All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in May 2010.
Chiesa dei SS. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti (Book 7) (Map A3) (Day 2) (View B8) (Rione Monti)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
SS. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti
The Plate (No. 124 - ii)
The earliest churches of Rome were either new constructions built on the sites where martyrs had been buried or the result of changes made to halls in private houses where the first Christians used to meet for prayer. Because the new faith spread rapidly among the ordinary people who lived on the Esquiline hill, this neighbourhood retains many very old churches which in origin were private houses.
The level of the ground in front and at the side of the apse was lowered in the late XIXth century, thus uncovering some older parts of the building; some more steps were added to the staircase leading to the rear entrance to the church.
According to tradition a domus ecclesiae, a hall where the Christians met, was established in the house of a relative of St. Sylvester, the pope mainly known for the (forged) medieval document by which Emperor Constantine donated to the Roman Church the City of Rome and the entire Western Roman Empire.
Historians believe that a nearby separate church was dedicated to St. Martin; it is uncertain to which church the oldest parts of the current building belong.
In the IXth century a new church dedicated to both saints was built above the ancient structures; the apse belongs to this period.
In 1299 SS. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti was assigned to the Carmelites; in the XVIIth century the church was largely renovated by Filippo Gagliardi, whose background was mainly that of a painter; this explains the rather traditional design of the façade (you may wish to see the façade as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome).
During the renovation of the interior the Carmelites and Gagliardi decided to lower the floor of the church in order to increase the visibility of the crypt which housed some relics; this explains why the ancient columns are placed above a high base; the basilica shape of the medieval building was retained, although the interior was entirely redecorated.
Also the ceiling was renovated in the XVIIth century, but the main elements of an existing wooden ceiling were included in a new frame; the motto "humilitas" which can be seen in the image used as background for this page belongs to St. Charles Borromeo who promoted the construction of the first ceiling in 1560.
Because Prophet Elias had defeated the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel, the Carmelites commissioned Gaspard Dughet a series of frescoes showing episodes of the prophet's life. Dughet, a French painter who spent most of his life in Rome and a pupil of Nicholas Poussin, specialized in painting landscapes of the Roman countryside and in his frescoes at SS. Silvestro e Martino he gave more relevance to mountains, woods and rivers than to the prophet's achievements.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 7: Chiesa di S. Gregorio e Monastero dei Monaci Camaldolesi
Next step in Day 2 itinerary: Chiesa e Monastero di S. Lucia in Selci
Next step in your tour of Rione Monti: Chiesa e Monastero di S. Lucia in Selci