San Giovanni in Oleo Chapel Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Via di Porta Latina – Rome. Telephone: +39 06 774000032 or +39 340 3544798. Opening hours and admission: The church is normally closed. Whoever would like to visit needs to do this through contacting the nearby San Giovanni a Porta Latina Church.
History and description
According to legend San Giovanni (Saint John) survived being submerged in a barrel full of boiling oil. This is supposed to have occurred in the year 92, when the saint was 80 years old. Also according to tradition, the Emperor Domitian was present at the event. The watching crowd got scared when San Giovanni remained unharmed and asked the Emperor to save the saint and exile him. He ended up being sent to Patmos.
The Cappella di San Giovanni in Oleo was supposedly built at the exact same spot where this took place. Before it was constructed, there was an ancient pagan mausoleum in this spot.
It was constructed in the beginning of the 16th century and is octagonal in shape. The design was either by Bramante or by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and follows the circular shape of the mausoleum.
A sign on one of the doors claims that the French priest Benedict Adam paid for the construction.
In 1658 Cardinal Paolucci, who owned San Giovanni a Porta Latina, had both church and chapel restored. Since Alexander VII was Pope at the time, it is his family Chigi‘s coat of arms on the entrance.
Borromini was the architect of the reconstruction. He modified the roof by adding a round attic to the roof. The attic is crowned by a globe adorned with a frieze of roses and ending in a cross. (In 1967 the original cusp was moved to a corner of the portico of San Giovanni a Porta Latina. What can be seen on the chapel is a plaster cast.
Borromini was the architect who placed the cross supported by a globe adorned with roses on top of the chapel roof.
At the end of the 17th century the chapel was again restored.
Works of art
A fresco cycle inside the chapel shows San Giovanni being submerged in the oil. The cycle was painted in 1661 by Lazzaro Baldi, who was a pupil of Pietro da Cortona.