Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem or Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, (Latin: Basilica Sanctae Crucis in Hierusalem) is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and titular church in rione Esquilino, Rome, Italy. It is one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome.

Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem
Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Basilica Sanctae Crucis in Hierusalem
Santa croce di gerusalemme at Night.jpg
Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem is located in Rome
Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem
Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem
Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem is located in Rome
Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem
Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem
41°53′16″N 12°30′59″E / 41.88778°N 12.51639°E / 41.88778; 12.51639Coordinates: 41°53′16″N 12°30′59″E / 41.88778°N 12.51639°E / 41.88778; 12.51639
LocationPiazza di S. Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome, Italy
DenominationRoman Catholic
TraditionLatin Rite
StatusMinor basilica, titular church
DedicationTrue Cross
Consecratedca. AD 325
Architectural typeChurch
Length70 metres (230 ft)
Width37 metres (121 ft)
DioceseDiocese of Rome

According to tradition, the basilica was consecrated circa 325 to house the relics of the Passion of Jesus Christ brought to Rome from the Holy Land by Empress Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I. At that time, the Basilica's floor was covered with soil from Jerusalem, thus acquiring the title in Hierusalem; it is not dedicated to the Holy Cross which is in Jerusalem, but the Basilica itself is "in Jerusalem" in the sense that a "piece" of Jerusalem was moved to Rome for its foundation. The most recent Cardinal Priest of the Titulus S. Crucis in Hierusalem was Juan José Omella, since 28 June 2017.


The basilica is built on the ruins of an imperial villa called Horti Variani ad Spem Veterem which was begun by Septimius Severus and finished by the Emperor Elagabalus in the third century. This villa included the Amphitheatre of Castrense, the Circus of Variano, and the Eleniane Baths (so called after the restoration carried out by the Empress Helena). It contained a residential nucleus in which there was a large hall (later forming the basis for the basilica) and an apse hall.

The villa was deprived of some of its parts when the Aurelian Walls were constructed in 272. At the beginning of the 4th century the palace was chosen as a residence by the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, with the name of Palazzo Sessoriano. The name Sessoriano comes from the Latin sedeo, or "siedo" since in the late imperial era the imperial council used to meet in a hall of the palace. It was on her initiative that the large rectangular hall was transformed into a Christian basilica around 320, originally covered by a flat ceiling, illuminated by twenty windows placed five on each side and with valuable marble decoration in the lower register.[1] Helena had some soil from Calvary dispersed.

The basilica of Santa Croce was declared a titular church by Pope Gregory I in 523. Despite the fact it was located on the outskirts of Rome, it became a destination of constant pilgrimage, thanks to the enormous historical importance of the relics it kept. In the eighth century, the basilica was restored by Pope Gregory II.[2] After the Basilica fell into neglect, the Pope Lucius II (1144-5) restored it, giving it a Romanesque appearance, with a nave, two aisles, belfry, and porch. The Cosmatesque pavement dates from this period.

In the vault is a mosaic designed by Melozzo da Forlì before 1485 depicting Jesus Blessing, Histories of the Cross, and various saints. The altar has a huge statue of St. Helena, which was obtained from an ancient statue of the pagan goddess Juno discovered at Ostia.

The Basilica was also modified in the 16th century, but it assumed its current Baroque appearance under Pope Benedict XIV (1740–58), who had been its titular prior to his elevation to the Papacy. The eighteenth-century restructuring led to a total renewal of the internal environment, which was decorated in the vault by Corrado Giaquinto, one of the most celebrated artists of the time (1743). In 1601, during his first stay in Rome, Peter Paul Rubens completed his first altarpiece commission, St. Helena with the True Cross for the Chapel of St. Helena.[3] Rubens was commissioned by Archduke Albert of Austria to paint an altarpiece with three panels for the Chapel. Two of these paintings, St. Helena with the True Cross and The Mocking of Christ, are now in Grasse, France. The third, The Elevation of the Cross, was lost.

Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, interior

New streets were also opened to connect the Basilica to two other Roman major basilicas, namely, San Giovanni in Laterano and Santa Maria Maggiore. The façade of the Basilica, which was designed by Pietro Passalacqua and Domenico Gregorini,[4] shares the typical late Roman Baroque style of these other basilicas.

21st CenturyEdit

In May 2011, the Cistercian abbey linked to the Basilica was suppressed by a decree of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, following the results of an apostolic visitation prompted by years of serious problems, including significant liturgical disputes. According to a Vatican spokesman, "an inquiry found evidence of liturgical and financial irregularities as well as lifestyles that were probably not in keeping with that of a monk."[5] According to Il Messaggero, Simone Fioraso, an abbot described as a "flamboyant former Milan fashion designer", "transformed the church, renovating its crumbling interior and opening a hotel, holding regular concerts, a televised bible-reading marathon and regularly attracting celebrity visitors with an unconventional approach."[5]

Cappella delle ReliquieEdit

Several famous relics of disputed authenticity are housed in the Cappella delle Reliquie, built in 1930 by architect Florestano Di Fausto, including part of the Elogium or Titulus Crucis, i.e. the panel which was hung on Christ's Cross (generally either ignored by scholars[6] or considered to be a mediaeval forgery[7]); two thorns of the Crown of Thorns; part of a nail; the index finger of St. Thomas; and three small wooden pieces of the True Cross. A much larger piece of the True Cross was taken from the Basilica on the instructions of Pope Urban VIII in 1629 to St. Peter's Basilica, where it is kept near the colossal statue of St. Empress Helena sculpted by Andrea Bolgi in 1639.[8]

Other ArtEdit

The apse of the Basilica includes frescoes telling the Legends of the True Cross, attributed to Melozzo, Antoniazzo Romano, and Marco Palmezzano. The Museum of the Basilica houses a mosaic icon which, according to the legend, Pope Gregory I had made after a vision of Christ. The icon, however, is believed to have been given to the Basilica around 1385 by Raimondo Del Balzo Orsini.[9] Notable also is the tomb of Cardinal Francisco de Quiñones sculpted by Jacopo Sansovino in 1536.

List of Cardinal-PriestsEdit


  1. ^ Hughes, Robert (2011). Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-307-26844-0.
  2. ^ "History", The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem
  3. ^ Zirpolo, Lilian H., Historical Dictionary of Baroque Art and Architecture, Scarecrow Press, 2010, p. xvi, ISBN 9781461659198
  4. ^ "Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Church", World Monuments Fund
  5. ^ a b "Pope shuts down irregular monastery in Rome". BBC News. 26 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
  6. ^ Morris, Colin (2005). The sepulchre of Christ and the medieval West: from the beginning to 1600. OUP Oxford. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-19-826928-1.
  7. ^ Byrne, Ryan; McNary-Zak, Bernadette (2009). Resurrecting the Brother of Jesus: The James Ossuary Controversy and the Quest for Religious Relics. The University of North Carolina Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-8078-3298-1.
  8. ^ Partially referenced by Basilica of St. Peter
  9. ^ Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557), Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004, p. 222, ISBN 9781588391131
  10. ^ Ott, Michael. "Pope Lucius II." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 7 November 2017
  11. ^ Shahan, Thomas. "Domenico Capranica." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 7 November 2017
  12. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Capranica, Angelo", Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church
  13. ^ Ott, Michael. "Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 7 November 2017
  14. ^ Shahan, Thomas. "Bernardino Lopez de Carvajal." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 7 November 2017
  15. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Ciocchi del Monte, Antonio Maria", Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church
  16. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Cueva yY Toledo, Bartolomé de la", Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, Florida International University
  17. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Capizucchi, Gianantonio", Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, FIU
  18. ^ Guilelmus van Gulik and Conradus Eubel, Hierarchia catholica medii et recentioris aevi Volumen tertium, editio altera (ed. L. Schmitz-Kallenberg) (Monasterii 1923), p. 45.


  • Raimondo Besozzi, La storia della Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Roma: Generoso Salomoni 1750).
  • Marie-Théodore de Busierre, Les sept basiliques de Rome Tome second (Paris: Jacques Lecoffre 1846), pp. 157-178.
  • Paolo Coen, Le Sette Chiese (Rome: Newton Compton). [date missing]
  • Claudio Rendina, La Grande Enciclopedia di Roma (Rome: Newton Compton)[date missing]
  • Belkin, Kristin Lohse (1998). Rubens. Oxford Oxfordshire: Phaidon. pp. 63–6. ISBN 0-7148-3412-2.

External linksEdit