Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome

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Santa Maria del Popolo is an Augustinian church located in Rome, Italy. It stands to the north side of the Piazza del Popolo, one of the most famous squares in the city. The Piazza is situated between the ancient Porta Flaminia and the park of the Pincio. [The Porta Flaminia was one of the gates in the Aurelian Wall as well as the starting point of the Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum (modern Rimini). The Via Flaminia was the most important route to the north of Ancient Rome.] The church includes works by several famous artists, architects and sculptors, for example Raphael, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Caravaggio, Pinturicchio, Andrea Bregno, Guillaume de Marcillat and Donato Bramante.


In 1099, a chapel was built by Pope Paschal II to Our Lady, over a tomb of the Domitia family. Tradition has it that the site was haunted by Nero's ghost or demons in the form of black crows; therefore the pope chopped down the walnut tree sheltering the crows and built a church in its place. The name del Popolo ("of the people") probably derives from its funding by the people of Rome, but some sources say it comes from the Latin word populus, meaning "poplar" and referring to a tree located nearby. The chapel became a church by will of Pope Gregory IX, and given to the Augustinians, who still oversee the church, in the first half of 13th century.

Santa Maria del Popolo was reconstructed by Baccio Pontelli and Andrea Bregno in 1472-1477, commissioned by the association of the Lombards of Rome, creating an excellent example of Italian Renaissance architecture. In 1655-60 the facade was modified by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was asked by Pope Alexander VII to update the Renaissance church to a more modern Baroque style.


The dome is decorated with Raphael's mosaics Creation of the World.


The apse was designed by Bramante. The oldest stained glass window in Rome can be found here, made by French artist Guillaume de Marcillat. Pinturicchio decorated the vault with frescoes, including the Coronation of the Virgin. The tombs of Cardinals Ascanio Sforza and Girolamo Basso della Rovere, both made by Andrea Sansovino, can also be found in the apse.

Cerasi Chapel

The Cerasi Chapel holds two famous canvases painted by Caravaggio - Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion on the Way to Damascus. Situated between the two works of Caravaggio is the altarpiece Assumption of the Virgin by Annibale Carracci.

Chigi Chapel

Banker Agostini Chigi commissioned Raphael to design and decorate a funerary chapel in 1513. Gian Lorenzo Bernini would later complete the chapel. His additions include the sculptures Habakkuk and the Angel and Daniel and the Lion.

Other chapels

Other chapels include the Cybo Chapel, designed by Carlo Fontana, the Costa Chapel and the Della Rovere Chapels, with frescoes by Pinturicchio.


After Bernini's intervention, the church became a favourite site of burials of rich people of the city. Some of the people buried in the church are:

  • Girolamo Basso della Rovere
  • Giovanni Battista Gisleni
  • Agostino Chigi
  • Sigismondo Chigi
  • Maria Flaminia Odescalchi Chigi
  • Ferry de Clugny
  • Jorge da Costa (1406–1508), Portuguese cardinal
  • Savo Millini
  • Ascanio Sforza

Cardinal Priests

Hyacinthe Thiandoum was held as Cardinal Priest of the Titulus S. Mariae de Populo until his death in 2004. On 24 March 2006, Pope Benedict XVI elevated Stanisław Dziwisz to the position.

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