From Riches to Rags
In 1729 the church of San Gregorio della Divina Pieta was restored by the Roman architect and sculptor Filippo Barigioni (c. 1680-1753), on behalf of Pope Benedict XIII (r. 1724-30), and given to the Operai della Divina Pietà (Workers of Divine Mercy), which had been founded in 1679 to help families who were once well-off, but who had fallen into poverty.
There is an alms slot on the north wall with the inscription: ELEMOSINA PER POVERE ONORATE FAMIGLIE E VERGOGNOSE (Alms for poor, honourable and embarrassed families). There is another slot on the same wall which is inscribed: MEMORIALI. This was for people to give the names of persons or families in difficulty.
San Gregorietto, as the church is also known (on account of its small size), stands outside what was once the Jewish Ghetto. On its facade there is an inscription from the Book of Isaiah in both Hebrew and Latin. It reads in translation: 'I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick' (Isaiah, 65: 2-3, KJV).
Until 1870 Jews were required, each Sabbath, to attend a sermon at the church. To avoid having to listen, it was common for them to put wax in their ears.
Comments are closed.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
Search Walks in Rome: