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Santa Maria della Vittoria
Façade of Santa Maria della Vittoria
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41°54′17″N 12°29′39″E / 41.90472°N 12.49417°E / 41.90472; 12.49417
LocationVia Venti Settembre 17, Rome
StatusTitular church, basilica
DedicationMary, mother of Jesus
Architect(s)Carlo Maderno
Giovanni Battista Soria
Length35 m (115 ft)
Width19 m (62 ft)
Cardinal protectorSeán Patrick O'Malley[1]

Santa Maria della Vittoria (English: Saint Mary of Victory, Latin: S. Mariae de Victoria) is a Catholic titular church and basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome, Italy. The church is known for the masterpiece by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the Cornaro Chapel, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. The church is in the Rione Sallustiano, on number 98 via XX Settembre, where this street intersects with Largo Santa Susanna. It stands to the side of the Fontana dell'Acqua Felice. The church mirrors the Church of Santa Susanna across the Largo. It is about two blocks northwest of the Piazza della Repubblica and Teatro dell'Opera metro station.


The land for the church was purchased on April 20, 1607,[2] and the church was built from 1608 to 1620 as a chapel dedicated to Saint Paul for the Discalced Carmelites.[3] After the Catholic victory at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, which reversed the Reformation in Bohemia, the church was rededicated to the Virgin Mary. Ottoman standards captured at the 1683 Battle of Vienna were later hung in the church, reinforcing to the theme of the Virgin helping lead Catholic armies to victory.[2]

The order itself funded the building work until the discovery of the Borghese Hermaphroditus in the excavations. Scipione Borghese, Cardinal-nephew of Pope Paul V, appropriated this sculpture but, in return, funded the rest of work on the façade and granted the order his architect, Giovanni Battista Soria. These grants only came into effect in 1624, and work was completed two years later.[2]


The church is the only structure entirely designed and completed by the early Baroque architect Carlo Maderno, though the interior suffered a fire in 1833 and required restoration. Its façade, however, was erected by Giovanni Battista Soria during Maderno's lifetime, 1624–1626, showing the unmistakable influence of Maderno's Santa Susanna nearby.[citation needed]


Cantoria of the Santa Maria della Vittoria church, decorated by Mattia de Rossi

The interior of the church has a single wide nave under a low segmental vault, with three interconnecting side chapels behind arches separated by colossal Corinthian pilasters with gilded capitals that support an enriched entablature. Contrasting marble revetments are enriched with white and gilded stucco angels and putti in full relief. The interior was sequentially enriched after Maderno's death; its vault was frescoed in 1675 with triumphant themes within shaped compartments with feigned frames: The Virgin Mary Triumphing over Heresy and Fall of the Rebel Angels executed by Giovanni Domenico Cerrini in 1675.

View of the interior.

Other sculptural detail abounds: The Dream of Joseph (left transept, Domenico Guidi, flanked by relief panels by Pierre Etienne Monnot) and the funeral monument to Cardinal Berlinghiero Gessi. There are paintings by Guercino, Domenichino, and Nicolas Lorrain. The church is also the final resting place of Saint Victoria, whose preserved remains are on display inside.

Cornaro Chapel

The Cornaro Chapel is a private chapel commissioned by Federico Cornaro to Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Bernini lost papal patronage following the death of Pope Urban VIII and his replacement by Pope Innocent X, who disliked his artistic style, which enabled his commissioning by private patrons at this accomplished stage in his career. The entire architectural and sculptural ensemble of the chapel was designed by Bernini.

The altarpiece of the Cornaro Chapel, the Ecstasy of St. Teresa, is among the most celebrated works of all of Baroque sculpture, and widely considered one of Bernini's masterpieces.[4] The statues depict a moment as described by Saint Teresa of Avila in her autobiography, where she had the vivid vision of a Seraph piercing her heart with a golden shaft, causing her both immense joy and pain. The flowing robes and contorted posture abandon classical restraint and repose to depict a more passionate, almost voluptuous trance. Although artistically a tour de force, nonetheless, during Bernini's lifetime and in the centuries following, the Ecstasy of St. Teresa has been accused[by whom?] of crossing a line of decency by sexualizing the visual depiction of the saint's experience, to a degree that no artist, before or after Bernini, dared to do: in depicting her at an impossibly young chronological age, as an idealized delicate beauty, in a semi-prostrate position with her mouth open and her legs splayed-apart, her wimple coming undone, with prominently displayed bare feet (Discalced Carmelites, for modesty, always wore sandals with heavy stockings) and with the seraph "undressing" her by (unnecessarily) parting her mantle to penetrate her heart with his arrow.[5][6]


The Virgin Mary Triumphing over Heresy and Fall of the Rebel Angels, in the vault

Santa Maria della Vittoria was established as a titular church by Pope Pius VII on 23 December 1801.[citation needed] The following is a list of its Cardinal-Priests:[7]


  1. ^ Official website of the vicariate of Rome Archived November 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c "Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria" (in Italian). Padri Carmelitani Scalzi: Storia. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  3. ^ "Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria" (in Italian). Padri Carmelitani Scalzi. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Cornaro Chapel – Experiencing The Divine". Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  5. ^ For these visual details of the statue and an examination of the charge of indecency, see Franco Mormando, 'Did Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa Cross a 17th-century Line of Decorum? (Mormando's answer is yes): [1].
  6. ^ Zirpolo, Lilian H. (2010). Historical Dictionary of Baroque Art and Architecture. Scarecrow Press. pp. 170–171. ISBN 978-1-4616-5919-8.
  7. ^ David M. Cheyney, Catholic-Hierarchy: S. Maria della Vittoria. Retrieved: 2016-03-14.


Media related to Santa Maria della Vittoria at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Santa Maria in Via Lata
Landmarks of Rome
Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome
Succeeded by
San Martino ai Monti