The Church of St. Mary on the Aventine 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 present name of this church is the Church of St. Mary of the Priory. It is one of the oldest churches in Rome. Apart from its age, this church has several other peculiarities. Do you know what are they?
This church is one of the oldest one in Rome, about two and half centuries old, but has one of the fewest interventions so far. This speaks about the quality of the architecture of the church. On a limited budget, the church was substantially renovated between 1764-66 according to the designs of Giovanni Battista Piranesi. It is his only architectural work and incidentally, he is also buried in there.
It is located in the Magistral Villa and belongs to the Sovereign Order of Malta’s government, known as order of Malta. Order of Malta, is a Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalric and noble nature. It has been called “the smallest sovereign state in the world”, though it is not recognised as one by the United Nations. But it has diplomatic missions at the UN and the European Union.
The church is also known for its unique architecture. Its façade 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 façade. The reliefs on this façade, 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 also indicates Piranesi’s fascination with Rome’s ancient past as they allude to motifs from Ancient Rome and Etruria.