Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Feast of St. Philip Neri in His Roman Churches

St. Philip Neri is associated with several churches in Rome, the foremost being of course Santa Maria in Vallicella, still usually called the Chiesa Nuova, the “New Church”, more than 430 years after the first Oratorians took up residence in the buildings attached to it. His body rests there in the altar of one of the most beautifully decorated chapels in the city. The current Roman home of the Fraternity of St. Peter, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, was built on the site of an earlier church dedicated to St. Benedict; a confraternity founded by St. Philip to take care of pilgrims during the Jubilees was given the church in 1558, demolished it, and rebuilt it by 1614 as we have it today. Even after Chiesa Nuova had been completed, St. Philip himself continued to live at his old rooms at the church of San Girolamo della Carità, at equal walking distance from his spiritual sons at Chiesa Nuova, and the hospice at Trinità dei Pellegrini, where he was wont to wait upon the pilgrims with his own hands.

His feast day, May 26th, is often caught in the midst of the several of the greatest of the Church year, Ascension, Pentecost, Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi and Sacred Heart. The Chiesa Nuova therefore often leaves up some of its best decorations for the whole of the period. Of particular note are the red and gold drapes set over the engaged columns of the church; the use of such decorations was formerly very common in Italy, but Chiesa Nuova is now one of the few places where they can be seen in Rome.

The outside of the chapel of St. Philip’s relics.

A closer view of the underside of the organ which set over the door of the chapel.

The altar of St. Philip, with a mosaic copy of Guido Reni’s famous painting of the Ecstasy of St. Philip.

A closer view of the relics.

The ceiling of the chapel’s atrium.

The main sanctuary.

A closer view of the high altar.
The engaged columns of the nave covered in drapes.

The Marian shrines commonly seen on the outsides of buildings are usually called “Madonelle - Little Madonnas” in Italian. This one, with St. Philip in the medallion below looking up at the Virgin and Child, sits on the via dei Pellegrini, a street which Philip would have frequently walked during the many years of his apostolate in Rome, going back and forth between the Chiesa Nuova, San Girolamo and Santissima Trinità. Well before his time, the street was laid out from the main area where pilgrims traditionally lodged in Rome directly to St. Peter’s, albeit by a rather circuitous route that brought them first to the Ponte Sant’ Angelo.
The main altar of Trinità dei Pellegrini, with a silver bust reliquary of St. Philip.

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