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 in a room behind the high altar. The practise started shortly after the nearby Palazzo del Quirinale was built. The Palazzo del Quirinale, 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 he 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 after the death of Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903).
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 and 1650, 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 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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