Santa Maria del Priorato Church

Church of St. Mary of the Priory
Church of St. Mary on the Aventine
Chiesa di Santa Maria del Priorato

Façade of the Church of Our Lady of the Priory
Location Rome, Italy
Website Official website
Founded 939
Founder(s) St. Odo of Cluny
Associated people Knights of Malta
Status National Church in Rome of Malta
Architect(s) Giovanni Battista Piranesi (renovation)
Completed 939 (original building), rebuilt 1550s, 1766 (renovation)
Length 31 metres (102 ft)
Width 13 metres (43 ft)

The Church of St. Mary of the Priory (Italian: Chiesa di Santa Maria del Priorato), can also be known by its previous name of St. Mary on the Aventine (Italian: Santa Maria in Aventino). It is the monastery church of the Priory of the Knights of Malta on the Aventine Hill in Rome, and is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The original church was built in 939, when Odo of Cluny was given the Roman palace of Alberic II of Spoleto, which was then converted into a Cluniac Benedictine monastery. When the monastery was dissolved in the 14th-century, the site was acquired by the Knights of Malta, and, under them, the church was rebuilt in the 1550s.

In 1760, the papal nephew and Grand Prior of the Knights, Cardinal Giambattista Rezzonico, sought to improve the appearance of the buildings. On a limited budget, the church was substantially renovated between 1764-66 according to the designs of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, who also built the piazza in front of the church, the Piazza dei Cavaliere di Malta. The fairly low wall around the piazza is articulated by panels with paired obelisks with stelae positioned in between them.

The church facade has paired fluted pilasters towards its edges to infer a temple front. The vertical linearity of the fluted pilasters act as a foil to enhance the more decorative reliefs of the facade. The reliefs on this facade, the entrance gate and the panels and stellae in the piazza include emblems and other references to the military and naval associations of the Knights of Malta and the Rezzonico family heraldry. The way in which they are represented indicates Piranesi's fascination with Rome's ancient past as they allude to motifs from Ancient Rome and Etruria.[1]

Piranesi's decoration of the church interior culminates in the very sculptural main altar.

Piranesi is buried in the church. Other tombs there include that of Bartolomeo Carafa (died 1405), designed by Paolo Romano.


  1. Wilton-Ely, John (1978), The Mind and Art of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, London: Thames and Hudson, p. 95, ISBN 978-0-500-27477-4


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