The Santa Bibiana is a church in the Esquilino district in Rome. Although the church is much older, the facade was designed by a then 26 year old Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Despite its small size it contains a number of early baroque masterpieces by Bernini. It is located in a rather unfortunate spot, next to the railway tracks and a busy tunnel under these tracks.
Santa Bibiana Church Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
The address of the Chiesa di Santa Bibiana is Via Giovanni Giolitti, 154 (tel. +39 064465235). Metro: Vittorio Emanuele. Tram: 5, 14. Bus: 105, 105L, N12. Opening hours: 07.30 to 10.00 and 16.30 to 19.30 (Sundays and public holidays: 07.30 to 12.30 and 16.30 to 19.30). Admission is free.
History and description
The Santa Bibiana Church was constructed in the 5th century. At the time the area was still called the Horti Liciniani.
Restorations took place in 1220 and in 1626. This last restoration, by Bernini, was ordered by Pope Urban VIII. Pope Urban was a member of the Barberini family. On the ceiling above the altar bees, the symbol of this family, are depicted.
Bernini’s main contributions were the new facade with the portico. He also reconstructed the apse and designed two new chapels. The apse ceiling is decorated with stucco ornaments. He redesigned the high altar, to which he also contributed a sculpture.
Highlights Santa Bibiana Church
The marble statue at the main altar was sculpted by Bernini and depicts Santa Bibiana. The mortal remains of the saint, together with those of her mother and sister, are preserved in an urn underneath this altar.
The fresco cycle along the wall of the left nave was painted by Pietro da Cortona and depict events in the life of the Bibiana.
The paintings on the opposite wall were done by Agostino Ciampelli.
The eight antique columns in the church date back to its first 5th century version.
The church is dedicated to Santa Bibiana, who was scourged to death on December 2nd of the year 363. Near the left aisle you can see part of the column Santa Bibiana was tied to when she was martyred. This was done by order of Julian the Apostate, the Emperor who wished to end the tolerance towards the Christians and their religion that had earlier been imposed by Constantine. The structure protecting the column was designed by Bernini.
The portal is flanked by two inscriptions, claiming that the church was built on top of a former cemetery with the mortal remains of 12,266 martyrs. One inscription is in Latin, the other one in Gothic characters.