Oratorio di Santa Maria dell'Orto

The Churches of Trastevere

    There are at least forty-five churches, chapels and oratories in Trastevere. First we ought to determine the confines of this region. They are Piazza della Rovere; Galleria Principe Amedeo di Savoia; Viale delle Mura Aurelie; Viale delle Mura Gianicolensi; Viale Aurelio Saffi; Viale delle Mura Portuensi; Piazzale Portuense; Porto di Ripa Grande; Lungotevere Ripa; Lungotevere Alberteschi; Piazza della Gensola; Lungotevere degli Anguillara; Lungotevere Sanzio; Lungotevere della Farnesina; Lungotevere Gianicolense.

Trastevere (from Latin trans Tiberim meaning "on the other side of the Tiber") was not originally part of Rome; it was the beginning of Etruscan country. From the time of the Republic it was inhabited mainly by Jews and Syrians and was incorporated into Rome by Augustus as the fourteenth administrative district. Not far from the present San Cosimato hospital, Augustus created a naumachy, a vast pool where naval warfare spectacles were mounted; there were temples dotted here and there but Trastevere was above all a popular district inhabited by artisans and small traders attracted by the proximity of the docks to the south of the Tiber Island. Few public buildings were situated here but rather utilitarian services such as a 2nd century fire station near the Via dei Genovesi of which traces were discovered in the 19th century. Among the religious buildings is a Syrian sanctuary, traces of which were found under the Villa Sciarra near Via Emilio Dandolo. The entire region of Trastevere was enclosed in the 3rd century by a section of the Aurelian Walls (Mura Aureliane) in which were three gates: the Porta Settimiana to the north, the Porta Aurelia (now Porta di San Pancrazio) to the west and to the south the Porta Portuensis (further south than the present Porta Portese).

In the centuries following the fall of Rome in A.D. 476 the Trastevere area became especially associated with the warehouses of the Genoese, Corsicans and Venetians who traded with Rome, for it was on the banks of the Tiber (on the Ripa grande) that the city's maritime port had developed following the abandonment of Porto and Ostia along the coast. Subsequently, the steady flow of pilgrims between the port and St. Peter's induced some modest development of inns and hospices for their accommodation and various auxiliary trades by which the reduced population supported itself. It was a population that was virtually cut off from the rest of the city: the proud and independent character of the people of Trastevere thus came to be formed.

This population, which was only absorbed into medieval Rome proper in the 14th century by the establishment of a thirteenth district, was especially concentrated in the northern part, the rest of the area being allocated in the main to large monastic and religious establishments. The district's urban fabric was typical of an area of transit, with a single piazza in front of the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere from which three straight streets diverged: the Via della Scala led to St. Peter's; the Via della Lungaretta to the Tiber Island and the Ponte Rotto; and the Via di San Francesco a Ripa to the church with that name and the port area. The second of these was probably of very ancient origins, connecting the fords of the Tiber with the road to Etruria (later the Via Aurelia); the road to St. Peter's, along the Lungara, was of early Christian origin, while the laying out of Via di San Francesco a Ripa was commissioned by Pope Paul V (1605–1621). This network of streets remained until the period of Pope Pius IX (1846–1878), who had a special predilection for Trastevere. He built the road up to the church of San Pietro in Montorio, and the creation of the Piazza Mastai facing the Tobacco Manufacturing Building he himself promoted.

The centre of the public life of the Trastevere district was – and in some sense remains – the basilica of Santa Maria, known as "in Trastevere" to distinguish it from the many other Marian churches in Rome, of which it is supposed to be the oldest. It was said to have been founded on the spot, where a spring of oil had miraculously welled forth at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, thus heralding the new age.

Once Rome had become the capital of united Italy, the immemorial tranquillity and harmony of Trastevere were subjected to a merciless onslaught: both by the demolition of the built-up area close to the river to make way for the Tiber embankments, and by the construction of the Ponte Garibaldi, from which a major throughfare, the present Viale Trastevere, was swept through the district, effectively cutting it in two. Yet behind the modern buildings by which it is flanked parts of the original urban fabric can still be found. They preserve their traditional character which has made Trastevere a favourite goal of tourists in search of local colour.

Trastevere has never lost its popular character. All along the noisy Viale Trastevere, the side streets are packed with stalls and costers' barrows beneath the benign watch of Madonnas lit up by small lanterns. On summer evenings the quiet piazze are transformed by happy family groups eating out in the open air: a charming aspect of the Roman way of life. On Sundays the Porta Portese and the neighbouring streets become a huge flea market, where the pickpockets have a field day; even if one does not pick up a great bargain, it is well worth seeing the spectacle.

Trastevere is jam-packed with interesting churches. Here is a, hopefully complete, alphabetical list of the existing churches, chapels and oratories of Trastevere, including the deconsecrated ones.

I. Churches

Sant'Agata in Trastevere, Largo di San Giovanni de Matha 7

Sant'Andrea dei Vascellari, Via dei Vascellari 69 (deconsecrated)

Sant'Antonio Maria Zaccaria, Via Ulisse Seni 2

Sant'Antonio da Padova, Rampa di San Pietro in Montorio 2 (deconsecrated)

San Benedetto in Piscinula, Piazza in Piscinula 40

San Calisto, Piazza di San Calisto

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Piazza di Santa Cecilia 22

San Cosimato, Piazza di San Cosimato 73

San Crisogono, Viale Trastevere 47

Santa Croce delle Scalette (Buon Pastore), Via della Lungara 19

Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Villa Lante, Via di San Francesco di Sales 18

Santa Dorotea, Via di Santa Dorotea 22

Sant'Egidio (Santa Maria del Carmelo), Piazza di Sant'Egidio 3a

Santa Francesca Romana a Ponte Rotto, Via dei Vascellari 61

San Francesco a Ripa, Piazza di San Francesco d'Assisi 88

San Gallicano, Via di San Gallicano 26

San Giacomo alla Lungara, Via della Lungara 140

San Giosafat Kuncewitz (San Giosafat Martire), Passeggiata del Gianicolo 7

San Giovanni Battista dei Genovesi, Via Anicia 12

San Giovanni della Malva, Piazza di San Giovanni della Malva

San Giuseppe alla Lungara, Via della Lungara 43

San Giuseppe e Maria Santissima Addolorata e delle Anime Sante del Purgatorio, Via della Paglia 12a

Santa Margherita in Trastevere, Piazza di Sant'Apollonia 44

Santa Maria del Buon Viaggio, Porto di Ripa Grande 8

Santa Maria in Cappella, Vicolo di Santa Maria in Cappella 6

Santa Maria della Clemenza (Oratorio del Santissimo Sacramento), Vicolo del Piede 12 (deconsecrated)

Santa Maria Immacolata, Via del Gianicolo 14a

Santa Maria della Luce (San Salvatore della Corte), Via della Luce 68

Santa Maria dell'Orto, Via Anicia 10

Santa Maria del Rosario, Via Pietro Roselli 20

Santa Maria della Scala, Piazza della Scala 23

Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori, Via Garibaldi 27

Santa Maria in Trastevere, Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria della Visitazione e San Francesco di Sales, Via delle Mantellate 10

San Michele a Ripa, Via di San Michele 19

Sant'Onofrio, Piazza di Sant'Onofrio 2

San Pietro in Montorio, Piazza di San Pietro in Montorio 2

Santi Quaranta Martiri e San Pasquale Baylon, Via di San Francesco a Ripa 20

Sante Rufina e Seconda, Via della Lungaretta 92

Santa Teresa del Bambin Gesù, Via di San Francesco di Sales 61 (deconsecrated)

II. Chapels

Cappella del Cuore Immacolato di Maria, Casa delle Suore Francescane del Cuore Immacolato di Maria, Via dei Genovesi 11b

Cappella Salviati, Palazzo Salviati, Via della Lungara 83

Cappella di San Giuseppe (Cappella delle Figlie di San Giuseppe), Lungotevere della Farnesina 6

Cappella di Maria Santissima Assunta in Cielo, Via delle Mantellate 11a

III. Oratories

Oratorio di San Giovanni della Malva, Piazza di San Giovanni della Malva (deconsecrated)

Oratorio di San Pasquale Baylon, Via Anicia 13