The Monastery of San Francesco a Ripa

The Hospice of St. Biagio

    In the years 936-949, in the ancient field Bruziano, Count Benedict of Campania build an impressive Benedictine monastery, named after the two brothers doctors SS Cosmas and Damian (San Cosimato). This monastery, belonging to the foundation of the Cluniac reform, influenced   immediately the district and, for the rich legacies and donations, the monks wanted to make efforts for the benefit of the poor and sick pilgrims, many in those days, erecting a hospice-hospital.

    This hospice-hospital, dedicated to the Bishop St. Biagio, was erected on the far shore of the ancient Naumachia of Augustus, near the Tiber (Ripa Grande) and it was important to accommodate the pilgrims. Just at this hospice was welcomed S. Francis when he came to Rome, as confirmed by both historians and chroniclers of the early days of the Order, and from those of centuries between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries.

    Most likely the first contact between St. Francis and the hospice of S. Biagio must have occurred already in 1209. On one side of the church, above the sacristy, it keeps the “room” the Saint used to inhabit when he lived in Rome. In 1223, the date of his final coming, was active in Rome, a Franciscan community, and the complex, now known as San Francesco a Ripa, is the only traditional and recognized home of St. Francis in the city. The renovation of the first Franciscan house in Rome took place thanks to two benefactors: the noblewoman Jacoba de 'Settesoli and Count Pandolfo dell'Anguillara.

    Jacoba, who knew and loved the Saint, will certainly have presented and recommended him to the Abbot of San Cosimato and obtained some rooms for Francis and his companions, and arranged them with decorum.

The Roman Protoconvent (Roman First-Monastery)

    At a time when the Church with adjoining hospice passed by order of Gregory IX in the 23rd July 1229 to the Franciscans, Count Pandolfo dell'Anguillara realized an expansion and adaptation of the Church and the Hospice.  An ancient fresco in the back of the church in front of the door depicting the Count, dressed as Tertiary, offering to St. Francis the new church.

    Count Pandolfo rebuilt from the ground up the little church of San Biagio, or better he added to the form of the roman basilica some changes according to the needs of the Franciscans, devoted not to the monastic life, but to the apostolic life.

    The choir stood before the altar was placed behind the altar itself, just according to the custom of the Franciscans. The wonderful paintings of Cavallini, as well as scenes from the Old and New Testaments, reminisced the life and miracles of St. Francis.

    The Tabernacle above the High Altar to that originally drew on the ancient Basilica.
On the right side of the Church was provided to build the first Franciscan convent in Rome




Successive expansions and the structure of seventeenth century

    During the XIII, XIV and XV, with the exception of the choir and the high altar in the Church, there have not been considerable changes.

    On the contrary, in the last part of the fifteenth century, especially following the reformatory movement named “Observance”, San Francesco a Ripa underwent considerable development and it was built the magnificent cloister to the right of the Church, then reduced in the seventeenth century after the formation of the chapels of the right aisle.

    In the sixteenth century we find already indicated the body of the chapels on the left.

    The Chapel of the Crucifix, obtained by the extension of the ship to cross to the left, was built by the Lords of Cetra or Cetera before the end of the fifteenth century, was built around 1560 and embellished the Immaculate, while those of the Annunciation and the Savior (later known as the Pietà), respectively, were completed in 1560 and 1566.

    The choir, before the retouching of 1603, had the seats of old, existing before the altar and were placed between two columns similar to those of the cruise. The floor was still the primitive, formed by a mortar of lime and gravel, broken by slabs of marble that were to cover the graves.

    A very significant event for the Church and Convent of San Francesco a Ripa is the final transition of the complex to the Reformed Franciscans Friars in 1579. They then felt the need to transform and enlarge, to give the possibility to the new inhabitants to carry out their activities with greater intensity. First, there arose the need to broaden the Choir, due to the increase in the number of religious. While Bishop Vipereschi did the start in 1603 to the Infirmary, which stretched from St. Francis square and St. Michael street for over 110 meters on the left side of the Church, Bishop Lelio Biscia, projected by architect Longhi Honorius, wanted to provide for the extension Choir and then the renewal of the High Altar. The project was great and involved in addition to the almost total destruction of the garden, even the overthrow of the room occupied by the Saint.

    To reassure the friars, who were objections to the excessive sumptuousness, intervened Cardinal Mattei, the Protector of the Order, while it seems that the Saint himself, appeared in a dream to Cardinal Montalto, has intervened to thwart the demolition of the sacred room, received then today and known as the Shrine of St. Francis.The original drawings of Longhi were corrected and Chorus, extended only to the detriment of the garden, was once covered with scale at the height of the nave; around it, instead of the original seats, they were put on in walnut and the Main Altar was done all in gilded wood.

    On the main altar still remained the old painting of the Virgin in the middle, flanked by San Francesco and San Biagio, which was later replaced with a statue of St. Francis. Paolo Guidotti frescoed in the side pillars St. John the Baptist and St. Lawrence with Angels adoring the Blessed Sacrament. Sacramento, while on the front of the arch admired the Eternal Father. On the other angels in adoration of the Choir completed the beautification of the High Altar. The project was completed in 1608 and remained unchanged until 1737.

    From 1600 until 1675, when it was also called the great Gian Lorenzo Bernini to sculpt the statue of the Blessed Albertoni, the chapels of the left aisle in the architecture were retouched and embellished with frescoes of the most talented artists of the time.

    In 1675 Cardinal Lazzaro Pallavicini launched a large alms because they rebuild the Church to its foundations. The architect Mattia De Rossi was charged with making plans for the new arrangement of the facade and the Church.

    The church "anguillarana" was not completely demolished, only the times and the facade were completely replaced, and built "from scratch" in the chapels of the right, while the magnificent columns dividing the aisles and formed the cruise were only fortified and partly incorporated into the current pillars. All the frescoes of Cavallini disappeared, probably under the new stucco that covered the pillars. In the end, while the good religious had managed mostly to save their church, all geared to a healthy realism and humanism, renaissance influence, then failed to make it immune from baroque.

    Towards 1689 such work was finished and had begun the training of the Chapels of the right, which date back precisely at those times. Because then the deep renovations, concerning the church and seven of its chapels, was imposed a new consecration, which took place in 1701, at the hands of the Most Cardinal Sperelli of Assisi.



Subsequent transformations

    From 1737 to 1746 the High Altar was twice destroyed and rebuilt: that of Msgr. Biscia in gilded wood was replaced with another of stucco. Consecrated in 1738, it was transferred the statue of St. Francis that stood on the altar on the right, along with the ancient indulgences conferred with the Bull of Clement XII. There was also a place to frontal grille and on the two side doorways of marble were placed two angels with candle. None of this had much pleasure to the friars, who in 1746 gave the assignment to the known Franciscan architect Fr. Secondo from Roma to tear down the altar before and, with another of his design, to do it again in marble. As soon as work was completed, it was all over again rededicated on September 17 of that year.

    The paintings on the side pillars of the arch disappeared and in support of the Statue of St. Francis placed himself an angel, while a smaller one at the feet of the saint in his right hand a skull and a book.

    There was also a change with regard to the Side altars: one on the right was dedicated to St. Anthony and they put the statue of the saint, one on the left is dedicated to Santa Giacinta Marescotti, and there stood the statue of the Saint (1751).

    It was while closing the eighteenth century, with sweeping motions of the French Revolution in the air and you could hear the hint of the raging storm that was to break down on religious orders.

    On 17 May 1809 he was declared lost by Napoleon the State of the Church and the Religious of San Francesco a Ripa were taken particularly targeted. Later, in 1849, the garibaldini drove Religious and pitched in the walls of the convent, leaving the church closed; finally shot down definitively the Papal States, with the occupation by the Piemontese troops in 1870, the Religious of St. Francis in Ripa had the notice to leave the convent on 12 November 1873.

    Pope Pius IX graciously granted to the Father Superior some rooms in Via della Luce, where they could dwell six monks for the service of the Church.

    Previously, as a job accommodation, had been redone the floors of the Church in 1866, replacing the old with today's marble, and then, in 1882, when it was beatified Blessed Charles of Sezze, the Chapel of the Pieta was restored by the Paolo Belloni, which she kept for as long as he can the ancient frescoes.

    The latest changes over time were the new marble balustrade of the High Altar, settled in 1931 and the disappearance of iron gates in different chapels, transport and renovation of the organ in the choir and the passage of the Nativity from the Chapel of the Immaculate to that of the Annunciation.