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Rome Reports

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Church with remains of two Borgia popes and a Spanish king


This is the Spanish National Church of Santiago and Montserrat, in Rome. It’s a small piece of the Iberian peninsula in the Eternal City.

The church set out on its mission in 1518, with an objective that hasn’t changed in 500 years: to be a place of welcome.

JOSÉ JAIME BROSEL
Rector, Spanish National Church in Rome
“We celebrate the liturgy and organize catechetical activities in Spanish, as the Spanish Episcopal Conference asks of us. We also organize cultural activities. Everything is done in Spanish, for Spanish and non-Spanish residents. This is a place of encounter for all those Spaniards who at some point live or pass through this city.

This church carries tremendous artistic, cultural, religious and even political value.

One of its most curious historical attractions is this chapel, which holds the tombs of Callixtus III and Alexander VI, also known as the Borgia popes. And this same chapel was the resting place of King Alfonso XIII for nearly 40 years.

The majestic architectural wealth of this Roman church set a precedent for the construction of future temples throughout the city.

JOSÉ JAIME BROSEL
Rector, Spanish National Church in Rome
“This is the first church in Rome with a single nave and side chapels. We no longer have the usual basilica layout with lateral naves leading out from the center. This church set the stage for future temples built in a similar way.”

The church was originally intended as a place for pilgrims, researchers and people with specific needs. But the scenario has changed radically, because of the pandemic.

During the lockdown they helped distribute food tickets, masks, sheets and blankets. It even offered legal advice to a group of Spanish students stuck in Rome.

JOSÉ JAIME BROSEL
Rector, Spanish National Church in Rome
“We provided housing to a family from America who, because of a very serious health issue, was stuck in this city. Remembering the origin of our institution as a hospital and place of hospitality for pilgrims in need, we hosted this family for a couple of weeks.”

Among this temple’s most important works of art are the statue of the Apostle James, by Jacopo Sansovino; the painting of St. Diego of Alcalá, by Annibale Carracci; and this impressive representation of the Immaculate Conception, with the heavenly and earthly church, a work by Louis Cousin.

This year, they have put all their efforts toward restoring the church. They did maintenance work on Rome’s first electric organ and these bells, one of them dating back to 1474. These bells have a unique movement, in a completely Spanish style.

Daniel Díaz Vizzi

Translation: CT