Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Church

Rome, Italy

Background

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Church in Rome was originally part of the Sessorian Palace owned by Helena, mother of Emperor Constatine. Supposedly built on soil Helena carried back from Jerusalem—leading to the name of the church, described as “in Jerusalem”—the building was designed to house relics of the True Cross recovered during a visit to the holy city. Extensive reconstructions of the property were carried out in the twelfth century by Pope Lucius II and again in 1740 by Benedict XIV. The mid-eighteenth-century renovations were designed by Pietro Passalacqua and Domenico Gregorini. The current appearance of the building reflects the mid-eighteenth-century style. The apse of the church contains a number of culturally and historically significant sculptures alongside other decorative features.

How We Helped

With the assistance of World Monuments Fund France and the Associazione Amici di S. Croce in Gerusalemme, enough money was raised to begin a comprehensive restoration plan. The first phase of the plan involved the identification and condition assessment of culturally significant features within the apse of the church. In 2001 the team identified sculptural, decorative, and pictorial features to be addressed in the conservation program. The features included the marble tomb of Cardinal Quinones (confessor of Charles V) by Jacopo Sansovino, two c. 1745 frescoes by Corrado Giaquinto depicting the story of Moses, and a sixteenth-century monument in polychrome marble.

Why It Matters

The design of the church was planned with the intention of housing relics of the True Cross, vestiges brought to Rome from Jerusalem by Helena. As it was common to reconstruct or restore ecclesiastical structures in this region, the basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme underwent various architectural changes throughout the centuries. Extensive reconstruction occurred in the twelfth century by Lucius II and again in the eighteenth century by Benedict XIV. Today the basilica’s appearance reflects the eighteenth-century design, although features from earlier periods are still present.

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