For much of its history the church of Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart), which stands on the east side of Piazza Navona, was called San Giacomo degli Spagnoli (St James of the Spanish). Founded in the middle of the 13th century, the church was rebuilt in 1450, on the occasion of the Jubilee of the same year.
In 1506 San Giacomo degli Spagnoli was declared the national church of the Kingdom of Spain. A decade or so later Spanish residents in Rome built Santa Maria in Monserrato, giving Spain two national churches in the Eternal City.
Three centuries later, the Spanish chose to focus on Santa Maria in Monserrato and San Giacomo degli Spagnoli was abandoned. Most of the works of art and funerary monuments were duly transferred from one church to the other. However, the beautiful cantoria, the work of Pietro Torrigiano (1472-1528, the Florentine sculptor who famously broke Michelangelo's nose), remains, as does the Cappella di San Giacomo.
San Giacomo degli Spagnoli changed its name after it was bought, in 1879, by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
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.
Search Walks in Rome: