Church of San Nicola in Carcere (Prison) and Its 3 Temples (Templi)

"Church of San Nicola in Carcere (Prison) and Its 3 Temples (Templi)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Sunday 26th June 2011

Church of San Nicola in Carcere (Prison) and Its 3 Temples (Templi)

The main characteristic of this Chiesa di San Nicola in Carcere (Basilica or Church of St. Nicholas in Prison/ Cardinal Titular Church) is the fact that it was built over the three ancient temples standing one close to another. The area where there is now the church of S. Nicola in Carcere, in ancient time was occupied by the Foro Olitorio (Forum Holitorium) a square where the vegetable market was, not far from the fluvial port.

Chiesa di San Nicola in Carcere (Basilica or Church of St. Nicholas in Prison or Cardinal Titular Church).JPG
The place where of S.Nicola in Carcere stands is one of the most significant in the life of ancient Rome, it was a place of exchange and meeting for the peoples of the opposite Etruscan region and of those from the mountain parts of the peninsular. This was the area decorated with the temples, columns and other constructions.

The church itself was first mentioned in the documents in the 11th century, but it was probably much more ancient; it belonged to a Greek colony, that is why it was dedicated to a Greek saint Nicola, and the words "In carcere" (in prison) refer to the Byzantine epoch (8th century) when this place was occupied by a prison.

The look of the church changed a lot starting from the intervention ordered by the pope Alexander VI, cardinals Federico Borromeo and Pietro Aldobrandini. The latter had G.della Porta build the modern facade. The last restoration took place under Pius IX in 1865.
Interior of Church of San Nicola in Carcere (Prison)
Interior (pictured above) is on a basilican plan with the three naves separated by columns. In the center of the wooden ceiling there is a coat-of-arms of Pius IX.

The church contains a fragment of a fresco "Madonna con Bambino" by A.Romano, and a beautiful ancient green porphyry urn from Egypt (High Altar). Between the windows of the church there are frescoes with the cycle of ten "Storie della vita di San Nicola" (Stories from the life of St.Nicolas) executed by Guido Guidi. On the sides of the triumphal arch there is an "Angeli con i simboli dell'episcopato e gli atributi di San Nicola" (Angels with the symbols of a bishop and attributes of St.Nicolas) by the same artist. Vincenzo Pasqualoni created the frescoes of the nave Glorificazione di Cristo tra la Vergine e San Nicola and San Nicola al concilio di Nicea scaglia l'anatema contro Ario.
profeta of Church of San Nicola in Carcere (Prison)
The baldacchino with the plain cover and Corinthian columns with the coat-of-arms of Pius IX is a work of a sculptor Carlo Belloni. In the right nave could be seen a fresco by A.Romano and his workshop "Madonna in trono con Bambino" (1470). The other artist G.Baglione executed a cycle of frescoes inspired by Eucharist (pictured above: Profeta). The frescoes in the apse were depicted in 1862 by Luigi Martinori: Angeli entro lacunari and Profeti.

Since 1934 in the church is kept a relic of a cloth soaked in the blood of Christ gifted by Giulio Savelli in 1708, which is n object of veneration a religious brotherhood Preziosissimo Sangue founded by Saint Gaspare del Bufalo in 1808 which must had had the first seat in an Oratory close to the church of S.Nicola.

Three Temples (Templi) of Church of San Nicola in Carcere (Prison)

The business character of the area can be noted by the presence of porticoes with tabernae, which ruins can still be visible on the side of the street under the Campidoglio, right in front of the church of S. Nicola in Carcere. Under the church and on its side, there are the ruins of three temple of the republican age.

The first temple on the left (Temple of Janus) was founded by Caius Duilius in 260 b.C.; it is the smallest and in a Doric style, its six columns could be seen in the church's side. The first temple, on the south side, next to the actual Palazzo Anagrafe of Comune di Roma (Bulding of the Registry Office of the Municipality of Rome), was probably dedicated to Spes, the Goddess of hope. Of the Doric order it only preserves the six columns that are inside the southern wall of the church. It was built by A. Atilio Calatino during the first Punic war, in 254 BC.

Under the church there are the ruins of another temple, probably the most recent one and the biggest of the three (m 30 x 15). Parts of the pedestal are visible in the vaults of the church near the apse ; there are also some columns on the front side. Most probably the temple was dedicated to Juno Sospita, the Goddess Giunone Sospita. This central temple was probably built in 90 a.C. and is entirely occupied by the modern church.

The temple of the right (Temple of Hope) was rebuilt by Augustus, but was founded in 242 b.C. Of this third temple, on the right of S. Nicola in Carcere, there is the whole portico and part of the colonnade. It was of Ionic order, with a triple row of columns on the front and a colonnade on the long sides (there are now seven columns on one side and two on the other). The temple measures m 26 x 15 and had a staircase. The temple, probably dedicated to God Giano was built by C. Duilio during the I Punic war, rebuilt at the beginning of the I century BC and restored many times during the ages Augustan, Tiberian and Hadrianian.

Church of San Nicola in Carcere (Prison) and Its 3 Temples (Templi)
Via del Teatro di Marcello, 46
00186, Ghetto, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Rione Ripa (Circo Massimo-Bocca Verità-Aventino) (Roma centro)
Church of San Nicola in Carcere (Prison) and Its 3 Temples (Templi) is Shown By "Map J Zone" As "2"
Hours: 10.00 am - 5.00 pm, daily. Mass Schedule: Weekdays: 12.00 pm; Holidays: 7.30 am, 8.00 am and 5.00 pm; Visits are not allowed during Masses. Schedules are subject to change. Please contact the church before visiting. visits to the basement of San Nicola in Carcere every day from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (closed Wednesdays).
Tel: +39 3473811874, 0039 06 68307198, 06.991.969.57,
Fax: 06.233235554

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