Saturday, February 09, 2008
Stational Church: Sant'Agostino
Today's stational church is Sant'Agostino dedicated to the Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo, and is the first Renaissance church in Rome. The history of this church starts in 1286, when the Roman nobleman Egidio Lufredi donated some houses in the area to the Augustinians. They were asked to erect a church and a convent on the site, and after gaining the consent of Pope Honorius IV (1285-1287), this was done the convent was built. However, the church had to wait because of the proximity to the church of St Tryphon in the Via della Scrofa. This church was entrusted to the Augustinians by the Pope. The small church of St Tryphon had several relics, and was a titular church. The title was passed on the Sant'Agostino when that church had been built, but the older church was kept as an annex until it was demolished in 1736.
Orders to build the new church came in 1296, from Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303). Bishop Gerard of Sabina placed the foundation stone. Construction was to last nearly one and a half century. It was not completed until 1446, when it finally became possible to celebrate liturgical functions in it.
The church was rebuilt on a larger scale in the same century, during the pontificate of Sixtus IV (1471-1484). Funding was arranged by William (Guillaume) Cardinal d'Estouteville, who was the papal Camerlengo (chamberlain) and protector of the Augustinian Order. The design was entrusted to the architects Giacomo di Pietrasanta and Sebastiano Fiorentino. Construction began in 1479, and was finished in 1483 - the year that Cardinal d'Estouteville died. The present orientation was arranged by the Cardinal, who was also the head of the Street Authority, Rome's 'planning commission'. The new church faced the ancient Via Recta (traces of this can be seen in Via delle Coppelle, Via S Agostino and Via dei Coronari), which was one of the main access routes to the Vatican Basilica. The church was also near the now demolished Palazzo Apollinare, where the Cardinal lived.
In the 16th century, a lot of work was done in the interior. One of the artists commissioned for the decoration of the church was the young, but already famous, Michelangelo. In the early 16th century, he started painting The Burial of Christ for the church. He never finished it, and the imcomplete work has made its way to England, where it can be seen in the National Gallery in London.
Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) established it as a cardinalitial title in April 1587. No titular priest was appointed until 1590, when Gregorio Cardinal Petrocchini de Montelbro O.E.S.A. became the first titular priest. The present titular priest is Marcelo Cardinal González Martín, appointed in 1973.
St. Augustine's mother, St. Monnica's tomb is found in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to the left of the high altar. Her relics were moved from Ostia in 1430. Caravaggio's painting, Madonna of the Pilgrims is found in the first chapel to the left of the entrance. Raphael's Isaiah is found on the third pilaster on the left.