The Church of Sant’Apollinare alle Terme is located slightly north of the Piazza Navona in Rome and is one of the very few churches in the world that (used to) have a notorious criminal buried inside.
Sant’Apollinare alle Terme Church Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Piazza di Sant’Apollinare, 49 – Rome (tel. +39 06 681641). Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 07.30 till 09.00 and from 12.00 till 13.30. Closed: Saturdays, Sundays, holidays. Admission: Free.
History and description
The criminal who used to be buried inside the church was Enrico De Pedis, the last leader of a gang known as the Banda della Magliana. De Pedis, who was killed by other members of this gang, was a benefactor of the church and, though this is still being investigated, instrumental in convincing other criminals to stop attacks against the church.
In May 2012 De Pedis‘ tomb was opened because it was thought to contain a number of clues pertaining to the disappearance of a kidnapped girl called Emanuela Orlandi. This assumption turned out not to be false, however. Orlandi was kidnapped in 1983, by an organization that claimed to want freedom for a Turkish terrorist who had attempted to kill the Pope two years earlier. It is not likely that the tomb will be placed back into the church.
Construction of the church was ordered by Pope Hadrian I, in 780. It was built on top of the ruins of a previous Roman edifice and is dedicated to the first bishop of Ravenna, Apollonaris. The first priests were Basilian monks, but later it was given to the Jesuits (1574) and then to the Lazarists (1773). In 1990 the church was given to the militant Catholic Church organization Opus Dei.
The present look of the church is a result of a reconstruction in 1742. The architect was Ferdinando Fuga, who completely rebuilt the facade.
What to see
- Pierre LeGros sculpted the statue of Saint Francis Xavier that is found in the Chapel named for the saint himself.
- Stefano Pozzi painted the ceiling fresco “The Glory of Saint Apollinaris”.
- Bernardino Ludovisi decorated the high altar.
- The Chapel of Graces is outside the church itself and can be entered through a door on the left.
- The portico at the entrance of the basilica is decorated with a 14th century fresco of the “Madonna between the apostles Peter and Paul”. In 1494 this fresco was covered up with a thin layer of plaster in order to protect it against the wrath of passing French soldiers. On February 13 of the year 1647, when the plaster cracked and fell down, the image was rediscovered and became an extremely popular object of devotion.