IS THIS ROME’S SMALLEST CHURCH?
I had the most beautiful, serendipitous discovery a few days ago and want to share it with those of you who live in Rome and those intending to visit the Eternal City.
I had a late afternoon appointment not far from Rome’s central Largo Argentina, after which I had to run an errand at a hardware store in nearby Via di Torre Argentina. As I turned a corner that brought me to Via di Torre Argentina, I started walking down the street and noted an open door I had not seen before (premise: I am not on this street very often). It was obviously a church or chapel so I walked in and was amazed at what I saw.
A sign over the entrance read, “Divis Benedicto et Scholasticae Patronis nursinus ordo et populus” (“To the honored patrons Benedict and Scholastica, the council and people of Norcia”).
I went in and prayed for a minute or two and when I got up, the sacristan Leonardo came over and shook my hand. I asked him about the church and he said it has been there since medieval times, eventually languished and actually became a storage room and had various other secular uses until the start of the 17th century when it returned to being a church dedicated to the saintly twin siblings Benedict and Scholastica.
A priest came in (there is a small, separate sacristy) and I learned there was daily Mass at 6 pm (and Sundays at 11). I had minutes to actually run my errand and I returned in time for the 6 pm Mass in the presence of a handful of faithful. I went back last night for Mass and to have my throat blessed on the feast of St. Blaise before I had to go to a parish council meeting. I’ll have to return on the February 10 feast of St. Scholastica!
I took a few photos on my first visit and came home to research the history of this little jewel. By little, I mean little: I think the church is maybe 15 feet wide and 30 to 35 feet long! I explored a number of Italian language websites, including http://www.nursini.org/. The following, however, is, in part, from wikipedia. Enjoy! Stop in when you have a chance to say an Ave Maria some day.
This tiny church is one of the smallest in Rome and is the regional church for natives of the city and region of Norcia living in Rome. An archconfraternity to care for the welfare of Nursian expatriates was set up in Rome in 1615, and it was bequeathed a property on the Via di Torre Argentina.
The already existing house chapel was converted into a church with a separate entrance in 1625. It was dedicated to St, Benedict who started his monastic career at Norcia before moving to Montecassino, and to St, Scholastica, his sister and by tradition the first Benedictine nun. After 1808, during the French occupation of Rome, the church was looted of its artworks and desecrated. It suffered the same fate under the Roman Republic in 1849. At present it is cherished by its small congregation.
The church is part of a larger building and thus has no separate architectural identity. The small interior was entirely restored in the 19th century. There is a painting of the patrons over the altar and over that a lunette containing stained glass showing the Madonna and Child being venerated by saints. The baroque altar has polychrome marble inlay.
The confraternity celebrates the following feast days:
· Feast of St. Scholastica (and the Sunday following her liturgical feast) February 10)
· Feast of St. Benedict: July 11
· Feast of the church and the archconfraternity: second Sunday of November