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The Chapel of the Madonna dell’Archetto, the Smallest Church in Rome

Roman monuments: the Chapel of the Madonna dell’Archetto, the smallest church in Rome.

There are more than 900 churches in Rome, a fact that makes it the city with the most churches in the world; their history has accompanied that of the city for seventeen centuries, marking its religious, social and artistic evolution. There are gigantic, ancient, very important ones and there is one, no less important than the others, which is also the smallest place of worship in Rome.

The Chapel of the Madonna dell’Archetto

The chapel of the Madonna dell’Archetto is a small oratory in Rome, in the Trevi district, in Via di San Marcello 41b. The official name of the church is church of Santa Maria Causa Nostrae Laetitiae.

This chapel was built in the nineteenth century to house an ancient image of the Madonna who was venerated under a narrow archway at Palazzo Savorelli Muti Papazzurri, once Palazzo Balestra.

Once the alley was closed, the Marquis Alessandro Savorelli Muti Papazzurri had a small chapel built there where he placed the image of the Madonna causa nostrae letitiae painted on majolica in 1690 by the Bolognese painter Domenico Maria Muratori.

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This image was seen to rotate the eyes repeatedly on 9 July 1796 and then weep in fear of the French invasion of the Papal State, which then took place in 1798. The miracle was told by numerous witnesses and as reported in the book The eyes of Mary, by Rino Cammilleri and Vittorio Messori. The image was placed under an arch, hence the name by which it is best known, Madonna dell’Archetto.

The painter, who among other things is the author of the largest altarpiece in Rome, at the Basilica of the Santi Dodici Apostoli, created the oil work painted on majolica stone weighing almost 40 kg, inspired by a previous work by Sassoferrato.

A legend tells that as early as 1696 the image of the Madonna moved her eyes and that this fact led the owner of the painting to place it in the newly opened alley, walling it up under the connecting arch of two noble palaces.
A reproduction of the image can be found in Palazzo Castellani, on the corner between piazza di Trevi and via del Lavatore.

Madonna dell’archetto

The building was solemnly inaugurated and opened to the public on May 31, 1851, as the plaque above the entrance recalls, with great competition from cardinals and authorities.
The chapel is a rare gem of neo-Renaissance architecture, rich in precious marbles and metals, the work of the architect Virginio Vespignani; it contains paintings by Costantino Brumidi, the same one who later frescoed the dome of the Capitol in Washington.
The sanctuary, declared a national art monument, is surmounted by a dome richly decorated with wood carvings, of limited size but with a grandiose appearance. The small nave is embellished with plaster statues by the sculptor Luigi Simonetti depicting angels in the form of caryatids.