All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in February 2010.
alle Tre Fontane (Book
3) (Day 5) (View C12)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view (Arco di Carlo Magno)
S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane
S. Maria Scala Coeli
SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio
Santuario della Madonna del Divino Amore
The Plate (No. 43)
In 1575 Antoine LafrÚry drew a map showing Sette Chiese the seven basilicas of Rome which were visited by pilgrims; the print shows the pilgrims moving from one basilica to the other, but it shows that a trickle of them (the most pious ones or those in greater need of gaining indulgences), after having reached S. Paolo fuori le Mura, instead of directly reaching S. Sebastiano fuori le Mura, lengthened their journey by visiting also S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane, the church built on the site of the execution of St. Paul, and la Annunziatella.
In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) main gate and walls surrounding the monastery; 2) SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio; 3) S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane; 4) S. Maria Scala Coeli; 5) Part of the monastery. The small 1850 map shows: 1) S. Paolo Fuori le Mura; 2) S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane; 3) Santuario del Divino Amore (Castel di Leva); 4) la Annunziatella; 5) S. Sebastiano fuori le Mura.
The view in February 2010
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi shows that S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane was located on rather barren land; the site was very unhealthy; in the early XIXth century the monastery was abandoned; in 1867 Pope Pius IX assigned it to the Trappists, a branch of the Cistercian Order; they planted groves of eucalyptus (for the first time in Rome) to drain the swamp and reduce the risk of malaria. Today the churches and the monastery are surrounded by congested roads and by the modern buildings of Eur, but owing to the walls which still protect them, they remain an oasis of peace which invites meditation.
The gate at the entrance is called Arco di Carlo Magno, because Charlemagne made substantial donations to the monastery; the ceiling of the arch retains barely visible fragments of frescoes portraying events of the life of Charlemagne and some of the fiefdoms he donated.
Paolo alle Tre
(left) Alley leading to S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane; (right) inscription on the fašade making reference to the three fountains which are inside the building
According to tradition the head of St. Paul rebounded three times after being severed and each time a fountain sprang up. A church was built in the Vth century to shelter the three springs; it was entirely replaced by a new building designed in 1599 by Giacomo Della Porta for Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, nephew of Pope Clement VIII.
Mosaic from Ancient Ostia portraying the four seasons: ver/spring, aestas/summer, autu(mnus)/autumn and hiems/winter
The image used as background for this page shows a detail of the decoration of the fountains.
Pope Pius IX in order to celebrate the 1867 victory
against Garibaldi at Mentana restored the church and relocated there a Roman mosaic
which was unearthed at Ostia.
(left) Fašade; (right) side view; in the inset a fleur-de-lys, the heraldic symbol of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese
In 1138 ca. Pope Innocent II assigned the monastery to the Cistercian Order which at the time was led by St. Bernard of Clairvaux; one day, while celebrating mass, St. Bernard had a vision: he saw angels leading the souls of the dead from Purgatory to Heaven along a ladder. In remembrance of the vision an oratory near S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane was called Scala Coeli (Ladder to Heaven). The building collapsed in 1582, but it was almost immediately rebuilt at the initiative of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese; also this church was designed by Giacomo Della Porta.
(left) Fašade; (right) interior
Similar to SS. Vincenzo ed Anastasio a Fontana di Trevi this church was originally also dedicated only to St. Anastasius; it was built as a shrine for housing the head of the saint. The first church (built in the VIIth century) was replaced by the Cistercians with a new one in the XIIth century; its simple design was an effect of the approach followed by St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the construction of many abbeys throughout Europe; the portico supported by ancient column was the only concession to the Roman traditional form of building churches.
del Divino Amore
(left) Gate of Castel di Leva; (right) a naive depiction of the first miracle
In 1740 a man attacked by stray dogs prayed for help before an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the main gate of Castel di Leva, once a fortress of the Orsini. He was miraculously spared by the dogs and the sacred image soon became popular and other miracles were attributed to its intercession; it was called Madonna del Divino Amore.
The countryside around Castel di Leva; in the background the Alban Hills (to the far left Abbazia di Grottaferrata); the white plaques to the left of the gate are ex-votos
Castel di Leva was located along Via Ardeatina, a minor road which started near Porta S. Sebastiano and reached Ardea and Anzio. At the time of the miracle it was a very isolated location.
(left) Santuario del Divino Amore; (right) main altar and the sacred image
The sacred image was placed for a few years in a nearby estate and then transferred to a sanctuary built at the top of the castle; a brotherhood was founded to maintain the site and organize pilgrimages; in 1801 the brotherhood was assigned SS. Biagio e Cecilia, a small church in Rione Campo Marzio.
Interior of the new sanctuary which was completed in 1999
The sanctuary became extremely popular in 1944 when Pope Pius XII entrusted the safety of Rome to Madonna del Divino Amore. Every Saturday at midnight a pilgrimage starts at Piazza di Porta Capena and reaches Santuario del Divino Amore before dawn.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Chiesa di s. Paolo alle tre fontane
Dicevasý anticamente questo sito ad aquas salvias, ed ancora ad guttam jupiter manantem:
in cui l'Apostolo s. Paolo fu condotto, e decapitato. Tre chiese sono in questo luogo
la prima fu eretta da Onorio I. lĺanno 626. e fu dedicata ai ss. Vincenzo ed Anastasio.
Leone III. la riedific˛ da' fondamenti, e Carlo Magne la dot˛ di cittÓ, castelli, molte
terre, e poderi. Innocenzo II. nel 1140. la concede ai Monaci Cisterciensi, e vi edific˛
un monastero, in cui il primo Abate mandatovi da s. Bernardo, fu eletto Papa col nome di
La seconda cappella, o chiesa rotonda, che le sta di fianco era prima dedicata
a s. Gio. Batista; ma celebrando una volta in essa s. Bernardo per li fedeli defunti,
fu rapito in estasi, e vide, che per una scala lunga sino al cielo salivano le anime
liberate dal purgatorio; onde essendo poi dal Card. Alessandro Farnese alzata di
nuovo la chiesa col disegno di Giacomo della Porta, e poi terminata dal Card.
Pietro Aldobrandini, fu dedicata alla ss. Vergine col titolo di Scala Coeli.
Si vede sotto di questa l'antichissimo cimiterio di s. Zenone, dove furono
sepolti dieci mila corpi di ss. Martiri, e si crede che siano stati di que'
Cristiani, che, come dicemmo, dopo aver lavorato nelle terme Diocleziane,
quivi furono fatti morire.
La terza cappella o chiesa, Ŕ quella poco discosto, eretta nel sito ove s. Paolo
fu decollato, e si vedono ancor perenni le tre fontane nate miracolosamente ne' tre salti,
che fece il suo sagro capo. Il riferito Card. Aldobrandini rinnov˛ tutto col disegno
del mentovato Giacomo della Porta, e fece metter la colonna, a cui si crede, che il
s. Apostolo fosse legato, appresso al primo fonte, per indicare il primo salto, che
fece la testa subito recisa. La Crocifissione di s. Pietro, che vede sull'altare, Ŕ
opera insigne di Guido Reni, la Decollazione di Paolo, che sta incontro Ŕ di
Bernardino Passerotto, e le due statue sul prospetto sono del Franciosino.
Next plate in Book 3: Chiesa di S. Maria in Via Lata
Next step in Day 5 itinerary: Basilica di S. Paolo
fuori delle mura