All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in June 2009.
S. Croce in Gerusalemme (Book 3) (Map A4) (Day 1) (View B9) (Rione Monti)
S. Croce in Gerusalemme is one of the seven basilicas which were visited by the pilgrims, especially during the Jubilee years. It is said to have been built by St. Helena to house the fragments of the Holy Cross she found in Jerusalem and brought to Rome. At the time of the plate the fašade had just been rebuilt (1743) by Domenico Gregorini and Pietro Passalacqua. The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Acquedotto dell'Acqua Claudia; 2) Tempio di Venere e Cupido; 3) Monastery; 4) Street leading to S. Lorenzo. 1) is covered in another page. The small map shows also 5) S. Maria del Buon Aiuto; 6) Oratorio di S. Margherita.
S. Croce is no longer in a remote area of Rome, nevertheless, apart from the loss of the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XIV, little has changed since the time of Vasi's etching.
You may wish to see the basilica as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome.
S. Croce in Gerusalemme
The original church, a large hall with an apse, was modified in the XIIth century with the addition of a transept and a bell tower and the division of the hall into three naves. Major restorations were made in 1743 with the construction of an elliptical vestibule which is regarded as the swansong of Roman baroque architecture.
The fašade is crowned by gigantic statues, which include Emperor Constantine, the son of St. Helena: he is the only Roman Emperor who is celebrated in a church (for the Greek Orthodox Church he is a saint).
Constantine was portrayed also in a painting by Corrado Giaquinto: the emperor is on his knees while his mother introduces him to the Virgin Mary who in turn pleads on his behalf with the Holy Trinity: Constantine did have a need for good advocates as he had ordered the killing of his wife and his son.
Temple of Venus
The ruins which Vasi attributes to a temple to Venus and Cupid (because a statue portraying the two was found there) are actually what is left of a villa built by Emperor Heliogabalus, which later on was incorporated in the residence of St. Helena (Palatium Sessorianum).
The monastery adjoining the basilica belongs to the Cistercian Order, a branch of the Benedictines with a lot of emphasis on self-sufficiency and manual work; the secluded monks have their kitchen garden inside nearby Amphiteatrum Castrense (the large oval structure behind the basilica).
S. Maria del Buon Aiuto
Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84) built a small chapel next to the Roman Amphiteatrum Castrense. The chapel catered to those who wished to pray for the souls of their kin in Purgatory. The chapel is known also as S. Maria del Soccorso or S. Maria de Spazolaria.
Oratorio di S. Margherita is a chapel which is pretty hard to find; it is located in a tower of the Roman walls: the tower, unlike the others, has some windows on the inner side of the walls and a sort of bell tower at its top. Because of its overall aspect it was called Prigione (prison) di S. Margherita. The chapel was pretty popular in the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries, but later on its existence was forgotten.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 3: Basilica di S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura
You have completed Day 1! Move to Day 2.
Next step in your tour of Rione Monti: Porta S. Giovanni