Santa Maria della Scala Church Rome

The Church of Santa Maria della Scala can be found in the Trastevere quarter on Rome.

Santa Maria della Scala Church Rome

Address, opening hours and admission

Address: Piazza della Scala, 23 – Rome (tel. +39 06 5806233). Opening hours: From 10.00 till 13.00 and from 16.00 till 17.30. Admission: Free.

History and description

Tradition holds that the icon of the Madonna in the northern transept once cured a child. The icon had been placed on the stairway of the house where the child lived and when her mother started praying in front of it the child became better. Pope Clement VIII then built the church next to the house where this miracle (and some others as well) had occurred.

The Madonna della Scala, as the icon is known, shares her chapel with the funerary monument of Cardinal Prospero Santacroce, who holds the dubious honor of being the first Roman to smoke tobacco. For a while tobacco was even called erba santacroce in Rome.

The church and the adjacent convent were built between 1593 and 1610, next to what was the Papal Pharmacy (la Spezieria) at the time. The entrance to this pharmacy can be found in the Piazza della Scala, 23.

The Barefoot Carmelites had chosen Francesco Capriano da Volterra to be the architect, but when he died Girolamo Rainaldi finished the construction of Santa Maria della Scala. The convent was partly designed by Matteo da Città di Castello and partly by Ottaviano Mascherino. Its interior was restored in the 19th century.

The slightly convex facade was not completed until 1624. A niche in the bottom part of the facade contains a Madonna with Child made by Francesco Cusart in 1633.

During the resistance of the Roman troops against the French army Santa Maria della Scala was used as a hospital for Garibaldi‘s wounded soldiers and a.o. Luciano Manara died in the church.

Works of art in the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Scala

  • A baroque statue of Juan de La Cruz (John of the Cross) next to the Maria icon.
  • Carlo Rainaldi made the baldachin with 16 Corinthian columns as wells as the main altar.
  • Carlo Saraceni‘s Death of the Virgin replaces the original by Caravaggio, which was moved because the latter would have used a prostitute as a model. The Louvre didn’t mind.
  • Pomarancio‘s Madonna che Porge lo Scapolare a S. Simeone Stock hangs above the altar of the first chapel on the left.
  • The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist in the first chapel on the right is a work of the Dutchman Gerrit van Honthorst (in Rome known under the name Gherardo delle Notti).
  • Madonna with Child and Saints, in the 2nd chapel on the right, was painted by Antiveduto Grammatica.
  • Another Madonna with Child can be found in the choir loft and was done by Cavalier d’Arpino.
  • There is an altar for Santa Teresa di Avila, with a relic in the shape of her right foot, designed by Pannini.
  • The presbytery contains the Ciborio, a small temple with columns of Sicilian alabaster and a bronze dome.
  • Next to the entrance and in the atrium portaits of Fra’ Basilio della Concezione can be seen. Brother Basilio was able to make potions against the Plague and against hysteria.

Piazza della Scala, 23 – Rome

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