The street shrines (edicole sacre), which one sees throughout the heart of Rome, are known locally as madonnelle. The shrines are most commonly situated at street corners and, as their name suggests, they mostly depict the Madonna, with or without her Son.
In the days before gas and electricity, the shrines, which were lit up at night by small oil lamps, provided almost the only form of lighting in the streets of Rome.
The madonnelle, which mainly date back to the 18th and 19th centuries, vary enormously in form and scale, from small, painted images to large and extravagant concoctions in stone. The shrines are often protected from the elements by a metal baldachin, a tent-like canopy.
Of the thousands of street shrines that once existed in Rome, only five hundred or so remain. The oldest, the so-called Imago Pontis (1523), can be found in Via dei Coronari. The painting of the Coronation of the Virgin is by Perin da Vaga, while the stone frame is the work of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.
Click here for more images of street shrines.
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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