The 17th century Baroque church of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio, which stands a stone's throw from the Trevi Fountain, has a rather curious claim to fame, housing as it does the praecordia of twenty-two popes.
The praecordia, which were removed when a pope was embalmed, are stored in jars, which are kept in a room behind the high altar. The practise started shortly after the nearby Palazzo del Quirinale was built. The palazzo, which served as a papal summer residence, lies within the parish of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio, which made the pope a parishioner of the church when the Holy Father was in residence.
The first pope to have his praecordia preserved in the church was Sixtus V (r. 1585-90). The practise only came to an end in 1903 following the death of Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903). The names of all twenty-two popes are inscribed on two plaques.
Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio was founded as early as the 10th century, but the present church was built by Martino Longhi the Younger (1602-60) between 1646-50 on the orders of Cardinal Mazarin (1602-61), who served as chief minister to the French kings, Louis XIII and Louis XIV. The facade sports the cardinal's hat and coat of arms.
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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