San Filippo Neri in Via Giulia

San Filippo Neri in Via Giulia

The resurrection of a semi-demolished church




    The small church of San Filippo Neri, commonly called San Filippino owing to its small dimensions, was erected in 1623 and originally dedicated to St. Trophimus (ć c. 280), first bishop of Arles in Gaul. Since the founder of the church, Rutilio Brandi, a Florentine glovemaker and perfumer, suffered from gout, he dedicated it to this particular saint, who is patron saint of the gouty. Brandi was a devout follower of St. Filippo Neri (1515-1595), who with his Congregation of the Oratory constituted the centre of religious life in Rome. Brandi was inspired to found the Confraternity of the Holy Wounds of Our Lord (Confraternita delle Piaghe di Nostro Signore Ges¨ Cristo), and the Conservatory of spinsters. The conservatory had the care of 100 poor girls, whom they brought up until they either married or embraced religion. Brandi also instituted a hostel for infirm priests. A small oratory was erected on Via del Malpasso, adjacent to the church proper.

    According to ancient guide books the church was completely rebuilt in 1728 by Filippo Raguzzini (1680-1771), commissioned by pope Benedict XIII (1724-1730), who granted an insignificant contribution of 500 scudi. However, the traditional attribution to the Beneventan architect has recently been disproved on documentary grounds. Actually, the existing fašade was constructed in 1767-1768 by the architect Giovanni Francesco Fiori (1709-1784).


San Filippo Neri in Via Giulia: Medallion
The stucco medallion of the fašade: The Apparition of the Virgin and Child to St. Filippo Neri

    The two-storied fašade has a colossal order of pilasters. The capitals are decorated with shells and hanging festoons. The central bay has a rectangular porch with an empty segmental pediment. Above this is an oval stucco medallion with a relief depicting The Apparition of the Virgin and Child to St. Filippo Neri. The medallion is crowned by floral garlands and a mussel-shell. The lateral bays have richly ornamented rectangular windows with segmental pediments and, underneath these, plain panels. The fašade is crowned by a protruding triangular pediment with a cartouche with the coat-of-arms of the Confraternity of the Holy Wounds of Our Lord adorned with a cherub's head and floral garlands. Beneath the crowning pediment is the entablature with the dedicatory inscription of the church:

DEO IN HONOREM S PHILIPPI NERII DICATUM


San Filippo Neri in Via Giulia: Ground plan, from 'Roma Sacra', vol. 11
Ground plan of the church

    In 1853 the church of San Filippo Neri was severely damaged, when the Tiber flooded. It was restored at the request of pope Pius IX (1846-1878), and the interior was embellished with lavish decorations and pictures.

     In the late 1930's the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ordered some large-scale demolitions in the area with a view to building a road, dedicated to St. Filippo Neri, connecting Ponte Mazzini with Piazza della Chiesa Nuova along Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. The church was partly demolished and abandoned. The paintings and other works of art of the interior were removed. The high altar painting of St. Filippo Neri is by the 19th century artist Cesare Dies. The right side altar had a medieval relief depicting The Crucifixion, which originated from the Grotte Vaticane. Above the left side altar was Filippo Zucchetti's painting St. Trophimus healing the gouty (c. 1720). Other paintings adorning the interior were a PietÓ and four canvases depicting The Passion of Christ. The small oratory housed the painting Christ on the Mount of Olives, attributed to Federico Zucchari (1542-1609).


San Filippo Neri in Via Giulia 1993
The sad appearance of the fašade in April of 1993

    After World War II the project was postponed, and the church, which had been at the risk of being completely razed to the ground, was saved. Abandoned and semi-demolished, the church was desecrated, and the windows were all smashed in. For a time the interior served as a warehouse.

    Finally, in 1993, a construction company was commissioned to restore the church of San Filippo Neri and the adjacent buildings. Unfortunately the project was halted at some stages due to lack of funds, but by 1999 the restoration was well under way.


San Filippo Neri in Via Giulia 1996 San Filippo Neri in Via Giulia 1999
April 1996: Still no visible change
April 1999: Restoration under way!


San Filippo Neri in Via Giulia 2000
April 2000: At last - a new exterior!

    At last, in 2000, the church of San Filippo Neri greeted the new millennium with a restored and cleaned fašade! You may admire this fine example of 18th century ecclesiastical architecture at Via Giulia 134.