Of all of Rome’s many churches, poor Santa Bibiana, squeezed as it is between railway lines on one side and tram lines on the other, must have the worst location in the Eternal City.
Founded in the 5th century, the church was rebuilt in 1624 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), a year before the 1625 Jubilee. The rebuilding was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII (r. 1623-44), whose heraldic bees are present throughout the church.
The column to the left of the entrance is supposed to be the one against which Saint Bibiana was flogged to death.
The frescoes on the left side of the nave are by Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669), while the ones on the right are by Agostino Ciampelli (1565-1630). The statue (1624-26) of the saint is by Bernini.
St Bibiana is the patron saint of epileptics and the insane. Scrapings from her column were held to have healing properties and were especially effective against epilepsy. The saint is also invoked against hangovers and headaches.
Blogging about Rome,
its art, history and culture.
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 and
small-group walking tours
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