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Church of San Sisto Vecchio

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Title: Church of San Sisto Vecchio  
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Subject: Basilica churches in Rome, Nicolò Albertini, Santa Maria in Via, Basilica di Sant'Anastasia al Palatino, San Sebastiano fuori le mura
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Church of San Sisto Vecchio

Woodcut of San Sisto Vecchio in the 16th century, from Le cose maravigliose dell'alma città di Roma (Venice: Girolamo Francino, 1588)

The Church of San Sisto Vecchio is one of the churches of Rome, one dedicated to St. Pope Sixtus II. It was built in the 4th century, and is recorded as the Titulus Crescentianae, thus relating the church to some Crescentia, possibly a Roman woman who founded the church. According to tradition, the church was established by Pope Anastasius I (399-401).

The church houses the relics of St. Pope Sixtus II, transferred here from the Catacomb of Callixtus in the 6th century.

San Sisto was rebuilt in the early 13th century, by Pope Innocent III. The current church is the result of the restorations of Pope Benedict XIII (18th century), which left only the bell tower and the apse from the medieval church.

A 13th-century fresco cycle depicting the Scenes from the New Testament and the Apocrypha is conserved.

Pope Honorius III entrusted the reform of the monastery at San Sisto Vecchio to Saint Dominic circa 1218 intending it as part of the reformation of nuns in Rome. In 1219 Honorius then invited Dominic and his companions to taken up permanent residence at the ancient Roman basilica of Santa Sabina, which they did by early 1220, founding a convent and studium on June 5, 1222, the original studium of the Dominican Order at Rome out of which would grow the 16th-century College of Saint Thomas at Santa Maria sopra Minerva and the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum.[1]

Dominican nuns still occupy the monastery at San Sisto Vecchio.


  1. ^ Pierre Mandonnet, O.P., St. Dominic and His Work, Translated by Sister Mary Benedicta Larkin, O.P., B. Herder Book Co., St. Louis/London, 1948, Chapt. III, note 50: "If the installation at Santa Sabina does not date from 1220, at least it is from 1221. The official grant was made only in June, 1222 (Bullarium O.P., I, 15). But the terms of the bull show that there had been a concession earlier. Before that concession the Pope said that the friars had no hospitium in Rome. At that time St. Sixtus was no longer theirs; Conrad of Metz could not have alluded to St. Sixtus, therefore, when he said in 1221: "the Pope has conferred on them a house in Rome" (Laurent no. 136). It is possible that the Pope was waiting for the completion of the building that he was having done at Santa Sabina, before giving the title to the property, on June 5, 1222, to the new Master of the Order, elected not many days before." Accessed 2012-5-20.

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