Church of the Prayer and DeathSaint Mary of the Prayer, better known as Church of Death is the oldest church in Civitavecchia: history, art and tradition in the heart of the old town
From Piazza Leandra, crossing the Archetto, pass by Piazza Aurelio Saffi and reach the Church of Saint Mary of the Prayer, formerly Rotonda del Suffragio but commonly known as Church of the Death.
The Church of the Death is absolutely the oldest church in Civitavecchia and if you are walking among the characteristic tiny streets of the old town, it is worth a visit. Built in 1685, the church is bound to the birth and work of the Confraternity of Death and Prayer, constituted in the second half of the sixteenth century to give adequate burial to the corpses abandoned outside the city walls or dispersed in the sea.
The Church is an authentic architectonicla pearl, with a structure typical of the barroque churches of the second half of the seventeenth century. Completely restored in 1702, it also resisted to the bombings of the Secod World War.
The building has a central Greek cross plan and a big elliptical room that recalls the shape of a skull. At the ends of the room there are three chapels: the chapel of the Main Altar, the chapel of the SS. Crucifix and the chapel of Blessed Benedict and Anne. In addition, four small identical doors bring respectively to the four chapels: the chapel of Guglielmi (devoted to the Blessed Lady of the Seven Sorrows), the chapel of Saint Michael (that was used as Oratory), the sacresty and the parish office.
In 1698 the church was provided with a baroque style bell tower, surmounted by a very particular bulb shape dome.
Inside the Church of the Death it is possible to admire works of art of great value. For example, the frescoes of the famous Cavaliere Giuseppe Errante of Trapani like "The Virgin and Child" and others that decoret the inside of the dome and two famous wooden statues representing Jesus Crucified and the Ressurrection of Jesus.
Above the entrance there is the organ protected by a balaustred extracted from the stern of the Galley of Saint Peter, flagship of the Papal State, that fought victoriously in the famous Battle of Lepanto in 1571, where Muslim fleet of the Ottoman Empire and Christian fleets of the Holy League clashed.
From 2012 the building is being restored intensely. Among other things, the works of restoration have brought to light the beauty of the present altar piece “The Madonna in Glory with child and the Souls of the Purgatory” and of the Guglielmini Chapel, devoted to the Virgin of Seven Sorrows. Restoration is presently focusing on the frescoes of the apse dome and the two lateral domes.
The chapel of San Michele
The chapel of San Michele, named after the "Prince of the Angels", protector of the Confraternity, was the ancient oratory of the Confraternity of Saint Mary of the Prayer and Death.
In the interior of the chapel are noteworthy elements, like the Breve of Pius VI on August 19, 1775 (granting the privilege to the Confraternity to free every year a criminal condemned to life inprisonment for any crime except homicide and theft); the altar with the Wood Statue of the Archangel (19th century), located inside a niche, and a high medallion with the Virgin and Child, atributed to artist Giuseppe Errante.
On the occasion of the National Census "I Luoghi del Cuore" (Places of the Heart) 2016 promoted by the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano, National Trust of Italy), and thanks to the efforts of the Association "La Civetta di Civitavecchia", the Chapel of San Michele obtained well 11.491 votes, ranking 25th out of 33,264 places all over Italy and 1st in Lazio.
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Church of the Prayer and Death
- HOW TO GET THERE
The Church of the Prayer and Death is located in the old city of Civitavecchia and it can be easily reached by foot. If you are close to the Info Point of Largo della Pace you only have to go south in Via XVI Settembre, cross Piazza Luigi Calamatta and turn in Via Colle dell'Olivo to find yourselves in front of the Church.