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Page revised in August 2009.
Chiesa di S. Bernardo alle Terme (Book 7) (Day 2) (Map A2) (Rione Monti)
This plate is one of the smaller views which Vasi added to the standard 20 plates of each book. In Book 7 which covered the Friaries he had to add nine smaller views in order to properly cover the topic. Alle Terme is a reference to Terme (Baths) di Diocleziano, as the church made use of a hall of the baths.
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) S. Bernardo alle Terme; 2) Strada Pia. Strada Pia is covered in another page.
Vasi was generally very accurate in representing the monuments of Rome and in particular their architectonic details. In this view however the drum (apparently) supporting the dome has ten sides, whereas its shape is octagonal.
The lantern of the dome was demolished in the XIXth century because its weight endangered the stability of the Roman structure. In 1872 part of the land belonging to the monastery was acquired by the Italian State for opening a new street between Strada Pia (renamed Via XX Settembre) and S. Maria Maggiore.
S. Bernardo alle Terme
The ancient Roman hall was turned into a church in 1596 at the initiative of Caterina Nobili Sforza, a niece of Pope Julius III. The church and the adjoining monastery were her gift to Abbot Jean de la BarriŔre who in 1586 founded a new branch of the Cistercian order. In 1592 the abbot came under suspicion of supporting the Huguenots and later on he was placed under a sort of house arrest in the new monastery where he died in 1600.
The church was dedicated to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the first members of the Cistercian order.
The decoration of the church is based on stucco works (including eight gigantic statues by Camillo Mariani); part of it was added during a 1670 restoration: the ovals which decorate the drum are thought to belong to this period.
The original Roman circular building was located at the south-western corner of the baths: an identical building was located at their south-eastern corner. It is thought that they were used for exercising or playing ball games (sphaeristeria) or for resting. The coffers of the vault are similar to those of Tempio della Pace (Basilica di Massenzio), which was built in the same period.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page: