Church holds little piece of the Spanish Basque country in Rome

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The Church of St. Charles of the Four Fountains is located on one of the hills of Rome, near the Italian President's residence.

Inside you can find a fronton field, a traditional sport played in the Basque country of Spain. There is a plaque in honor of a very famous Basque woman and an oak tree, the symbol of the Basque people. The first convent was designed by Italian Borromini, and it was full of people from the Basque area.

Trinitarian Order
This was the first Church, convent and cloister commissioned to Borromini. He worked on it alone. This is also a posthumous work because he did not finish it.
Work began in 1634 and he committed suicide in 1667. It was finished by his nephew, Bernardo, although there was not much left to do. He finished the façade and little else.

The floor preserves the memory of one of the most important women in the history of the Spanish city, Bilbao, Doña Casilda. She was an entrepreneur and great benefactor of social initiatives. And when she came to Rome and saw the poor state of the church where so many Basques like her lived, she decided to pay for its restoration.

Ambassador of Spain to the Holy See

She was a woman who cared for culture, who was generous towards the most vulnerable and who also supported education. She created the very famous Iturrizar public schools. She also created the Tívoli public schools and a park in Bilbao, called 'Doña Casilda's Park,' which is a landmark for the people of Bilbao.

Centuries later, another Basque woman is representing Spain in the Eternal City. Isabel Celaá is the Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See. Stepping on the soil of St. Charles, the ambassador, who was born in Bilbao, feels at home.

Ambassador of Spain to the Holy See

The hard-working, enterprising and supportive nature of Bilbao is very well expressed through Casilda's charitable work.

In one of the halls, two coats of arms can be seen on the ceiling: that of the Kingdom of Spain during the Bourbon Restoration and that of an oak tree.

The jewel of the Church of St. Charles, however, is the fronton sports field, which is now in disrepair. The Barefoot Trinitarian religious order used to spend their afternoons playing this traditional Basque game. This sport was Pope John Paul II's nightmare during his student days as he lived in the Belgian college next to the convent. The Polish pope remarked his experience to one of the religious who lived there at the end of an audience.

Trinitarian Order

When he presented himself to the Pope, he told him: 'I am a Trinitarian.' And seeing the habit, the Pope realized at once that he was a Trinitarian. 'I am a Trinitarian of St. Charles.' And the Pope said to him: 'I remember the Trinitarians of St. Charles. You used to play ball and prevented us from studying.''

In the Eternal City, small jewels such as this church with its roots in Basque country are hidden. This is yet another example of the historical relationship between Spain and Rome.



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