San Giovanni Battista Decollato Church Rome
The address of the Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista Decollato is Via di San Giovanni Decollato, 22 (tel. 06 6791890). Bus: 30, 44, 44F, 51, 81, 83, 85, 87, 130F, 160, 160F, 170, 186, 628, 715, 716, 781, 810. Opening hours: June 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Closed: The rest of the year. Admission: Free.
History and description
The San Giovanni Battista Decollato Church is located on the site of the former Santa Maria della Fossa Church. In 1488, it was assigned to the Brotherhood of San Giovanni Decollato, who had it restored in 1504. Subsequent restorations took place in 1727 and 1888.
This brotherhood had been founded by Florentine Christians to support criminals who had been condemned to the death penalty. Their aims were convincing the criminals to repent and making arrangements for their burials. Michelangelo was one of the members of the brotherhood, which also had the right to pardon one criminal per year.
The church has a single nave and is decorated with frescoes by 16th century Tuscan painters.
What to see
A pagan sarcophagus supported by lions and decorated with hunting scenes.
Above the main altar is Giorgio Vasari’s painting, “The Beheading of John the Baptist” from which the church takes its name.
The oratory next to the church is decorated with frescoes showing scenes from the life of John the Baptist and similar to those in the Sistine Chapel.
In the floor of the oratory are tombs of those condemned to death.
The historical room of the brotherhood contains multiple objects related to the activities of the brotherhood. These include the basket in which the heads of the condemned were collected, the stretchers on which the corpses (minus head) were transported and the knee bench on which Beatrice Cenci said her last prayer.
Beatrice Cenci (1577-1599) was a young woman of an aristocratic family, who had murdered her abusive father. When she was condemned to be beheaded the people of Rome protested. She was killed anyway and was later to become a symbol of resistance against arrogant aristocracy. She is buried in the San Pietro in Montorio Church.