Vignola Mattei

On the slopes of Celio, in front of the Baths of Caracalla, immersed in the green of the “Passeggiata Archeologica”, stands the complex Vignola Mattei. This is the church dedicated to Santa Maria in Tempulo, now managed by the municipality of Rome, ideal for the ceremony of civil marriages.

The origins of S. Maria in the Temple date back to the 6th century AD. C., when a Greek religious community built an oratory dedicated to Saint Agatha previously occupied by the Area Apollinis.

The documents from time attest to the existence of a Monasterium Tempuli sacked in 806 AD. by the hand of the Saracens. In 905 AD Pope Sergio III donated to the nuns some properties on Laurentina Street to facilitate reconstruction. Up until the 12th century the monastery was inhabited by Benedictine Sisters and in 1155, for the first time in an official document, a Ecclesia Sanctae Mariae in Tempuli appeared. In the 13th century the monastery lost its religious function when the nuns of Santa Maria in the Temple were transferred to the nearby monastery of San Sisto Vecchio, following the founding of a cloistered monastic order by the will of Pope Honorius III. From that moment on, the church became a civilian home.

Over the centuries the monastery has had many uses. In the seventeenth century it was annexed to Villa Mattei, owned by the Mattei family, who decided to renew the vineyard on Celio and transformed the monastery into nymphaeum. Around the middle of the eighteenth century the farmhouse was used as a barn up until the twentieth century where it housed the sculptors’ study of Francesco Sansone and Ugo Quaglieri.

Today the defunct church, whose remains are embedded in the environment, preserves the charm of a time in the traces of the various restorations and renovations over the centuries. A seductive building, adjacent to the Caracalle Baths and encompassed by the greenery of the surrounding park and cyclamen flowerbeds.The 12th-century Romanesque bell tower of the old ecclesial structure survives, of which only two sides are embedded in the masonry of the building, visible on the slope facing the Caracalla Baths, with traces of Frescoes of the 11th century.The exterior of the building, with its walled buttresses on the sides, attests to the austerity of a time. The interior, divided into four rooms, is very elegant and spacious, accommodating about 70 people. The light that filters through two side windows and the skylight illuminates the remains of the frescoes. Roman columns and busts help to nourish the mystery atmosphere that surrounds the building. Located in Camene Street, you can hear the echoes  of the so-called Fons Camenarum, a fountain dedicated to the Musee Camenae with magical powers, that could cure all ills.