Santa Francesca Romana, Rome
The church was built in the second half of 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; it was 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. 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.
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.
The church houses the precious Madonna Glycophilousa ("Our Lady of Tenderness"), an early 5th-century Hodegetria icon brought from Santa Maria Antiqua. The twelfth-century Madonna and Child that had been painted over it was meticulously detached from the panel in 1950, and is now kept in the sacristy.
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 and 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. 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.
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
- 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)
- 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].
- Jacobus (Giacopo) de Torso Utinensis (9 May 1408 - 1413) [by Gregory XII, Roman Obedience]
- Pietro Barbo (1 July 1440 - 16 June 1451) translated to S. Marco, later Pope Paul II (1464-1471)
- Francesco Gonzaga (2 April 1462 - 21 October 1483).
- Giovanni Arcimboldo (15 November 1483 - 2 October 1488).
- Giovanni Battista Orsini (23 March 1489 - 27 February 1493). translated to SS. Giovanni e Paolo.
- Cesare Borgia (23 September 1493 - 18 August 1498) resigned.
- Raymond Pérault, OSA (Peraudi) (29 April 1499 - 5 September 1505).
- Francesco Lloris y de Borja (17 December 1505 - 22 July 1506).
- Sigismondo Gonzaga (16 December 1506 - 3 October 1525).
- Ercole Gonzaga (5 May 1527 - 3 March 1563).
- Federico Gonzaga (4 March 1563 - 21 February 1565).
- Ippolito d'Este (13 April 1565 - 2 December 1572).
- Filippo Guastavillani (14 July 1574 - 8 November 1577).
- Andreas von Austria (11 December 1577 - 12 November 1600).
- Alessandro d'Este (15 November 1600 - 11 January 1621). translated to the Deaconry of S. Eustachio.
- Maurizio di Savoia (17 March 1621 - 19 April 1621). translated to the Deaconry of S. Eustachio.
- Ippolito Aldobrandini (17 May 1621 - 16 March 1626) translated to the Deaconry of S. Angelo in Pescheria.
- Marzio Ginetti (6 October 1627 - 6 February 1634). translated to the Deaconry of S. Angelo in Pescheria.
- Giulio Gabrielli (10 February 1642 - 10 November 1642). translated to the Deaconry of S. Agata de' Goti.
- Virginio Orsini, OSIoHieros. (10 November 1642 - 14 March 1644). translated to the Deaconry of S. Maria in Cosmedin.
- Rinaldo d'Este (28 November 1644 - 12 December 1644). translated to the Deaconry of S. Niccolo in Carcere.
- Giancarlo de' Medici (20 March 1645 - 6 March 1656).
Cardinal Priests of S. Francesca Romana
- Charles-Philippe Place (1887–1893)
- Léon-Benoit-Charles Thomas (1893–1894)
- Joseph-Christian-Ernest Bourret (1894–1896)
- Guillaume-Marie-Joseph Labouré (1898–1906)
- Louis-Henri-Joseph Luçon (1907–1930)
- Francesco Marchetti Selvaggiani (1930–1936)
- Enrico Sibilia (1936–1939)
- Adam Stefan Sapieha (1946–1951)
- Joseph Wendel (1953–1960)
- Luis Concha Córdoba (1961–1975)
- Emmanuel Kiwanuka Nsubuga (1976–1991)
- Angelo Sodano (1991–1994; in commendam since 1994, when he became Cardinal Bishop of Albano, and then of Ostia as well)
- This history of construction follows Touring Club Italiano, Roma e dintorni 1965:153f.
- 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.
- 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.
- (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).
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