Costa Chapel (Santa Maria del Popolo)

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The chapel with the marble altarpiece of Gian Cristoforo Romano

The Costa Chapel (Italian: Cappella Costa) is located in the south aisle of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. This is the fourth side chapel from the counterfaçade and was dedicated to St Catherine of Alexandria. The lunettes were painted by Pinturicchio and the marble altar-piece is attributed to the school of Andrea Bregno.


The chapel originally owned by Domenico della Rovere was acquired by Portuguese Cardinal Jorge da Costa (the italianized name is Giorgio Costa) for 200 gold ducats in 1488. The architecture shows a certain Lombard influence and it is attributed to Andrea Bregno. Costa was a well-known and influential personality in the court of Pope Alexander VI. The Cardinal employed the same workshop for the fresco decoration as the Della Rovere dynasty: the school of Pinturicchio. It is not unlikely that the patron consciously sought out the same artist.[1] The chapel preserved its original form except one window that was walled up for the creation of a new monument in 1833.


The small chapel is hexagonal with a sexpartite ribbed vault and the entrance is protected by an elegant marble parapet which is decorated by garlands and patenas. The fresco decoration was painted by a helper of Pinturicchio, stylistically close to Melozzo da Forli. The side walls are articulated by painted Corinthian pilasters decorated with candelabra, flowers and garlands on a yellow background, resting on a fake monochrome pedestal. The ribs and the splays of the two arched windows were decorated with grotesques but only the right-hand window is preserved (the other one was later walled up). The vault is covered with a blue carpet and gold stars. The overall concept of the painted decoration is similar to that of the Della Rovere Chapel but the sculptural elements play a bigger part in the Costa Chapel.


The most important original frescos in the chapel are the paintings of the five lunettes (1488-90). Four of them depict the Fathers of the Church in front of a blue background: St. Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great. The central lunette is filled with the sculpted coats-of-arms of Cardinal Costa (the wheel of St Catherine) which is supported by two painted angels.

Sculptural works[edit]

The main altar-piece is attributed to Gian Cristoforo Romano (c. 1505). The tripartite marble reredos is articulated by Corinthian pilasters and crowned by an elaborate pediment with the figure of God, the Father. There are three sculptures of saints in shell-headed niches: St. Catherine of Alexandria in the middle (with the wheel), St. Vincent and Anthony of Padua. The high pedestal is decorated with the coats-of-arms of Cardinal Costa.

The funeral monument of a young Roman knight, Marcantonio Albertoni, who died of plague at the age of 30 in 1485, covers the right wall. The marble sepulchre with the recumbent effigy of the deceased was created by Iacopo di Andrea da Firenze in 1487. Originally, at least until 1600, it was placed in the right transept. The marble tomb was commissioned by the knight's mother, Caterina Albertoni. It is the only known work of the Florentine sculptor who was mentioned in the contract dated to 20 April 1487.[2]

On the opposite side is the monument of Cardinal Jorge da Costa created by the school of Bregno. The lunette is filled by a lovely relief of Mary in mandorla with two angels. Costa died in 1508 but the tomb was probably prepared well before this date, probably few years after the dedication of the chapel. It is very similar to the monument of Cristoforo della Rovere in the Chapel of the Nativity but "in a less masterly workmanship".[3]

The third original monument is the tombstone (in the floor) of Archbishop Giorgio Bracharin by the workshop of Antonio del Pollaiolo (end of 15th century). It was placed in the chapel by Cardinal Costa. The tombstone is undated. The Archbishop lies in full robes, his hands crossed. The relief is very deep and a rich spiral border runs around the slab.[3]

In 1833 another monument was placed in the chapel: the funeral monument of Vincenzo Casciani by Luigi Poletti and Matteo Kassel. The left-hand window was walled up to provide space for the new neoclassical marble monument.

The marble and bronze tomb of Cardinal Pietro Foscari, coming from the demolished Foscari Chapel, was originally in the presbytery of the church. It is by Giovanni di Stefano (1480s) but previously thought to have been created by Vecchietta.



  1. ^ Passaglia Bauman, cit., pag. 56.
  2. ^ Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Vol. 62 (2004)
  3. ^ a b Gerald S. Davies, cit. pag. 308


  • Lisa Passaglia Bauman, Piety and Public Consumption: Domenico, Girolamo and Julius II della Rovere at Santa Maria del Popolo; in: Patronage and Dynasty. The Rise of the Della Rovere in Renaissance Italy, Truman State University Press, 2007
  • Sara Magister: Iacopo di Andrea, in: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Vol. 62 (2004)
  • Gerald S. Davies: Renascence. The Sculptured Tombs of the Fifteenth Century in Rome, E. P. Dutton and Company, New York, 1916