Santi Apostoli, Rome

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Santi XII Apostoli
Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles
SS. XII Apostolorum(in Latin)
SS Apostoli 001.jpg
View of the church from the Vittoriano.
Santi Apostoli, Rome
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41°53′53.18″N12°28′59.54″E / 41.8981056°N 12.4832056°E / 41.8981056; 12.4832056 Coordinates: 41°53′53.18″N12°28′59.54″E / 41.8981056°N 12.4832056°E / 41.8981056; 12.4832056
LocationPiazza Dei Santi Apostoli, Rome
Country Italy
Denomination Roman Catholic
Tradition Roman Rite
Website Official website
Status Parish church, titulus, minor basilica
Dedication Twelve Apostles
Architect(s) Baccio Pontelli, Carlo Rainaldi, Carlo Fontana
Architectural type Church
Style Baroque
Groundbreaking 6th century
Length75 metres (246 ft)
Width40 metres (130 ft)
Nave width18 metres (59 ft)
Province Diocese of Rome
Cardinal protector Father Mario Peruzzo [1]

Santi Dodici Apostoli (Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles; Latin : SS. Duodecim Apostolorum), commonly known simply as Santi Apostoli, is a 6th-century Roman Catholic parish and titular church and minor basilica in Rome, Italy, dedicated originally to St. James and St. Philip, whose remains are kept here, and later to all Apostles. Today, the basilica is under the care of the Conventual Franciscans, whose headquarters in Rome is in the adjacent building. [2] It is the Station church for Friday, the first week of Lent. [3]


The Cardinal Priest of the Titulus XII Apostolorum is Angelo Scola. Among the previous Cardinal Priests are Pope Clement XIV, whose tomb by Canova is in the basilica, and Henry Benedict Stuart.


The first church dedicated to the Holy Apostles was one built under Pope Julius I in the mid-fourth century near Trajan's Forum. It is listed as "Titulus SS Apostolorum" in the acts of the synod of 499. Its successor was built by Pope Pelagius I, on the present site, to celebrate the victory of Narses over the Ostrogoths at the Battle of Taginae in 552. General Narses contributed to the construction of the building. [3] It was dedicated around 570 by Pope John III to St. James and Saint Philip the Apostle. Santi Apostoli was ruined by the earthquake of 1348, and left abandoned.

In 1417, Pope Martin V, whose Colonna family owned the adjacent Palazzo Colonna, restored the church. The Franciscans took charge of the church in 1463. A more extensive restoration was undertaken by Pope Sixtus IV and his nephew, Giuliano della Rovere, from 1471 to 1484.

The inscriptions found in SS. XII Apostoli, a valuable source illustrating the history of the church, have been collected and published by Vincenzo Forcella. [4]


The 15th century portico that precedes the present facade is by Baccio Pontelli. In 1665, Carlo Rainaldi walled up the arches in the upper level and installed statues on the parapet. The church was later restored again, with the facade completed by Giuseppe Valadier in 1827. [5]

On the wall of the portico on the right side, is an antique bas-relief of an eagle surrounded by an oak crown that it holds in its talons. Opposite is the monument of the Venetian engraver Giovanni Volpato sculpted and erected by his friend and countryman Antonio Canova. It consists of a large bas-relief, representing "Friendship in Mourning" in the form of a woman weeping before the bust of the deceased Volpato. [6]


Facade of the Basilica and plan Dodici Apostoli.jpg
Facade of the Basilica and plan
Triumph of the Franciscan Order, Baciccio Basilica dei Santi Apostoli (Rome) - Ceiling.jpg
Triumph of the Franciscan Order, Baciccio
Basilica dei Santi Apostoli (Roma) - Interior Basilica dei Santi Apostoli (Roma) - Interior.jpg
Basilica dei Santi Apostoli (Roma) - Interior

Around 1700, Pope Clement XI instigated dramatic renovations of the church. A new Baroque interior was designed by Carlo Fontana and completed in 1714. The fresco on the vaulted ceiling is the Triumph of Franciscan Order by Baciccio. [5] Above the sanctuary is a fresco from 1709 by Giovanni Odazzi, representing the "Fall of Lucifer and his Angels".

There are also later frescoes of the Evangelists by Luigi Fontana in the apse. [7] The main altar had a baldacchino with four porphyry columns. The altarpiece is by Domenico Maria Muratori and depicts the Martyrdoms of the Apostles Philip and James the Less.

To the right of the high altar are the tombs of Count Giraud de Caprières (died 1505) and Cardinal Raffaele Riario (died 1521), tentatively attributed to Michelangelo. To the left is a monument to Cardinal Pietro Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, by the school of Andrea Bregno and possible designed by Andrea Bregno himself. There is also a Madonna by Mino da Fiesole.

Next to a pier of the nave on the right-hand side, near the first chapel, is enshrined the heart of Maria Klementyna Sobieska, wife of the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart. Her tomb is in St Peter's Basilica. Her monument is by Filippo della Valle. Her husband used to pray here every morning; it was his parish church when he lived at the nearby Palazzo Muti.

Entrance to the crypt Franc XII Apostoli fc03.jpg
Entrance to the crypt

The confessio was constructed in 1871. During its construction, the relics of St James and St Philip, which were taken from the catacombs in the 9th century to protect them from invaders, were rediscovered under the high altar. [3] The wall paintings are reproductions of ancient catacomb paintings. An inscription explains that Pope Stephen IV walked barefoot in 886 from the catacombs to the church carrying the relics on his shoulders.

Frescoes of Melozzo da Forlì

A fragment of the removed fresco by Melozzo da Forli Da Forli - Angel with Lute head.jpg
A fragment of the removed fresco by Melozzo da Forlì

About 1472, Melozzo da Forlì was commissioned by Cardinal Pietro Riario to paint the vault of the apse, his subject being the Ascension of Christ. It is one of the earliest known examples of perspective applied to the human figure on roof or ceiling decoration. [8] According to Giorgio Vasari, "the figure of Christ is so admirably foreshortened as to appear to pierce the vault; and in the same manner the angels are seen sweeping through the field of air in two opposite directions." [9]

This fresco was taken down in 1711 when Clement IX enlarged the choir. The figure of Christ is now in the Quirinal Palace. Some of the other portions, which influenced Raphael, are in the sacristy of St Peter's. A hall in the Vatican Museums, holds designs of angels and apostles by Melozzo, taken from the same fresco.


The twelve side chapels were reduced in number during the renovations of Clement IX.

Pope Clement XIV (1769–1774) is buried at the end of the left side aisle, near the door of the sacristy. His Neo-Classical tomb is by Antonio Canova, made in 1783-1787. [5] Besides the statue of that Pope, there are two uncommonly fine figures of "Temperance" and "Clemency". This was the first major work Canova did in Rome. [10]


For a short time, the basilica housed the tomb of Michelangelo, before its transportation to the Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze. Upon the death of James Francis Edward Stuart in 1766, his body lay in state here before he was buried with his wife at St. Peter's Basilica. [10]

List of Cardinal-priests since 1059

List of the cardinal titulars of the church [11] [12] [13] [14]

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  1. Official website of the vicariate of Rome Archived February 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  2. "Basilica dei Santi XII Apostoli", Religiana
  3. 1 2 3 "Friday: Santi XII Apostoli", PNAC
  4. 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. 219-298.
  5. 1 2 3 "The Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles", Turismo Roma, Major Events, Sport, Tourism and Fashion Department
  6. Vasi, Mariano (1824), A new picture of Rome and its environs in the form of an itinerary, Cradock, & Joy, p. 176
  7. Vasta, Daniela. La pittura sacra in Italia nell’Ottocento: Dal Neoclassicismo al Simbolismo, p. 102.
  8. Gillet, Louis. "Melozzo da Forlí." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 19 January 2023 PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain .
  9. Lanzi, Luigi (1828), The History of Painting in Italy: The schools of Bologna, Ferrara, Genoa, and Piedmont, W. Simpkin and R. Marshall, p. 43
  10. 1 2 3 "Santi Apostoli", Churches of Rome
  11. Rudolf Hüls, Kardinäle, Klerus und Kirchen Roms , 1049-1130 (Tubingen: Max Niemeyer 1977), pp. 150-153.
  12. Conradus Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii aevi I, editio altera (Monasterii 1913) pp. 39-40.
  13. GCatholic Cardinal Title Santi XII Apostoli
  14. Salvador Miranda, The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: XII Apostolorum Retrieved 03/08/2016
  15. Angelo Fumagalli, Delle Istituzioni Diplomatiche (Milano: Al Genio Tipografico 1802), p. 140.


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