Santi Luca e Martina

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The church of Santi Luca e Martina with the remains of the Roman Forum Santi Luca e Martina al Foro Romano - 02 - Panairjdde.jpg
The church of Santi Luca e Martina with the remains of the Roman Forum

Santi Luca e Martina [1] is a church in Rome, Italy, situated between the Roman Forum and the Forum of Caesar and close to the Arch of Septimus Severus.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth-most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Roman Forum archaeological site in Rome, Italy

The Roman Forum, also known by its Latin name Forum Romanum, is a rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum.

Forum of Caesar square

The Forum of Caesar, also known as Forum Iulium or Forum Julium, Forum Caesaris, is a forum built by Julius Caesar near the Forum Romanum in Rome in 46 BC.



The church was initially dedicated to Saint Martina, martyred in 228 AD during the reign of Emperor Alexander Severus. In 625 Pope Honorius I commissioned construction of the church. Restored first in 1256 during the reign of Pope Alexander IV, it was a simple rectangular structure surrounded on three sides by other constructions until it was rebuilt by the painter and architect, Pietro da Cortona, in the seventeenth century.

Pope Honorius I pope

Pope Honorius I was Pope from 27 October 625 to his death in 638.

Pope Alexander IV pope

Pope Alexander IV was Pope from 12 December 1254 to his death in 1261.

Pietro da Cortona Italian painter and architect of the High Baroque

Pietro da Cortona was an Italian Baroque painter and architect. Along with his contemporaries and rivals Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini, he was one of the key figures in the emergence of Roman Baroque architecture. He was also an important designer of interior decorations.

In 1577 the Accademia di San Luca, the academy of painters, sculptors and architects in Rome, was founded and in 1588 it was given the church which was rededicated as S. Luca in S. Martina. [2] The academy undertook minor refurbishments of the church and also there were projects for a new church prepared in drawings attributed to Ottaviano Mascherino (1536–1606). Gradually the academy began to acquire properties adjacent to the church.

In 1634, Pietro da Cortona was elected president of the academy. Almost at once he began restoration of the crypt and, as was common at this time in Rome, buried remains were found and were attributed to the martyred Saint Martina. No doubt it was hoped that this would precipitate an influx of funds to shelter the relics in a new church. In November 1634, Pope Urban VIII visited the church, and the papal nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who had been protector of the church since 1626, dedicated 6,000 scudi [3] although their full support for a new building seems to be in some doubt. [4] Construction of the new edifice began in 1635 but was subject to interruptions such as Cortona's extended visit to Florence from 1639–47 and Francesco Barberini's flight from Pope Innocent X to Paris from 1645-48. At the time of Cortona's death in 1669, some parts, such as the interior dome decoration, were still incomplete. [5]

Pope Urban VIII 17th-century Catholic pope

Pope Urban VIII reigned as Pope from 6 August 1623 to his death in 1644. He expanded the papal territory by force of arms and advantageous politicking, and was also a prominent patron of the arts and a reformer of Church missions.

Francesco Barberini (1597–1679) Italian cardinal 1597-1679

Francesco Barberini was an Italian Catholic Cardinal. The nephew of Pope Urban VIII, he benefited immensely from the nepotism practiced by his uncle. He was given various roles within the Vatican administration but his personal cultural interests, particularly in literature and the arts, meant that he became a highly significant patron. His secretary was the antiquarian Cassiano dal Pozzo who was also a discerning patron of the arts. Francesco was the elder brother of Cardinal Antonio Barberini and Taddeo Barberini who became Prince of Palestrina.

Florence Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.


Facade Santi Luca e Martina - facciata.jpg

The plan of the upper church is almost a Greek cross with nearly equal arms and the centre is crowned by the dome. Large Ionic columns, supporting a large entablature, cluster around the crossing and populate the wall spaces of the apsidal transepts, choir and nave. The windows in the apsidal vaults are each surmounted by a split pediment with a head in a scallop shell with octagonal coffering above, motifs which Cortona used in his fresco painting. [6] However, apart from the altarpieces, the interior is white stucco; a surprising design decision for a church dedicated to the patron saint of painting (St. Luke), built for the painting academy in Rome and by a painter who had decorated some of the most opulent church vaults in Rome such as Santa Maria in Vallicella. The interior dome decoration has been attributed to Cortona's pupil and collaborator, Ciro Ferri; [7] ribs and coffering are combined as they are at Santa Maria della Pace but here the forms of the coffering are far more fluid and almost shimmer with movement.

Entablature architectural element

An entablature is the superstructure of moldings and bands which lies horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals. Entablatures are major elements of classical architecture, and are commonly divided into the architrave, the frieze, and the cornice. The Greek and Roman temples are believed to be based on wooden structures, the design transition from wooden to stone structures being called petrification.

Transept architectural term

A transept is a transverse part of any building, which lies across the main body of the edifice. In churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform ("cross-shaped") building within the Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architectural traditions. Each half of a transept is known as a semitransept.

Pediment element in classical, neoclassical and baroque architecture

A pediment is an architectural element found particularly in classical, neoclassical and baroque architecture, and its derivatives, consisting of a gable, usually of a triangular shape, placed above the horizontal structure of the entablature, typically supported by columns. The tympanum, the triangular area within the pediment, is often decorated with relief sculpture.

Two stairways from the upper church lead down to the lower church that has a corridor connecting to an octagonal chapel directly below the dome of the upper church and the chapel of Santa Martina below the high altar. A circular opening in the vault of the octagonal chapel allows a view through up to the dome of the upper church. In contrast to the white spatial expansiveness of the upper church, the lower church, and particularly the chapel of Santa Martina, is richly decorated with colour, marbles, gilt bronze and has relatively low vaults. In the Chapel of Santa Martina, the Ionic columns in the corners have been placed on the diagonal, reminiscent of Michelangelo's design of the Sforza Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, and so setting up oblique as well as orthogonal tensions in this chapel centred on the altar to S. Martina.

Michelangelo Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni or more commonly known by his first name Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance born in the Republic of Florence, who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered by many the greatest artist of his lifetime, and by some the greatest artist of all time, his artistic versatility was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his rival, the fellow Florentine and client of the Medici, Leonardo da Vinci.

The gentle curvature of the facade is contained by a double storey of paired pilasters [8] The columns of the ground storey are pressed into the wall rather than projecting as a spatial entity like the entrance portico at Santa Maria della Pace. Other elements such as pediments and mouldings are allowed to project between the columns to create spatial tensions which are reminiscent of Florentine Mannerism. [9]

In the upper church, the main altarpiece Saint Luke painting the Madonna was painted by Antiveduto Grammatica, and is a copy of the original attributed to Raphael found now in art collection of the Accademia. Below this is a white marble statue of the martyred S. Martina by Nicolo Menghini. In the left transept is an Assumption and Saint Sebastian by Sebastiano Conca, and in the right transept is the Martyrdom of San Lazzaro by Lazzaro Baldi who is buried here. Inside the main entrance door to the upper church, a stone slab marks Cortona's burial place (died 1669) and there is a wall memorial with a bust of Cortona by Bernrdo Fioiti in the lower church.

The sculptures of the Evangelists in the pendentives of the dome are 18th-century additions sculpted by Filippo della Valle, Camillo Rusconi, and Giovanni Battista Maini. To the right of the entrance is the monument to Carlo Pio Balestra (1776) by Tommaso Righi and a Monument to Giovanna Garzoni by Mattia De Rossi.

In the sacristy is a relief of the Ecstasy of St Mary Magdalene by Alessandro Algardi.


  1. entry
  2. Jorg Martin Merz, Pietro da Cortona and Roman Baroque Architecture, 2008, Yale University Press, p. 53
  3. Connors, Joseph (1998). "Pietro da Cortona 1597-1669". Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 57, No. 3. 57 (3): 318–321. doi:10.2307/991350. JSTOR   991350.
  4. J. M. Merz, 2008, p. 55
  5. A. Blunt, 1982, p.73
  6. Rudolf Wittkower, Art and Architecture in Italy 1600-1750, Pelican History of Art, 1985 edn., p.237
  7. J.M.Merz, 2008, p.59
  8. Blunt, Anthony. Borromini, 1979. Blunt considers whether Pietro da Cortona with his design for Santi Luca e Martina or Francesco Borromini at San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane was the first to plan a curved church facade and decides in favour of Cortona, p. 76-77.
  9. R. Wittkower, 1985, p.239-41

Coordinates: 41°53′35.4″N12°29′6.3″E / 41.893167°N 12.485083°E / 41.893167; 12.485083

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