Just a few steps away from the noise and bustle of Piazza Venezia, one of the busiest intersections in the centre of Rome, lies a haven of peace and tranquillity. The Madonnella di San Marco is a small 17th century devotional chapel that is part of Palazzo Venezia.
The image of the Madonna and Child that is venerated in the chapel used to be found in a nearby street, known as Via dell' Arco di San Marco. It was painted in 1654 by Bernardino Gagliardi and installed under the archway.
The image attracted serious devotion after a miracle was reported in 1668. A young nobleman was being attacked by an assailant, who tried to stab him with a dagger, but the dagger bent, as if it were made of rubber, and the attacker fled. The image of the Madonna and Child was hailed as having protected the young man and thirty years later a small chapel was built to house it. The ornate Baroque altar was designed by Giovanni Battista Contini (1641-1723), a pupil of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
In the early part of the 20th century, as part of the development of Piazza Venezia, the chapel was dismantled and inserted into the ground floor of the Palazzo Venezia. The entrance (far right) is surmounted by a small, and somewhat curious, coat of arms.
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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