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San Nicola in Carcere
Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Prison
Basilica di San Nicola in Carcere
San Nicola in Carcere 269 89.JPG
San Nicola in Carcere near Theatre of Marcellus
Click on the map for a fullscreen view
41°53′28″N 12°28′48″E / 41.89111°N 12.48000°E / 41.89111; 12.48000Coordinates: 41°53′28″N 12°28′48″E / 41.89111°N 12.48000°E / 41.89111; 12.48000
LocationVia del Teatro di Marcello 46, Rome
TraditionRoman Rite
Statustitular church, minor basilica, regional church
DedicationNicholas of Myra
Architect(s)Giacomo della Porta
Architectural typemedieval

San Nicola in Carcere (Italian, "St Nicholas in prison") is a titular church in Rome near the Forum Boarium in rione Sant'Angelo. It is one of the traditional stational churches of Lent.


The first church on the site was probably built in the 6th century, and a 10th-century inscription may be seen on a fluted column next to the entrance, but the first definite dedication is from a plaque on the church dating to 1128. The inscriptions found in S. Angelo, a valuable source illustrating the history of the Basilica, have been collected and published by Vincenzo Forcella.[1]

It was constructed in and from the ruins of the Forum Holitorium and its Roman temples, along with a jail (carcer) which a tradition (supported by Pliny's history of Rome) states was sited in the temples' ruins.[citation needed] However, the in Carcere (in jail) part of the name of the church was only changed to "in Carcere Tulliano" in the 14th century, owing to an erroneous identification. The prison was really that of Byzantine times (LPD i.515, n13; ii.295, n12).

Six columns of the Temple of Speranza in the southern wall of the Church.
Six columns of the Temple of Speranza in the southern wall of the Church.

Spolia from all these ancient remains is still apparent in the church's construction, most particularly three columns from the Temple of Juno Sospita which are incorporated into both the 10th century and 1599 frontal façades of the church. The columns of the Temple of Janus, dedicated by Gaius Duilius after his naval victory at the Battle of Mylae in 260 BC,[2] can still be seen as being incorporated into the northern wall of the church. Six columns from the Temple of Spes are visible in the southern wall.

The dedication to St Nicholas was made by the Greek population in the area. In the 11th century, it was known as the church of Petrus Leonis, referring to the converted Jewish family, the Pierleoni, who rebuilt the nearby Theatre of Marcellus as a fortress. One of their members, Pietro Pierleone, was an important cardinal in the 1120s and was elected Pope Anacletus II, though he was later branded a schismatic antipope.[3]

The church was rebuilt in 1599, with a new facade by Giacomo della Porta (though the medieval campanile - originally a fortified tower, then adapted to a bell tower after being abandoned - was not altered). Stairs under the altar lead to the crypt and to the base of the former Roman temples. Beneath the high altar is also an ancient basalt bath tub containing martyrs' relics.


Pianist playing next to the stairs to the Roman ruins
Pianist playing next to the stairs to the Roman ruins

The church is known for celebrations to the devotion of the Madonna; one is the Italian Our Lady of Pompeii, whose feast is celebrated here, and the other is the Mexican Our Lady of Guadalupe, a reproduction of whose miraculous painting, sent here from Mexico in 1773, is shown.

Nearby structures include:

List of cardinal-deacons


  1. ^ V. Forcella, Inscrizioni delle chese e d' altre edifici di Roma, dal secolo XI fino al secolo XVI Volume IV (Roma: Fratelli Bencini, 1874), pp. 115-139.
  2. ^ Tacitus. Annales. II.49.
  3. ^ Mary Stroll, The Jewish Pope: Ideology and Politics in the Papal Schism of 1130 (New York: Brill Academic Pubs. 1987)., passim.


Media related to San Nicola in Carcere at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Santi Nereo e Achilleo
Landmarks of Rome
San Nicola in Carcere
Succeeded by
San Pancrazio