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San Giovanni dei Fiorentini

San Giovanni dei Fiorentini
Basic information
Location Rome, Italy
Geographic coordinates
Affiliation Roman Catholic
District Rione Ponte, Rome
Architectural description
Architect(s) Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Maderno, and Alessandro Galilei
Architectural type Church
Architectural style Baroque
Groundbreaking 1523
Completed 1734

San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, St John of the Florentines, is a church in the Ponte rione or district of Rome. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, the protector of Florence, the new church for the Florentine community in Rome was started in the 16th century and completed in early 18th and is the national church of Florence in Rome. The main façade fronts onto the Via Giulia. This straight street was an urban initiative, carried out in 1508 by the architect Donato Bramante at the instigation of Pope Julius II Della Rovere, which cut through the irregular urban fabric to the Ponte Sant’Angelo, the bridge which crosses over the Tiber River to the Castel Sant’Angelo and St Peters.


  • History 1
    • Initial project 1.1
    • The church construction: Della Porta, Maderno and Galilei 1.2
    • The choir interior: Cortona, Borromini and Ferri 1.3
  • Description 2
  • Burials 3
  • Notes and references 4
  • External links 5


Initial project

Iron bridge at San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, ca. 1890. The bridge was built 1827 and demolished 1941. Photo by Giuseppe Primoli.

Julius II’s successor, the Florentine Pope Leo X de Medici initiated the architectural competition for a new church in 1518 on the site of the old church of San Pantaleo. Designs were put forward by prominent architects such as Baldassare Peruzzi, Jacopo Sansovino, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and the painter and architect, Raphael. The dominant initial ideas were for a centralised church arrangement.[1]

Sansovino won the competition but following various difficulties, including the substructure near the river’s edge, Sangallo was put in charge of the building work, made a wooden model and the design was reorganised as a Latin cross plan. Work proceeded slowly. With only some of the nave foundations in place by Leo’s death in 1523, construction ground to a halt by the time of the Sack of Rome in 1527.

In 1559, Michelangelo was asked by Cosimo I de Medici, Duke of Tuscany, to prepare designs for the church and he presented a centralised church arrangement but this was not adopted.[2]

The church construction: Della Porta, Maderno and Galilei

The central nave

The main construction of the church was carried out between 1583-1602 under the architect Giacomo della Porta based on the Latin cross arrangement. Carlo Maderno took over from 1602-1620 and directed construction of the dome and the main body of the church completed. However, the main façade, based on a design by Alessandro Galilei was not finished until 1734,.[3]

The choir interior: Cortona, Borromini and Ferri

In 1634, the Roman Baroque painter and architect, Pietro da Cortona, was asked by the Florentine nobleman, Orazio Falconieri, to design the High Altar.[4] Drawings for the altar and its setting and a model were prepared but the project was not carried out. Cortona’s ideas for the choir included windows hidden from the view of the congregation that would illuminate the altarpiece, an early example of the Baroque usage of a ‘hidden light’ source, a concept which would be much employed by Bernini. Some twenty to thirty years later, Falconieri resurrected the choir project but gave the commission to the Baroque architect, Francesco Borromini who changed the design to allow for the burial of Orazio's brother Cardinal Lelio Falconieri. After Borromini died in 1667, the work was completed and partly modified by Cortona and on his death in 1669, by Ciro Ferri, Cortona’s pupil and associate.[5]


The choir is the family chapel of the Falconieri family and houses a number of Baroque sculptures. The relief on the High Altar portrays the Baptism of Christ by Antonio Raggi. The large altar, made of French red marble and Cottanello marble, is surmounted the figures of Justice by Michel Anguier and Fortitude by Leonardo Reti. To either side are tombs of the Falconieri family, enriched with stucco and marble portraits of family members in polychrome medallions supported by putti. Statues include 'Faith' by Ercole Ferrata and Charity by Domenico Guidi The neoclassical tomb of Alexander and Marianna Falconieri Lante is by Paolo Benaglia.

Left side wall of the choir or Falconieri Chapel

To the left of the choir is the Cappella del Crocefisso (the Sacchetti family Chapel), which has wall and vault frescoes by Giovanni Lanfranco and a bronze crucifix created by Paul Sanquirico and made by Prospero Antichi. The left transept accommodates commemorative busts of Antonio Barberini, after Bernini, and of Pietro Francesco De Rossi.

The right transept has a painted Martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian by Salvatore Rosa, a bust of Ottavio Corsini by Alessandro Algardi and of Ottaviano Acciaioli by Ercole Ferrata

On the pillars of the nave are monuments to Francesca Riccardi Calderini Pecori by Antonio Raggi of circa 1655, to Alessandro Gregorio Capponi, designed by Ferdinando Fuga and sculpted in 1746 by Michelangelo Slodtz, a monument to Girolamo Samminiati by Filippo della Valle of 1733, and the bust of Clement XII Corsini.

The sculptures on the main façade were completed by different artists; Filippo della Valle, Paolo Benaglia, Pietro Bracci, Domenico Scaramuccia, Salvatore Sanni, Francesco Queirolo, Simone Martinez, Gaetano Altobelli, Carlo Pacilli, and Giuseppe Canard.

Leading from the church to the sacristy are various artifacts; a statue of a young Saint John the Baptist, traditionally attributed to Donatello and then to Michelangelo; busts of Antonio Coppola (either Pietro or Gian Lorenzo Bernini) and Antonio Cepparello by the younger Bernini and Pier Cambi by Pompeo Ferrucci, the relief with the Virgin, St. Anne and the Infant by Pierino da Vinci, a bronze cross by Antonio Raggi, the silver, bronze, and gold shrine putatively hosting the foot of Santa Maria Maddalena from the workshop of Benvenuto Cellini, and large silver monstrance by Luigi Valadier.


Francesco Borromini is buried under the dome.[6]

Notes and references

  1. ^ Heydenreich L. & Lotz W., Architecture in Italy 1400-1600, Pelican History of Art, 1974, p.195-6
  2. ^ Heydenreich & Lotz, 1974, p. 257
  3. ^ Guide Rionali di Roma , Rione V, Ponte, Parte IV, 1975, p.16 (in Italian)
  4. ^ Blunt, Anthony. Guide to Baroque Rome, Granada, 1982, p.51; Merz, Jorg Martin. Pietro da Cortona and Roman Baroque Architecture, Yale, 2008, pp 87-91
  5. ^ Merz, J.M. 2008,p 90-91
  6. ^ "San Giovanni dei Fiorentini". Rome Sights. Fodor's. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 

External links

  • San Giovanni dei Fiorentini Website
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