Santa Francesca Romana, Rome

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Santa Francesca Romana
Santa Francesca Romana 09feb08 03.jpg
Santa Francesca Romana's travertine façade (by Carlo Lambardi, 1615) and its 12th-century Romanesque
DenominationRoman Catholic
Former name(s)Santa Maria Nova
Relics heldSaint Frances of Rome

Santa Francesca Romana (Italian: Basilica di Santa Francesca Romana), previously known as Santa Maria Nova, is a church in Rome, Italy, situated next to the Roman Forum in the rione Campitelli.


The church was built in the tenth century, incorporating an eighth-century oratory that Pope Paul I excavated in the wing of the portico of the Temple of Venus and Roma; it was named Santa Maria Nova (or "Nuova", "new St. Mary"), to distinguish it from the other Roman Forum church devoted to St. Mary, Santa Maria Antiqua ("ancient St. Mary"), which had become dilapidated in the tenth century;[1] expanded in the second half of the tenth century, it was then rebuilt by Pope Honorius III in the thirteenth century, when the campanile was built and the apse was decorated with mosaics of a Maestà, the Madonna enthroned accompanied by saints. The interior has been altered since. Since 1352 the church has been in the care of the Olivetans. In the 16th century, the church was rededicated to Frances of Rome (Francesca Buzzi), who was canonized in 1608 and whose relics are in the crypt. In her youth it was served by Benedictine monks. Its travertine porch and façade is by Carlo Lambardi, and was completed in 1615.

The inscriptions found in Santa Francesca Romana (S. Maria Nuova), a valuable source illustrating the history of the church, have been collected and published by Vincenzo Forcella.[2]

The interior, a single nave with side chapels, was rebuilt by Lombardi in the years preceding Francesca Buzzi's canonization, beginning in 1595. In the middle of the nave is the rectangular schola cantorum of the old church, covered in Cosmatesque mosaics. Another prominent feature is the confessional designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1638–49), in polychrome marbles with four columns veneered in jasper.

Rear area of the church, showing the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome.
Tomb of Gregory XI

The sacristy houses the precious Madonna Glycophilousa ("Our Lady of Tenderness"), an early 5th-century icon brought from Santa Maria Antiqua. The twelfth-century Madonna and Child had been painted over. It was meticulously detached from the panel in 1950.

The ancient oratory on which the current church was built was located by Pope Paul I on the place in which Simon Magus died. According to this legend, Simon Magus wanted to prove his powers as stronger than those of the apostles, and started levitating in front of Sts. Peter and Paul. The two apostles fell on their knees preaching, and Simon fell, dying. The basalt stones where the apostles were imprinted by the knees of the two apostles are embedded in the wall of the south transept.

The tomb of Pope Gregory XI, who returned the papacy to Rome from Avignon, reconstructed to a design by Per Paulo Olivieri (signed and dated 1584) is in the south transept.

The Deaconry was suppressed on 8 August 1661. S. Maria Nova was reestablished, as the Titulus of a Cardinal Priest, on 17 March 1887 by Pope Leo XIII. The titulus of the church remains Sancta Mariae Novae; the current Cardinal Priest of the Titulus S. Mariae Novae is Angelo Sodano. A Cardinal Priest no longer has any jurisdiction over his titular church or its clergy.[3] He is only the Cardinal Protector.

Saint Francesca Romana has been named the patron of car drivers, because of a legend that an angel used to light her way with a lamp when she travelled at night. Automobiles line up on the day of her feast (9 March) as far as the Colosseum, to partake of the blessing.[4]

The facade of the Church of Holy Cross College, in Clonliffe in Dublin, Ireland, is a replica of Santa Francesca Romana. It was designed by the Gothic Architect J.J. McCarthy and is the only exception to his list of Gothic works.

Cardinal Deacons of S. Maria Nova[edit]

12th century[edit]

  • Aymeric de la Chatre (December 1120 - 28 May 1141).
  • Giovanni (17 December 1143 - 1153).
  • Hieronymus ( 1164 - 1167 ?)
  • Ughizio ( 1172 - 1173).
  • Matthaeus (March 1178 - 1182).
  • Bernardo (12 March 1188 - 1193)

14th century[edit]

  • Pietro Valeriano Duraguerra (17 December 1295 - 17 December 1302).
  • Raimundus de Got (15 December 1305 - 26 June 1310).
  • Raimundus de Fargis (19 December 1310 - 5 October 1346).
  • Pierre Roger de Beaufort (29 May 1348 - 30 December 1370) Elected Pope Gregory XI (1370-1378).
  • Ludovico de Altavilla (18 September 1378 - ca. 1380) [by Urban VI].
  • Amadeo de Saluzzo (23 December 1383 - 28 June 1419) [Avignon Obedience].
  • Marino Buleanus, OSB [Bulcani, Vulcani] (17 December 1384 - 8 August 1394) [by Urban VI].

15th century[edit]

16th century[edit]

17th century[edit]

Cardinal Priests of S. Francesca Romana[edit]

Cardinal Protectors[edit]

View from Palatine Hill


  1. ^ This history of construction follows Touring Club Italiano, Roma e dintorni 1965:153f.
  2. ^ V. Forcella, Inscrizioni delle chese e d' altre edifici di Roma, dal secolo XI fino al secolo XVI Volume II (Roma: Fratelli Bencini, 1873), pp. 1-16.
  3. ^ Codex Iuris Canonici (1983), Canon 357. § 1. Cardinales, quibus Ecclesia suburbicaria aut ecclesia in Urbe in titulum est assignata, postquam in eiusdem venerunt possessionem, earundem dioecesium et ecclesiarum bonum consilio et patrocinio promoveant, nulla tamen in easdem potestate regiminis pollentes, ac nulla ratione sese in iis interponentes, quae ad earum bonorum administrationem, ad disciplinam aut ecclesiarum servitium spectant.
  4. ^ (TCI) Roma e dintorni 1965:153.


  • Roma, Touring Club Italiano, 2004.
  • Placido Lugano, S. Maria Nova (S. Francesca Romana) (Roma : Libreria Mantegazza, [1930?]).
  • Elfriede Kartusch, Das Cardinalskollegium in der Zeit von 1181 bis 1227 (Wien 1948).
  • P. Ronci, Basilica di Santa Maria Nova, Santa Francesca Romana al Foro Romano (Christen, 1973).
  • H. W. Klewitz, Reformpapsttum und Kardinalkolleg (Darmstadt 1957).
  • Barbara Zenker, Die Mitglieder des Kardinalkollegiums von 1130 bis 1159 (Wurzburg 1964).
  • R. Hüls, Kardinäle, Klerus und Kirchen Roms: 1049-1130 (Tübingen 1977).

External links[edit]

Media related to Santa Francesca Romana (Rome) at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 41°53′28.21″N 12°29′19.87″E / 41.8911694°N 12.4888528°E / 41.8911694; 12.4888528