San Martino ai Monti in Rome

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San Martino ai Monti, also known as Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti - Titolo Equizio, is a basilica church in Rome, Italy, in the Rione Monti neighbourhood.


The basilica was founded by Pope St. Sylvester I over a terrain donated by one Equitius (hence the name of Titulus Equitii) in the 4th century. At the beginning it was an oratory devoted to all the martyrs. It is known that a preparation meeting for the Council of Nicaea was held here in 324. The current church of San Martino ai Monti dates from the Carolingian era, but a 3rd century pillared hall has been located below and adjacent to the later church. This has caused some scholars to identify it with the Titulus Equitii, but according to Hugo Brandenburg, it is "most unlikely that it could have served as a place of worship for any larger community and its liturgy: The original purpose of this fairly modest hall...was probably to serve as a storage space for commercial purposes."

In 500, the church was rebuilt and dedicated to Saints Martin of Tours and Pope Sylvester I by Pope Symmachus. On this occasion, the church was elevated and the first oratory became subterranean.

It was reconstructed by Hadrian I in 772 and by Sergius II in 845. The structure of the present basilica follows the ancient church, and many pieces had been re-used.

The church is served by the Order of Carmelites (O.Carm. - Ancient Observance). It was granted to them in 1299 by Pope Boniface VIII; their ownership was confirmed in 1559. The church is the resting place of Blessed Angelo Paoli, O.Carm. (1642–1720) who was revered throughout Rome for his service of the poor; he was beatified on 25 April 2010.

The most recent Cardinal-Priest of the Titulus Ss. Silvestri et Martini in Montibus was Armand Razafindratandra (who died on 9 January 2010). The current Cardinal-Priest of the Titulus Ss. Silvestri et Martini in Montibus is Polish Archbishop of Warsaw Kazimierz Nycz. Among the previous titulars were Pope Pius XI, Pope Paul VI, and Alfonso de la Cueva, marqués de Bedmar.

Interior decoration

Further transformations were executed in the 17th century by Filippo Gagliardi. In the mid-17th century a series of frescoes, architectural additions, and altarpieces were commissioned including series landscape and architectural frescoes of typically biblical scenes by Gaspar Dughet and Galgliardi. There is a fresco by Jan Miel of St. Cyril baptizing a sultan. Fabrizio Chiari (now overpainted by Antonio Cavallucci) painted a Baptism of Christ. Giovanni Antonio Canini painted an altarpiece of Holy Trinity with Sts. Nicholas and Bartholemew. The mannerist Girolamo Muziano painted an altarpiece of St. Albert. Galeazzo Leoncino painted a fresco of Pope Silvester holding council of 324 in San Martino. Pietro Testa painted the Vision of St. Angelo the Carmelite in the Wilderness. Filippo Gherardi painted an altarpiece of San Carlo Borromeo. Cannini also painted the Martydom of St. Stephen. Chiari also painted St. Martin dividing his cloak with the beggar. Giovanni Battista Creppi painted The vision of St. Teresa. Matteo Piccione painted the altarpiece of Vision of Santa Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi. Paolo Naldini painted the Saints on the upper register of the nave (counterclockwise starting with first on the nave, to right Ciriaca, Stephen, Fabianus, and Nicander, then left nave Theodore, Martin, Innocent, and Iusta. Daniele Latre painted St. Anthony and John the Baptist on South Wall (counterfacade), while Naldini painted Peter and Paul.

The interior has three naves with ancient columns. A votive lamp, made in silver sheet, is housed in the sacristy; it was believed to be St. Sylvester's tiara. Under the major altar are preserved the relics of Sts Artemius, Paulina and Sisinnius, brought here from the Catacomb of Priscilla. A mosaic portraying Madonna with St. Sylvester is from the 6th century.

  • Ancient Churches of Rome from the Fourth to the Seventh Century: The Dawn of Christian Architecture in the West, by Hugo Brandenburg, Brepols, 2005.
  • Le chiese medievali di Roma, by Federico Gizzi, Newton Compton, Rome, 1994
  • "San Martino ai Monti", by Chris Nyborg.