Founded in the 9th century on the site where St. Peter was believed to have been crucified, the church was rebuilt at the end of the 15th century on a project perhaps by Baccio Pontelli and consecrated in 1500 by Alexander VI Borgia after generous funding from the king of Spain. The appellation “Montorio” derives from “Mons Aureus”, the name given to the Janiculum in early mediaeval times due to the yellow sand of the hill.
In 1849, during the siege of Rome by Napoleon III’s French troops, the church suffered heavy damage and was transformed into a hospital (renamed for the occasion by the Romans “San Pietro in mortorio”). In 1876 the convent was given to the Crown of Spain which made it the seat of the Royal Academy. The church has a special place in the history of Ireland: the connection began with the Flight of the Earls in 1607, when Hugh O’Neill and Rory O’Donnel ended up in Rome after the Tudor conquest of Ireland. The two earls were buried in a vault in the church.
The church has a simple and elegant Renaissance façade, with a twin transverse stairway, built in 1605 and leading to a small patio in front of the single entrance. It is attributed to the school of Andrea Bregno or Meo del Caprina. The interior, with a single nave, has five side chapels, designed by, among others, Vasari, Ammannati, Daniele da Volterra and Bernini. The first chapel on the right contains a famous picture (painted in oils upon the wall) depicting The Scourging of Christ by Sebastiano del Piombo, dated around 1518 and based on a design perhaps by Michelangelo. Sebastiano del Piombo was also responsible for the work in the conch, depicting The Transfiguration of Christ. In 1797, at the start of the Napoleonic period, the altarpiece of the church was expropriated by treaty by the French. This was the Transfiguration by Raphael, and when it was finally repatriated it did not come back to the church but went to the Vatican Museums. Below the altar are apparently buried the mortal remains of Beatrice Cenci, who was executed for the murder of her grossly abusive father in 1599.
In the first cloister of the friary it is possible to admire the Tempietto del Bramante, one of the most representative works of Italian Renaissance architecture.
For the timetable of the masses and visiting conditions, please consult the contacts.
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