Strange though it may seem, the 17th century church of Santa Rita da Cascia in Campitelli, which is located near the Theatre of Marcellus, has only stood on this site since 1940. The church, which was designed by Carlo Fontana (c. 1634-1714) and built during the reign of Pope Alexander VII (r. 1655-67), originally stood about 200 metres away in Piazza Venezia.
In 1928 Santa Rita was dismantled, as part of Mussolini's remodelling of Rome, and reconstructed on the present site, as the plaque on the wall of the church records. It reads (in translation): This church, already existing at the slopes of the Capitoline Hill close to the staircase of S. Maria in Aracoeli, demolished in the year 1928, VI of the fascist era, was rebuilt here by the Rome Governorate. April 21st 1940, XVIII of the fascist era.
The church was originally dedicated to St Blaise (San Biagio) and stood on the site of the medieval church of San Biagio in Mercatello. In the 1650s San Biagio became the headquarters of the Confraternita della Corona di Spine, which was devoted to the Blessed Rita of Cascia (1381-1457), who had been beatified in 1626. On the confraternity's orders, San Biagio was rebuilt and subsequently was known as San Biagio e Beata Rita.
In 1900 Rita of Cascia was canonised and the church was rededicated to her. Her feast day is May 22nd and she is the patron saint of lost and impossible causes, abused wives, and widows.
When the church was dismantled the tiny bell tower of San Biagio in Mercatello and a fresco were revealed. Santa Rita da Cascia in Campitelli was deconsecrated in 1990.
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.
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