Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Saint Mary above Minerva, Latin: Sancta Maria supra Minervam) is one of the major churches of the Roman Catholic Order of Preachers (better known as the Dominicans) in Rome, Italy. The church's name derives from the fact that the first Christian church structure on the site was built directly over (Italian: sopra) the ruins or foundations of a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, which had been erroneously ascribed to the Greco-Roman goddess Minerva[1] (possibly due to interpretatio romana).

The church is located in Piazza della Minerva one block behind the Pantheon in the Pigna rione of Rome within the ancient district known as the Campus Martius. The present church and disposition of surrounding structures is visible in a detail from the Nolli Map of 1748.

While many other medieval churches in Rome have been given Baroque makeovers that cover Gothic structures, the Minerva is the only extant example of original Gothic architecture church building in Rome.[2] Behind a restrained Renaissance style façade[3] the Gothic interior features arched vaulting that was painted blue with gilded stars and trimmed with brilliant red ribbing in a 19th-century Neo-Gothic restoration.

The church and adjoining convent served at various times throughout its history as the Dominican Order's headquarters. Today the headquarters have been re-established in their original location at the Roman convent of Santa Sabina. The titulus of Sanctae Mariae supra Minervam was conferred on 28 June 2018 to Cardinal António Marto.

Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Basilica of Saint Mary above Minerva (in English)
Basilica Sanctae Mariae supra Minervam (in Latin)
Roma-Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Santa Maria sopra Minerva façade by Carlo Maderno
AffiliationRoman Catholic
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusMinor basilica
LeadershipAntónio Marto
Year consecrated1370
LocationRome, Italy
Geographic coordinates41°53′53″N 12°28′42″E / 41.89806°N 12.47833°ECoordinates: 41°53′53″N 12°28′42″E / 41.89806°N 12.47833°E
Architect(s)Fra Sisto Fiorentino, Fra Ristoro da Campi, Carlo Maderno
Direction of façadeW
Length101 m (331 ft)
Width41 m (135 ft)
Width (nave)15 m (49 ft)


Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Rome) - Inside HDR
Santa Maria sopra Minerva interior

In Roman times there were three temples in what is now the area surrounding the basilica and former convent buildings: the Minervium, built by Gnaeus Pompey in honour of the goddess Minerva about 50 BC, referred to as Delubrum Minervae; the Iseum dedicated to Isis, and the Serapeum dedicated to Serapis.[4] Details of the temple to Minerva are not known but recent investigations indicate that a small round Minervium once stood a little further to east on the Piazza of the Collegio Romano.[1] In 1665 an Egyptian obelisk was found, buried in the garden of the Dominican cloister adjacent to the church. Several other small obelisks were found at different times near the church, known as the Obelisci Isei Campensis, which were probably brought to Rome during the 1st century and grouped in pairs, with others, at the entrances of the temple of Isis.[5] There are other Roman survivals in the crypt.

The ruined temple is likely to have lasted until the reign of Pope Zachary (741-752), who finally Christianized the site, offering it to Basilian nuns from Constantinople who maintained an oratorium there dedicated to the "Virgin of Minervum".[6] The structure he commissioned has disappeared.

In 1255 Pope Alexander IV established a community of converted women on the site. A decade later this community was transferred to the Roman Church of San Pancrazio thereby allowing the Dominicans to establish a convent of friars and a studium conventuale there. The Friars were on site beginning in 1266 but took official possession of the Church in 1275. Aldobrandino Cavalcanti (1279), vicarius Urbis or vicar for Pope Gregory X, and an associate of Thomas Aquinas ratified the donation of Santa Maria sopra Minerva to the Dominicans of Santa Sabina by the sisters of S. Maria in Campo Marzio.[7] The ensemble of buildings that formed around the church and convent came to be known as the insula sapientae or insula dominicana (island of wisdom or Dominican island).[8]

The Dominicans began building the present Gothic church in 1280 modelling it on their church in Florence Santa Maria Novella. Architectural plans were probably drawn up during the pontificate of Nicholas III by two Dominican friars, Fra Sisto Fiorentino and Fra Ristoro da Campi.[1] With the help of funds contributed by Boniface VIII and the faithful the side aisles were completed in the 14th century.

In 1453 church interior construction was finally completed when Cardinal Juan Torquemada ordered that the main nave be covered by a vault that reduced the overall projected height of the church.[3] In the same year of 1453 Count Francesco Orsini sponsored the construction of the façade at his own expense. However work on the façade remained incomplete until 1725 when it was finally finished by order of Pope Benedict XIII.[8]

In 1431, the Church and the adjacent Convent of the Dominicans was the site of a Papal conclave. The city of Rome was in an uproar upon the death of Pope Martin V (Colonna), whose family had dominated Roman political life for fifteen years, and enriched themselves on the wealth of the Church. There was fighting in the streets on a daily basis, and the Plaza in front of the Minerva, because of the configuration of streets, houses, church and monastery, could easily be fortified and defended.[9] The Sacristy of the Church served as the meeting hall for the fourteen cardinals (out of nineteen) who attended the Conclave, which began on 1 March 1431. The dormitory of the monks in the Convent to the immediate north of the Church, served as the living quarters for the cardinals and their refectory and kitchen. On 3 March they elected Cardinal Gabriele Condulmaro, who took the name Eugenius IV.[10] A second Conclave was held at the Minerva, on 4-6 March 1447, following the death of Pope Eugenius, once again in the midst of disturbances involving the Orsini supporters of Pope Eugenius and his enemies the Colonna. Eighteen cardinals (out of a total of twenty-six) were present and elected Cardinal Tommaso Parentucelli da Sarzana as Pope Nicholas V.[11]

The Minerva has been a titular church since 1557,[12] and a minor basilica since 1566. The church's first titular cardinal was Michele Ghislieri who became Pope Pius V in 1566. He raised the church to the level of minor basilica in that same year.

In the 16th century Giuliano da Sangallo made changes in the choir area, and in 1600 Carlo Maderno enlarged the apse, added Baroque decorations and created the present façade with its pilastered tripartite division in Renaissance style.[3] Marks on this façade dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries indicate various flood levels of the Tiber 65 feet (20 metres).

Between 1848 and 1855 Girolamo Bianchedi directed an important program of restoration when most of the Baroque additions were removed and the blank walls were covered with neo-gothic frescos giving the interior the Neo-Gothic appearance that it has today.

The basilica's stained glass windows are mostly from the 19th century. In 1909, the great organ was constructed by the firm of Carlo Vegezzi Bossi. The organ was restored in 1999.[13]

The inscriptions found in S. Maria sopra Minerva have been collected and published by Vincenzo Forcella.[14]

Convent and Studium

In 1288 the theology component of the provincial curriculum for the education of the friars was relocated from the studium provinciale at the Roman basilica of Santa Sabina to the studium conventuale at Santa Maria sopra Minerva which was redesignated as a studium particularis theologiae.[15] At various times in its history this studium served as a studium generale for the Roman province of the Order.

College of Saint Thomas

The late 16th century saw the studium at Santa Maria sopra Minerva undergo transformation. Thomas Aquinas, who had been canonized in 1323 by Pope John XXII, was proclaimed the fifth Latin Doctor of the Church by Pius V in 1567. To honor this great doctor, in 1577 the Spanish Dominican Msgr. Juan Solano, O.P., former bishop of Cusco, Peru, generously funded the reorganization of the studium at the convent of Santa Maria sopra Minerva on the model of the College of St. Gregory at Valladolid in his native Spain.[16] The result of Solano's initiative, which underwent structural change shortly before Solano's death in 1580, was the College of Saint Thomas (Latin: Collegium Divi Thomae) at Santa Maria sopra Minerva, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). The college occupied several existing convent structures and new construction was required. At that time the convent underwent considerable reconstruction to accommodate the college and the cloister was redesigned so that side chapels could be added to the church's northern flank. A detail from the Nolli Map of 1748 gives some idea of the disposition of buildings when the Minerva convent housed the College of St. Thomas.

Offices of the Inquisition

On 14 September 1628, by papal decree, the convent of Minerva was designated as the seat of the Congregation of the Holy Office. It thus became the place where the tribunal of the Roman Inquisition set up by Paul III in 1542 held the Secret Congregation meetings during which the sentences were read out.[17] It was in a room of the Minerva Convent on 22 June 1633 that the father of modern astronomy Galileo Galilei, after being tried for heresy, abjured his scientific theses in favour of the Copernican theory.[17]

In the late 18th and early 19th century the suppression of religious orders hampered the mission of the Order and the College of St. Thomas. During the French occupation of Rome from 1797 to 1814 the College declined and even briefly closed its doors from 1810 to 1815.[18] The Order gained control of the convent once again in 1815, only for it to be expropriated by the Italian government in 1870.

In 1873 the Collegium Divi Thomæ de Urbe was forced to leave the Minerva for good, eventually being relocated at the convent of Saints Dominic and Sixtus in 1932 and being transformed into the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in 1963.

The Dominicans eventually were allowed to return to the Minerva and part of the convent.


Among several important works of art in the church are Michelangelo's statue Cristo della Minerva (1521) and the late 15th-century (1488–93) cycle of frescos in the Carafa Chapel by Filippino Lippi. The basilica also houses many funerary monuments including the tombs of Doctor of the Church Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), who was a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic; the Dominican friar Blessed John of Fiesole (Fra Giovanni da Fiesole, born Guido di Piero) better known as Fra Angelico (c. 1395-1455); and ornate monuments to the Medici Popes: Leo X (born Giovanni de Medici, c. 1475-1521) and Clement VII (born Giulio de Medici, c. 1478-1534), designed by Baccio Bandinelli. [19]

Carafa Chapel

Carafa chapel 2010
Carafa chapel in 2010

The Carafa Chapel, with late 15th-century frescoes (1488–1493) by Filippino Lippi, was commissioned by Cardinal Oliviero Carafa in honour of Saint Thomas Aquinas. There are two Marian scenes, the Annunciation and the Assumption; over the altar is his St Thomas presenting Cardinal Carafa to the Blessed Virgin, and on the right-hand wall his Glory of St Thomas. It was inaugurated in 1493, and is also known as the Chapel of St Thomas Aquinas. The relics of St Thomas Aquinas were kept in this chapel until 1511, when they were moved to Naples. Designed by Pirro Ligorio in 1559, the tomb of Gian Pietro Carafa, who became Pope Paul IV in 1555, is also in the chapel.

Cappella Capranica

The chapel is also known as the Chapel of the Rosary. The stucco ceiling was made in 1573 by Marcello Venusti. The chapel contains the tomb of Cardinal Domenico Capranica by Andrea Bregno.

Michelangelo's Cristo della Minerva

The Cristo della Minerva, also known as Christ the Redeemer or Christ Carrying the Cross, is a marble sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti, finished in 1521, located to the left of the main altar.

Cappella Aldobrandini

The Aldobrandini chapel was designed by Giacomo della Porta but it is Carlo Maderno that completed della Porta's project (after 1602). It was consecrated in 1611. The canvas depicting the Institution of the Eucharist and dated from 1594 is by Federico Fiori. The monument to the parents of Pope Clement VIII, Salvestro Aldobrandini and Luisa Dati, is by Giacomo della Porta. The first Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament to be approved by the Holy See was established in this chapel, with St. Ignatius of Loyola as one of its earliest members. This chapel contains the Federico Barocci altarpiece depicting the Communion of the Apostles.

Cappella Raymond of Penyafort

The chapel dedicated to Raymond of Penyafort houses the tomb of Cardinal Juan Díaz de Coca, by Andrea Bregno. The ceiling fresco Jesus Christ as a Judge, between two angels is by Melozzo da Forlì.

Other major artworks


Sarcophagus of Saint Catherine of Siena
Sarcophagus of Saint Catherine of Siena beneath the High Altar

Saint Catherine of Siena is buried here (except her head, which is in the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena). Beyond the sacristy, the room where she died in 1380 was reconstructed here by Antonio Barberini in 1637. This room is the first transplanted interior, and the progenitor of familiar 19th and 20th century museum "period rooms." The frescoes by Antoniazzo Romano that decorated the original walls, however, are now lost.

The famous early Renaissance painter Fra Angelico died in the adjoining convent and was buried in the church. (He had painted a fresco cycle in the cloister on the initiative of Cardinal Juan de Torquemada, but those paintings have not survived.)

Before the construction of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, the Minerva served as the church in Rome of the Florentines, and therefore it contains numerous tombs of prelates, nobles and citizens coming from that Tuscan city. For example, the elaborate tombs of the Medici Popes - Leo X (Giovanni de Medici) and Clement VII (Giulio de Medici) - are located here, designed by Florentine sculptor Baccio Bandinelli. [19] Curiously, Diotisalvi Neroni, a refugee who had taken part in the plot against Piero de' Medici, is also buried in the church.

The tombs of Popes Urban VII and Paul IV are located in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, as are the Cardinal-nephew of Pope Nicholas III Latino Malabranca Orsini, Michel Mazarin (Archbishop of Aix) who was the brother of Cardinal Jules Mazarin, the Byzantine philosopher George of Trebizond, and two Renaissance theorists and practitioners, Filarete in architecture and Mariano Santo in surgery.

Cardinal Astorgio Agnensi has his tomb monument in the cloister.

List of cardinal-priests from Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Other churches with this name

In Assisi, another church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva was built in the 16th century within the surviving cella of a late Republican temple of Minerva. Its Corinthian portico still stands.[20]

Minerva's Pulcino

Elephant and Obelisk - Bernini
The Pulcino della Minerva, the famous elephant sculpture by Bernini and Ercole Ferrata, making the base of one of Rome's eleven Egyptian obelisks.

In front of the church there is one of the most curious monuments of Rome, the so-called Pulcino della Minerva. It is a statue designed by the Baroque era sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (and executed by his pupil Ercole Ferrata in 1667) of an elephant as the supporting base for the Egyptian obelisk found in the Dominicans' garden. It is the shortest of the eleven Egyptian obelisks in Rome and is said to have been one of two obelisks moved from Sais, where they were built during the 589 BC-570 BC reign of the pharaoh Apries, from the Twenty-sixth dynasty of Egypt. The two obelisks were brought to Rome by Diocletian, during his reign as emperor from 284 to 305, for placement at the Temple of Isis, which stood nearby. The Latin inscription on the base, chosen by the pope who commissioned the sculpture to support the obelisk found on the site, Alexander VII, is said to represent that "...a strong mind is needed to support a solid knowledge".

The inspiration for the unusual composition came from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili ("Poliphilo's Dream of the Strife of Love"), an unusual 15th century novel probably by Francesco Colonna. The novel's main character meets an elephant made of stone carrying an obelisk, and the accompanying woodcut illustration[21] in the book is quite similar to Bernini's design for the base for the obelisk. The curious placement of the obelisk through the body of the elephant is identical.

The sturdy appearance of the structure earned it the popular nickname of "Porcino" ("Piggy") for a while. The name for the structure eventually changed to Pulcino, the Italian for a small or little "chick". This may have been a reference to the comparatively short height of the obelisk or, an obscure reference to the major charity of the Dominicans to assist young women needing dowries, who made a procession in the courtyard every year. The latter were once depicted in a local painting as three tiny figures with the Virgin Mary presenting purses to them.

Cultural references

The elephant and obelisk monument and the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva feature in the novel 'The Tomb of Alexander' by Sean Hemingway. In the novel it is claimed that a secret passageway beneath the church leads to a chamber beneath the elephant monument which contains the body of Alexander the Great, placed there in the 17th century by Pope Alexander VII. This is entirely a work of fiction and the theory is unproven.



Memorial to Maria Raggi by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1647–1653


Tomb of Fra Angelico, by Isaia da Pisa, 1455

High altar Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

High Altar

Santa Maria sopra minerva Rome main vault


Santa Maria sopra Minerva navata laterale

Basilica interior

Benozzo Gozzoli cat01

Madonna and Child Giving Blessings by Benozzo Gozzoli, 1449

See also


  1. ^ a b c Grundmann & Fürst 1998, pp. 96–97
  2. ^ Unlike Naples or Palermo, Rome was never bombed in World War II, which in those cities led to some overnight "re-Gothification'. The Gothic Revival church of Sacro Cuore del Suffragio, built 1890-1917, is an anomaly inspired by the Duomo of Milan.
  3. ^ a b c "S. Maria sopra Minerva" (in Italian). Ministry of the Interior. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  4. ^ "Official website of Santa Maria sopra Minerva" (in Italian). Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  5. ^ Platner, Samuel Ball (1929), "Obeliscus Isei Campensis", A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, Oxford, pp. 368–369
  6. ^ Masetti 1855, p. 2
  7. ^ Bagliani, Agostino Paravicini. "Cavalcanti, Aldobrandino (Ildebrandinus)". The Italian Encyclopedia (in Italian). Retrieved 2013-02-23.
  8. ^ a b "EUROPEAN HERITAGE DAYS 2012 - "ITALY TREASURE OF EUROPE"" (in Italian). Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism. 2012-09-29. Retrieved 2013-12-19.
  9. ^ Ferdinand Gregorovius, The History of Rome in the Middle Ages (translated from the fourth German edition by A. Hamilton) Volume 7 part 1 [Book XIII, Chapter 1] (London 1900) 22-26.
  10. ^ J. P. Adams, Sede Vacante and Conclave of 1431. Retrieved: 2016-03-13.
  11. ^ J. P. Adams, Sede Vacante and Conclave of 1447. Retrieved: 2016-03-13.
  12. ^ David M. Cheney, Catholic-Hierarchy: Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Retrieved: 2016-03-13.
  13. ^ The Vegezzi Bossi Organ at the Minerva. Retrieved: 2016-03-13.
  14. ^ V. Forcella, Inscrizioni delle chese e d' altre edifici di Roma, dal secolo XI fino al secolo XVI Volume I. Roma: Tipografia delle scienze mathematiche e fisiche, 1869, pp. 409-539.
  15. ^ Mulchahey, Marian Michèle (1998). First the bow is bent in study": Dominican education before 1350. Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. p. 323. ISBN 9780888441324. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
  16. ^ Longo O.P., Carlo (1996). "J. Solano O.P. (1505 c.-1580) e la fondazione del "collegium S. Thomae de Urbe" (1577)". La formazione integrale domenicana al servizio della Chiesa e della società. Atti del Congresso internazionale, Pontificia università S. Tommaso, Roma, 23-24 Novembre 1994 (in Italian). Edizioni Studio Domenicano. ISBN 9788870942460. Retrieved 2011-04-21.
  17. ^ a b "Palazzo del Seminario (The Seminario Palace)". Chamber of Deputies. Retrieved 2013-12-19.
  18. ^ Renz, Christopher J. (2009). In This Light Which Gives Light: A History of the College of St. Albert the Great (1930-1980). Dominican School. p. 43. ISBN 9781883734183. Retrieved 2011-04-24.
  19. ^ a b c
  20. ^ "Temple of Minerva". Assisi On-line. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  21. ^ Media related to Elephant hypnerno at Wikimedia Commons (illustration from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili)


External links

1447 papal conclave

The papal conclave of 1447 (March 4–6), meeting in the Roman basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, elected Pope Nicholas V (Parentucelli) to succeed Pope Eugene IV (Condulmer).

Andrea Bregno

Andrea di Cristoforo Bregno (1418–1506) was an Italian sculptor and architect of the Early Renaissance who worked in Rome from the 1460s and died just as the High Renaissance was getting under way.

Bernardo Salviati

Bernardo Salviati (17 February 1508 – 6 May 1568) was an Italian condottiero and Roman Catholic Cardinal.

Salviati was born in Florence, the son of Jacopo Salviati and Lucrezia di Lorenzo de' Medici, the sister of Giovanni de' Medici. The year of his birth is given as 1492 and also 1470. From an early age he was a knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. In his military career he fought against the Ottomans, obtaining the grade of admiral in the Military Order of Malta, which he represented as ambassador before Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, at Barcelona. He also fought against the Republic of Siena during the Italian Wars.

He became Grand Almoner to Catherine de' Medici (she was his maternal cousin's daughter), who had convinced him to set aside his fighting career for an ecclesiastical one. He followed his brother as bishop of Saint-Papoul. He was named Cardinal by Pope Pius IV on 26 February 1561.

His brother Giovanni and his nephew Anton Maria were also cardinals. Salviati was also uncle of the future pope Leo XI and of the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de' Medici.

He died in his residence in Trastevere, Rome, on 6 May 1568 and is entombed at Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Bust of Giovanni Vigevano

Bust of Giovanni Vigevano is a marble sculptural portrait by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The bust was produced between 1617 and 1618, and was then inserted into the tomb for Vigevano after he died in 1630. The tomb is in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.

Catherine of Siena

Saint Catherine of Siena (25 March 1347 – 29 April 1380), a laywoman associated with the Dominican Order, was a mystic, activist, and author who had a great influence on Italian literature and the Catholic Church. Canonized in 1461, she is also a doctor of the Church.

She was born and raised in Siena, and wanted very soon to devote herself to God, against the will of her parents. She joined the Sisters of the Penance of St. Dominic and made her vows. She made herself known very quickly by being marked by mystical phenomena such as invisible stigmata and a mystical marriage. Her influence with Pope Gregory XI played a role in his decision to leave Avignon for Rome. She was then sent by him to negotiate peace with Florence. After Gregory XI's death and peace concluded, she returned to Siena. She dictated to secretaries her set of spiritual treatises The Dialogue of Divine Providence. The Great Schism of the West led Catherine of Siena to go to Rome with the pope. She sent numerous letters to princes and cardinals to promote obedience to Pope Urban VI and defend what she calls the "vessel of the Church." She died on 29 April 1380, exhausted by her penances. Urban VI celebrated her funeral and burial in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.

The devotion around Catherine of Siena developed rapidly after her death. She was canonized in 1461, declared patron saint of Rome in 1866, and of Italy (together with Francis of Assisi) in 1939. She was the first woman (along with Teresa of Ávila) to be declared a "doctor of the Church," on 4 October 1970 by Pope Paul VI. She was also proclaimed patron saint of Europe in 1999 by Pope John Paul II. Catherine of Siena is one of the outstanding figures of medieval Catholicism, by the strong influence she has had in the history of the papacy and her extensive authorship. She was behind the return of the Pope from Avignon to Rome, and then carried out many missions entrusted by the pope, something quite rare for a woman in the Middle Ages. Her Dialogue, hundreds of letters, and dozens of prayers, also give her a prominent place in the history of Italian literature.

Diotisalvi Neroni

Diotisalvi Neroni (1401 – 4 August 1482) was an Italian politician.

Guillaume Durand

Guillaume Durand, or William Durand (c. 1230 – November 1, 1296), also known as Durandus, Duranti or Durantis, from the Italian form of Durandi filius, as he sometimes signed himself, was a French canonist and liturgical writer, and Bishop of Mende.

Juan Solano

Juan Solano, O.P. (c. 1505 – 1580), was a Spanish Dominican missionary and the second Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Cuzco, Peru (1544–1562).

Maria Raggi

Maria Raggi di Scio (1552–1600) was a Catholic nun from the island of Chios. Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1647, depicted her in a sculpture which resides on a nave of Santa Maria sopra Minerva church in Rome.

Memorial to Alessandro Valtrini

The Memorial to Alessandro Valtrini is a funerary monument designed by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1639, and executed by his workshop in the same year. It is situated in the church of the San Lorenzo in Damaso in Rome. It has strong affinities with the Memorial to Ippolito Merenda; both were undertaken by Bernini's workshop and commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Barberini to commend the ecclesiastical work done by Valtrini and Merenda respectively. In aesthetic terms, both broke new ground in figuring Death as a moving skeleton carrying a flowing inscriptions and, in the case of Alessandro Valrtrini monument, a medallion-shaped portrait of Valtrini himself.Valtrini had been a wealthy donor during his lifetime. Three churches he had supported erected monuments to him, Il Gesù (where his body remained), Santa Maria sopra Minerva and the Bernini version in San Lorenzo in Damaso. He died in 1633. Francesco Barberini organised the Bernini commission in the late 1630s.

Memorial to Maria Raggi

Memorial to Maria Raggi is a sculptural monument designed and executed by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, in 1647. The monument is attached to a pillar in a nave of the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.

Michele Bonelli

Carlo Michele Bonelli, Cardinal Alessandrino (25 November 1541– 28 March 1598) was an Italian senior papal diplomat with a distinguished career that spanned two decades from 1571.

Philip Howard (cardinal)

Hon. Philip Howard (21 September 1629 – 17 June 1694) was an English Roman Catholic cardinal. Born the third son of Henry Frederick Howard (afterwards Earl of Arundel and Surrey and head of the House of Norfolk) and his wife, Elizabeth Stuart (daughter of Esme Stuart, the Duke of Lennox), Howard was a member of the premier Catholic family in England. At the age of sixteen he joined the Dominican Order in Cremona, and was ordained in 1652. He founded the priory of Bornem in Flanders, with a college for English youths attached to it, and was himself the first prior and novice master. He also founded at Vilvoorde a convent of nuns of the Second Order of Saint Dominic, now at Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight.

In the reign of Charles II, Father Howard was made grand almoner to Queen Catherine of Braganza. He resided at St. James's Palace, with a salary of 500 pounds a year, and had a position of influence at Court.

Following an outbreak of anti-Catholic sentiment, he left England and resumed his position as prior at Bornem. In 1672 he was nominated as Vicar Apostolic of England with a see in partibus, but the appointment, owing to the opposition of the "English Chapter" to his being a vicar Apostolic, and the insistence that he should be a bishop with ordinary jurisdiction, was not confirmed. He was made cardinal in 1675, by Pope Clement X, being assigned the title of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, exchanged later for the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. He now took up his residence at Rome, especially watching over the interests of the Catholic faith in England. He was to have been Bishop of Helenopolis. In 1679 he was made Protector of England and Scotland. At his insistence the Feast of St. Edward the Confessor was extended to the whole Church. He rebuilt the English College in Rome, and revised the rules of Douai College.

Howard cooperated later with James II in the increase of Vicars Apostolic in England from one to four, one of whom was his former secretary, John Leyburn. This arrangement lasted until 1840, when Pope Gregory XVI increased the number to eight. Gilbert Burnet wrote in his History that Cardinal Howard regretted the steps which led to the crisis in the reign of James II and which Howard sought to avert. The cardinal's plans were thwarted and the mission of Roger Palmer, Earl of Castlemaine to Rome showed the rise of another spirit that he did not share. When the crisis he foresaw came, he had the consolation at least of knowing that his foundation at Bornem was beyond the grasp of the anti-Catholic reaction in England. Cardinal Howard assisted at three conclaves, for the election of Innocent XI in 1676, Alexander VIII in 1689, and Innocent XII in 1691, and held the position of Camerlengo of the College of Cardinals. He died in the twentieth year of his cardinalate, at the age of 64, and was buried in his titular church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva at Rome. A monument of white marble with the arms of the Howards honours his memory.

Pietro Bembo

Pietro Bembo, O.S.I.H. (20 May 1470 – either 11 January or 18 January, 1547) was an Italian scholar, poet, literary theorist, member of the Knights Hospitaller and a cardinal. He was an influential figure in the development of the Italian language, specifically Tuscan, as a literary medium, codifying the language for standard modern usage. His writings assisted in the 16th-century revival of interest in the works of Petrarch.

Bembo's ideas were also decisive in the formation of the most important secular musical form of the 16th century, the madrigal. The typeface Bembo is named after him.

Porticus Argonautarum

The Porticus Argonautarum (portico of the Argonauts; Italian: Portico degli Argonauti) was an ancient structure in Rome.The building was located in the Saepta Julia, a large square in the Campus Martius used for public comitia (assemblies). The square, a large free space surrounded by porticoes, was finished by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, admiral and friend of emperor Augustus, in 27 BC. The portico of the Argonauts was added in 25 BC, to commemorate Agrippa's naval victories in 31 BC: it took its name from its decorations, which depicted the mythological expedition of Jason.Studies of the Forma Urbis (an ancient detailed plan of Rome) have located the portico in what is now Via della Minerva, near the basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.A brickwork wall preserved along the eastern side of the Pantheon has been assigned to the Porticus Argonautarum.

Risen Christ (Michelangelo, Santa Maria sopra Minerva)

The Risen Christ, Cristo della Minerva in Italian, also known as Christ the Redeemer or Christ Carrying the Cross, is a marble sculpture by the Italy High Renaissance master Michelangelo, finished in 1521. It is in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, to the left of the main altar.

The work was commissioned in June 1514, by the Roman patrician Metello Vari, who stipulated only that the nude standing figure would have the Cross in his arms, but left the composition entirely to Michelangelo. Michelangelo was working on a first version of this statue in his studio in Macello dei Corvi around 1515, but abandoned it in roughed-out condition when he discovered a black vein in the white marble, remarked upon by Vari in a letter, and later by Ulisse Aldrovandi. A new version was hurriedly substituted in 1519-1520 to fulfil the terms of the contract. Michelangelo worked on it in Florence, and the move to Rome and final touches were entrusted to an apprentice, Pietro Urbano; the latter, however, damaged the work and had to be quickly replaced by Federico Frizzi at the suggestion of Sebastiano del Piombo.

The first version, rough as it was, was asked for by Metello Vari, and given him in January 1522, for the little garden courtyard of his palazzetto near Santa Maria sopra Minerva, come suo grandissimo onore, come fosse d'oro translated as "As his greatest honor, as if it were of gold", a mark of the esteem in which Michelangelo was held". There it remained, described by Aldrovandi in 1556, and noted in some contemporary letters as apparently for sale in 1607, following which it was utterly lost to sight. In 2000 Irene Baldriga recognized the lost first version, finished in the early seventeenth century, in the sacristy of the church of San Vincenzo Martire, at Bassano Romano near Viterbo; the black vein is clearly distinguishable on Christ's left cheek. It is now often called the Giustiniani Christ. The parts finished later are the "right hand, parts of the face and the back".Despite all these problems, the second version impressed the contemporaries. Sebastiano del Piombo declared that the knees alone were worthy of more than the whole Rome, which William Wallace has called "one of the most curious praises ever sung about a work of art" Christ is shown by Michelangelo unclothed in a standing pose. Christ's sexual organs are exposed in order to show that his sexuality is uncorrupted by lust and completely controlled by his will, so that in his resurrected body he shows his triumph over both sin and death. During the Baroque period a bronze floating loincloth was added.

A leg is flexed and the head turned back, according to the principle of contrapposto. Compared to the first version, the more active pose allows more varied impressions when the statue is seen from different angles, "not only activating the space around him, but also suggesting an unfolding story". The first version was exhibited in the National Gallery, London in 2017, in the same room as a cast of the second version, drawings for it, and letter relating to it.

Temple of Minerva, Assisi

The Temple of Minerva (Italian: Tempio di Minerva) is an ancient Roman building in Assisi, Umbria, central Italy. It currently houses a church, Santa Maria sopra Minerva, built in 1539 and renovated in Baroque style in the 17th century.

The temple was built in the 1st century BC by will of Gnaeus Caesius and Titus Caesius Priscus, who were two of the city's quattuorviri and also financed the construction. The attribution to the goddess Minerva derives from the finding of a female statue, although a dedication stone to Hercules has been found, and the temple was likely dedicated to this male demi-god. In the Middle Ages the temple housed a tribunal with an annexed jail, as testified by one of Giotto's frescoes in the St. Francis Basilica, which portrays the church windows with bars.

Of the ancient temple, the façade has been preserved, with six Corinthian columns supporting the architrave and a small pediment. The columns were originally covered by a very strong plaster, which was perhaps colored. The cella was completely demolished during the church's construction, in the 16th century, while a small section of the temple was found in the 20th century near the altar.

The temple was visited and described by the German poet Goethe during his travels in Italy, as the first ancient structure in good condition seen during his life (1786).

Temple of Minerva Chalcidica

The Temple of Minerva Chalcidica or Minervium was a small temple in the Campus Martius in ancient Rome, dedicated to Minerva. It was built by Pompey the Great in around 60 BC (next to the later site of the Temple of Isis and Serapis) and probably destroyed in the fire of 80 AD which destroyed the Campus Martius. It was then rebuilt by Domitian.

Its name survives in that of the 8th century basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, then thought to have been built directly atop the temple ruins - it is now known that the temple was 200 metres west of the church's current location, under the church of Santa Marta.


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