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Santa Balbina
Saint Balbina (in English)
Sancta Balbina (in Latin)
The façade of Santa Balbina.
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41°52′50″N 12°29′23″E / 41.880521°N 12.489662°E / 41.880521; 12.489662
DenominationRoman Catholic
StatusTitular church
DedicationBalbina of Rome
Architectural typeChurch
Groundbreaking4th Century
Cardinal protectorvacant

Santa Balbina is a Roman Catholic basilica church in a quiet area on the side of the Aventine Hill, in Rome. It is next to the Baths of Caracalla.


This had been the site of the large home of Lucius Fabius Cilo, a wealthy Roman of the late second century. It had been a gift to him from Septimius Severus, and is marked on the Forma Urbis Romae. Christian ownership resulted in substantial renovation in around 370: walls were heightened and the internal layout was modified along the lines of today's church. The original title of this church is uncertain. It has been suggested it was known as titulus Tigridae, referring perhaps to an early sponsor or founder. It has been handed down that when the Emperor Constantine departed to found the city that became Constantinople, he bade farewell to Pope Sylvester I at this church.

In the eighth century, the basilica was consecrated by Pope Gregory III to the entirely mythical St Balbina, whose legend has her dying around 130 CE.

The building underwent many revisions, including under Pope Paul II in 1464, and under Cardinal Pompeo Arrigoni in 1600. Initially affiliated with the Augustinians, the church came into the charge of secular priests of Naples during Pope Innocent XII's time.

The adjoining monastery has a commanding medieval defence tower. Inside the basilica there is a very fine[citation needed] episcopal chair with Cosmatesque decoration from the 13th century. The church was heavily restored in the 1930s. An ancient sarcophagus was discovered during the restoration. It is now used as a font. Frescoes were discovered on the side walls from the 9th to 14th centuries. The Baroque frescoes in the apse and the triumphal arch were painted by Anastasio Fontebuoni in 1599. The triumphal arch is decorated with the figures of Sts Paul and Peter. In the apse the mythical St Balbina is depicted between martyrs.

Previous titulars include Alfonso de la Cueva, marqués de Bedmar and Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros.

It was at this church in 1875 that the Franciscan priest Simpliciano of the Nativity founded the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

Hungarian connection

In 1270 the first known Hungarian cardinal, Stephen Báncsa was buried in the basilica. Another 13th-century Hungarian clergyman, Pál, Bishop of Paphos, erected an altar in the church for Saint Nicolas. Both the altar and the grave disappeared during later centuries, but a plaque commemorates the offerings of Pál. Until 2023, the cardinal priest of this church was Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary. He suggested the Hungarian links to the church played a part in the pope's decision to assign him Santa Balbina. Erdö recommended Hungarian pilgrims visit the basilica. The cardinal said he feels a special responsibility for the building.[citation needed] Because the church's physical state had deteriorated, Archbishop Erdő was appointed cardinal priest of Santa Maria Nuova in March 2023.[1]

List of Cardinal-Priests




  1. ^ "Ferenc pápa új címtemplomot jelölt ki Erdő Péter bíboros számára". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Esztergom–Budapest. Retrieved 26 June 2023.
  2. ^ P. Kehr, Archivio della r. Società Romana di storia patria 23 (1900), p. 283. Guido was a genuine cardinal who crossed over to the Obedience of antipope Clement III.
  3. ^ Hüls, p. 153.
  4. ^ Hüls, pp. 153-154.
  5. ^ Hüls, p. 154.
  6. ^ Hüls, p. 154. Gregorius joined the Obedience of Anacletus II, and was probably one of those deposed and anathematized at the Second Lateran Council.
  7. ^ Also known as Simon de Caritate. Eubel I, p. 40.
  8. ^ Eubel I, p. 40. Appointed by Urban VI on 18 September 1378, Elzirius died on 25 August 1380
  9. ^ Eubel I, p. 40. Bishop of Chieti, he was appointed by Urban VI on 18 September 1378, Elzirius died on 25 August 1380.
  10. ^ Eubel I, p. 40. Bishop of Rimini.
  11. ^ Eubel I, p. 40. Bishop of Chieti.
  12. ^ Eubel II, p. 61. Kempe was Archbishop of York.


Media related to Santa Balbina at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Santi Apostoli, Rome
Landmarks of Rome
Santa Balbina
Succeeded by
San Bartolomeo all'Isola