Santi Pietro e Paolo a Via Ostiense

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East facade of the basilica.

Santi Pietro e Paolo a Via Ostiense is one of the titular churches in Rome, to which Cardinal-Priests are appointed. It is a modern building at Piazzale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo 8 in EUR (Esposizione Universale Roma). It is at the west end of the Viale Europa, the last two blocks of which is a monumental approach reserved for pedestrians and paved with polychrome marble. There are colossal statues of the apostles Peter and Paul near the church.


Photo by Paolo Monti, 1967

The title was established on 5 February 1965 by Pope Paul VI. The original scheme was part of the 1936 Fascist scheme for hosting the World Exhibition in 1942, which never took place because of World War II but which left a legacy of monumental buildings in a rather megalomaniac layout. The church was planned for a high point at the west end of the site, and was entrusted to a committee of architects: Arnaldo Foschini, Alfredo Energici, Vittorio Grassi, Nello Ena, Tullio Rossi and Costantino Vetriani. They chose a plan based on a Greek cross, in deliberate emulation of the original plan for the new St Peter’s by Michelangelo. Construction began in 1939, but was delayed by the war and by a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Diocese to be involved. It was only completed in 1955, and became a parish church in 1958. Apparently, the original function of this building was to be the mausoleum of Mussolini.

The parish is administered by the Franciscan Conventuals. The cardinalate title is Santi Pietro e Paolo in Via Ostiense, and the present titular is Pedro Barreto.

Ricardo Vidal, Cardinal-Priest from 1985 to 2017


The site is on a ridge overlooking the Tiber valley, and sloping down to the main area of the EUR on the other side. It is in the north-west corner of the EUR, and is not very conveniently situated; the intention of the planners was that the building should be visible from afar and that it certainly is. The monumental approach from the east side, up a slope,

The surrounding is spectacular and is improved by planted trees. The edifice is a cube in brown brick with stone trim, and with four gigantic pylons attached to each face forming the Greek cross. These pylons are banded with six horizontal stone string courses. The hemispherical dome is covered in hexagonal tiles and sits on a drum having six rectangular recesses containing porthole windows. The lantern is a cylinder with fourteen rectangular slits, capped with a conical finial crowned by a statue of Our Lady. The entrance is in the eastern pylon, and in the enormous rectangular recess above the doors is a relief of the resurrected Christ with the apostles. Immediately above the door is the Confession of Peter in Latin, and above the recess is a dedicatory inscription.


Compared to the magnificent site and exterior, the interior is a serious disappointment. Apart from a marble dado, all the interior surfaces are painted in a uniform light brownish yellow and have developed unsightly surface cracks. The dome is coffered with a cross motif, has a stained glass window in the oculus showing a cross. There are eight round windows in the dome's drum, and no other windows. The interior is dominated by the mosaic of Christ in glory over the main altar. The left-hand side chapel is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and contains a mosaic of the Madonna and Child venerated by angels, while the right-hand one is dedicated to St Francis of Assisi and contains a mosaic of him and other Franciscan saints. There are reliefs depicting the Evangelists at the cardinal points. Perhaps the most interesting thing in the church is the enormous corona, a sixteen-sided light fitting suspended from the dome pendentive and matching the width of the dome.

Holders of the title[edit]

The Cardinal-Priests of Ss. Pietro e Paolo a Via Ostiense include:

Coordinates: 41°50′01″N 12°27′33″E / 41.8337°N 12.4593°E / 41.8337; 12.4593