valle. One tradition is that it was on the site of the present church of Santissimo Sudario.


The confraternity that founded the church was made up of expatriates from the Duchy of Savoy, a group which was first recorded in 1537 and which was formally erected as the Arciconfraternita della Santissima Sindone in 1597 by Pope Clement VIII. Back then, the political unit of the duchy included territory on both side of the Alps, with the name coming from what is now French Savoy and the economic base being in what is now Piedmont. Hence, the confraternity was dedicated to the famous relic of the Shroud of Turin.

The present church was built by the confraternity in 1605, the architect being Carlo di Castellamonte who was himself from Turin. The patron was the duke of Savoy at the time, Charles Emmanuel I.

17th centuryEdit

Since Savoy was then an independent state, the church had national status and the confraternity could attract useful funding. In 1660 it began a campaign of amplification and embellishment of their church, overseen by Carlo Rainaldi. This involved a remodelling of the interior and a new façade, but the confraternity seems not to have been satisfied and so Rainaldi added the present façade by 1690 -he died in the following year. He also designed a new high altar, but the interior restoration was supervised by Pier Francesco Garoli. This was finished by 1687, to designs by Antonio Gherardi. The chief craftsman was Pietro Mentinovese.

18th century Edit

In 1720 the duchy became the Kingdom of Sardinia, and Duke Victor Amadeus II the first king. This was a rather complicated process, brought about through Savoy being on the winning side in the War of the Spanish Succession (the island of Sardinia had been a Spanish possession). In the Treaty of Utrecht 1713 that ended the war, the duke was rewarded with Sicily but was forced to exchange that island for Sardinia through diplomatic pressure seven years later.

The reason why Sardinia gave the title to the kingdom instead of Savoy (the power base) was that the latter was still counted as part of the Holy Roman Empire and so the emperor had to give permission to turn it into a kingdom. It was easier not to ask. However, the capital was Turin not Cagliari.

In 1750 the interior of the church was restored, but on the occupation of Rome by the French in 1798 the confraternity was suppressed and the church shut down.

19th centuryEdit

In 1801, King Charles Emmanuel IV had the church re-consecrated while living at Rome as the private guest of the Colonna family. He had been forced to relinquish his mainland possessions to the French in 1798. However, he decided to abdicate altogether in the following year and after that the church was desecrated definitively and turned into a magazine (gunpowder store).

In 1805, after Piedmont was annexed to the French Empire, the church was briefly put under the administration of the other French churches in Rome. In 1809, after the downfall of Napoleon, it was returned to its re-founded confraternity but its status as the national church of the Kingdom of Sardinia was only restored in 1837 with the king as patron. 

In 1861, after the Second Italian War of Independence, the Kingdom of Sardinia became the Kingdom of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II. This was because it had acquired control of the entire peninsula, except for the Veneto under the Austrians and Latium with Rome which was still ruled by Pope Pius IX under a French guarantee.

There was a restoration of the church from 1869 to 1871, ordered by the government of the Kingdom and supervised by Giacomo Monaldi.  

Palatine ChapelEdit

The restoration was finished in the year after the Kingdom of Italy finally conquered Rome. The pope refused to accept the reality of the situation, and declared himself the Prisoner in the Vatican (although he was not coerced by the Italian government, so the title was tendentious). The government requisitioned the formal Papal residence of the Quirinal Palace as the new royal palace, and in response the pope put the palace chapel -the Cappella Paolina- under interdict. This meant that no Mass could be celebrated there.

However the church of Santissimo Sudario was already under the patronage of the king, and so became the royal Cappella Palatina or palace chapel in Rome. It was, de facto, the church of the royal court until the Lateran pacts of 1929 established relations between the papacy and the Italian government.


In 1946, the Republic of Italy was founded and the monarchy abolished. The property of the Italian crown passed to the Italian presidency, and so did the church. Because the 1929 concordat was not revised, the church remained a cappella palatina but only functioned as a regional church for the Piedmontese in Rome.

The concordat between Italy and the Holy See was finally revised in 1984. One revision was to abolish the category of cappella palatina, and the presidency relinquished responsibility for the church. 

The church is now the responsibility of the Military Ordinariate in Italy, although as to why is not clear. Recently it has become a centre for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.


Layout and fabricEdit

The church is enclosed by domestic buildings on all sides except the street. It has a simple rectangular plan, with two external side chapels.
2011 Sudario


It is difficult to view the façade properly owing to the narrowness of the street. It has two storeys, rendered in a cream colour.

The first storey has three zones, the central one slightly brought forward. The two side zones do not front the church, but ancillary accommodation which the doorways here access. The central doorway, the one into the church, has a raised segmental pediment but no other decoration. It is flanked by a pair of double rectangular Corinthian pilasters. The two side zones each have a smaller door, above which in turn is a Baruque transom window with a floating gable cornice, and then a rectangular window. The outer corners of the side zones are occupied by another pair of pilasters. These six pilasters support a wide entablature dividing the storeys, but unusually a pair of horizontally rectangular windows is cut into this above the pair of main windows in the side zones. The ends of the entablature bear the two halves of a broken and well-separated segmental pediment.
Sudario dei Savojardi

The second storey, narrower than the first (squeezed by domestic buildings on either side) has a double pair of Ionic pilasters either side of a very large rectangular window and supporting a pediment missing its cornice above the window and with its central angle set back. The window has a cornice on posts supported by corbels. The pediment contains the arms of the House of Savoy in relief, tilted so as to be visible from the street.


Layout and fabricEdit

The simple rectangular interior has five bays, the central third bay being much deeper than the others. Two side chapels lead off this third bay, and the last two bays are occupied by the sanctuary. There is a very shallow sixth bay occupied by the altar aedicule.

IMG 0067

The interior decoration of nave and sanctuary is of one design -there is no triumphal arch. The bays are separated by Composite pilasters revetted in red Sicilian jasper, with the walls in between in what looks like green marble with yellow strip inlays. The pilasters support an entablature which runs round the interior and has a green frieze.

Nave Edit

The second and fourth bays of the nave each have a pair of side doors with door-cases in a brown-veined marble, above which are panels in a purplish-red stone.

The semi-circular barrel-vaulted ceiling covers both nave and sanctuary. The deep central nave bay has a fresco depicting The Apotheosis of the Saints of the House of Savoy, which echoes the main altarpiece in the sanctuary (see below). As well as BB Louise, Amadeus and Margaret, the work depicts Bl Boniface of Savoy and Duke Humbert III who was never beatified despite attempts.

The two flanking bays on each side are combined in the vault to have octagonal frescoes each with an allegorical virtue (they look like Charity and Religion). The panels to the sides of the main fresco have more allegories (Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude) with the Savoyard banner (white cross on a red background). The fresco panels are bordered by wide ribs with fern-leaf scrolls in god on red.

These frescoes are by Cesare Maccari 1873. The octagonal fresco panels do not have flanking frescoes, but instead a pair of windows is inserted on each side in round-headed lunettes.

There is a wooden floating organ gallery over the entrance.


The far wall of the sanctuary is taken up by the altar aedicule in a way which integrates it into the overall design. The interior entablature is made to step back twice on each side, the angles of the steps pointing outwards slightly. These angles are supported by four Ionic columns in red marble, hence forming the aedicule. The capitals of these have incurved volutes and little winged putto's heads. Above the entablature is a white stucco relief of God the Father by Antonio Raggi, which fronts its own little aedicule with a segmental pediment and pink pilasters. Angels and putti are in attendance.

Between the entablature and sculpture is displayed a copy of the Holy Shroud, an object of devotion, which was commissioned by "Maria Francesca di Savoia". According to the Ordinariate, it was donated when the confraternity received its charter at the end of the 16th century. This is all very confused, and it seems that the copy was actually commissioned by the Venerable Maria Apollonia di Savoia in 1650. She gave it to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Pallotta, who passed it on to Pope Urban VIII who in turn gave it to the church.

The altarpiece is a Deposition by Antonio Gherardi, with Savoyard saints shown in attendance on the dead Christ. The moment is shown when the Shroud allegedly received the miraculous image of Christ. The saints and beati concerned are (right to left) St Maximus of Turin, Bl Margaret of Savoy, St Maurice, Bl Louise of Savoy and Bl Amadeus IX of Savoy.

The two side wall frescoes show scenes from the lives of SS Francis de Sales and Anselm -both born in areas once ruled by the Duchy of Savoy, although on either side of the Alps. The actual scenes are St Anselm with Pope Urban II at the Council of Bariand St Francis of Sales with Bl John Juvenal Ancina of Savoy. 

Side chapelsEdit

The side chapels are arched niches, flanked by pairs of semi-columns in the same style as the pilasters.

The left hand side chapel is dedicated to St Francis de Sales, with an altarpiece showing his apotheosis by Carlo Cesi. This is just hung on the wall without any aedicule or elaborate frame. The saint was bishop of Geneva, but could never visit the Calvinist-ruled city and so exercised his ministry in Savoy.

The right hand side chapel is dedicated to one of the ruling dukes who was beatified, Amadeus IX of Savoy. The altarpiece showing him having a vision of Our Lady is by Giovanni Domenico Cerrini, and is in an elaborate Baroque frame with an ogee cornice.

The vault in this chapel has an attractive little fresco of putti in heaven, within a stucco flower garland. It is easily overlooked.


According to the Ordinariate (2017), the church is open daily EXCEPT Wednesdays:

10:00 to 12:00, 16:00 to 19:00 (after Mass).

The feast of the Holy Shroud is on 4 May.


The liturgical activity of the church was recently focused on Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Ordinariate gave the following information in 2017:

Exposition takes place after the church is open at 10:00, and continues until 12:00 when the Angelus is recited and the church closes for lunch. Meanwhile, at 11:00 the Rosary is recited.

In the afternoon, Exposition occurs again after opening at 16:00, and continues until 18:00. At 17:30, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is recited, followed by Vespers.

Mass is celebrated at 18:30, after which the church closes.

The prayer intentions of the Adoration are for peace, the public prayer intentions of the Church and for familiies.

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Nolli map (look for 774)

Church's web-page

"DE Alvariis" gallery on Flickr

Info.roma web-page

"Romeartlover" web-page

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