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The Pontifical Institute “S. Maria dell’Anima” includes the church of the German-speaking Catholics in Rome and the adjacent Priests’ College. The church has a history which stretches over 600 years. According to recent researches it was probably founded in 1350. It is first mentioned in a bull of Pope Boniface IX, in which the husband and wife Johannes Peter and Katharina of Dordrecht are named as its founders. The “Anima” was founded to the glory of the Mother of God under the title “beatae Mariae animarum” and served as a hospice for those of the German nation. The later Rector Dietrich von Niem successfully aided the “Anima” over early financial difficulties, and it was the same Rector who gave a constitution to the fraternity as those being responsible for the hospital. On May 21, 1406 Pope Innocent VII endowed the hospital with a letter of protection, which placed it under the special guardianship of the Holy See and in so doing made it a papal foundation. A short time later the same Pope affirmed its founding, expressly mentioning that the erected hospital should pursue the goal of assembling the poor and the pilgrims of the German nation, in order to strengthen them and nurse them back to health. Important for the further development of the “Anima” was, along with permission to erect its own cemetery, the incorporation of the St. Andrews Hospital. By a bull of 1444 Pope Eugenius IV empowered the “Anima” to care to the spiritual welfare of the German pilgrims and of the poor through the regular celebration of the Mass and administration of the other sacraments. Although by 1499 only a half century had passed since the completion of the Gothic church of Santa Maria dell’Anima, it was decided to build a new church. The reasons for this decision were the rivalries between the individual nations along with the cultural understanding characteristic of the Renaissance which was developing in Rome at that time. In 1542 the finished church was finally consecrated. In the following centuries the history of the “Anima” was marked by certain negative occurrences which placed the existence of the national institute in question: Following the French revolution, the church was plundered by the French and the sacristy was used as a stable for horses. Later the Spanish Netherlands viewed the “Anima” as their own foundation, while the Italian element, having become quite strong, threatened to obscure the original character which the “Anima” had in accord with its foundation. Finally, the House of Austria, by reason of its protectorate, intervened to correct the situation. In 1859 the Priests’ College was founded, which up to the present day is located adjacent to the church. Finally, in 1954 the church was entrusted with a new task in its pastoral care of pilgrims. This consists in placing qualified guides at the service of pilgrims and otherwise advising them during their stay in the Eternal City. Santa Maria dell’Anima is the church of German-speaking Catholics in Rome and wishes to be for them “a home away from home”.

History of the church and some important dates

The Present church is the third located on the site and finds itself an immediate neighbour of the church of Santa Maria della Pace. The special characteristic of its exterior is the slender bell tower, which reaches two and one-half stories into the heights above the remainder of the edifice. In connection with the name “Santa Maria dell’Anima” the gable sculpture above
the principal entrance of the church is particularly worthy of mention: the enthroned Queen of Heaven with the child Jesus is humbly beseeched by two naked forms – two poor souls – who kneel at her side. The interior of the church is a hall outfitted with three naves and four bays, with crosswise chapels in the form of niches. There are eight chapels: St. Benno, St. Anna, St. Mark also called the “Fugger Chapel”, the Chapel of the Pietà, the Margrave Chapel, also referred to as the “Cross Chapel” or “Centurion Chapel”, St. Barbara, St. John Nepumuk and St. Lambert. Conditioned by the lay of land, the edifice is constructed in trapezoidal form; the space is partitioned by the floor plan’s crossformed pillars. A particular symbol also to be mentioned in the interior is the double-headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire, which expresses the attempt to place the “Anima” under the protection of the Roman Empire of the German nation. In the 18th century the emperial protectorate passed to the house of Habsburg. Numbered among the excellent artistic treasures of the church of Santa Maria dell’Anima are the high altar image of Giulio Romano, the burial monument of Pope Hadrian VI, as well as works by Francesco Salviati, Carlo Saraceni, “Lorenzetto” (Lorenzo Giovanni di Ludovico) and Girolamo Siciolante (called “Sermoneta”).

The High Altar Image

This was created by Giulio Romano in 1521-1522 and was commissioned by Jakob Fugger, who originally intended that it adorns the Fugger Chapel. The image carries the title “The Holy Family” and shows Mary with the boy Jesus standing and St. Joseph, St. James kneels on the left side and St. Mark on the right. These saints are the patrons of Jakob Fugger and the two Marcus Fuggers who find their final resting places in the “Fugger Chapel”.

The burial Monument of Pope Hadrian VI

Born in Utrecht in1459, Pope Hadrian VI was, until the election of John Paul II, the last non-Italian to sit upon the Throne of St. Peter. According to the reckoning of his day he was of “German nation”. After a thirteen-month reign he died on September 14, 1523. The tomb was commissioned by his confidant and friend, Cardinal Willem van Enkevoirt and erected under the leadership of Baldassare Peruzzi. The tomb is constructed in three parts. To begin, there rises a foundation with the coat of arms of Cardinal Enkevoirt and a tablet with an inscription concerning the life of the Pope. In the middle part, between half-pillars of red and green marble, stand the four cardinal virtues. Above the tablet with the inscription a relief presents the entrance of Hadrian VI into Rome, in which the city is represented by the Tiber with cornucopia, the she-wolf and Romulus and characteristic examples of architecture. The principal piece is the above-placed sarcophagus upon which Hadrian lies sleeping, vested in pontificial garb, with the tiara-crowned head ofe the Pope propped up on the left side. The sarcophagus is decorated with the coat of arms of the Pope and with his name; the inscription under the sarcophagus, a saying of Pliny, alludes to the unhappy circumstances of the pontificate of Hadrian VI.

About the works of Salviati, Saraceni, Lorenzetto and Sermoneta

Salviati painted the works in the Margrave Chapel which were completed in 1550. The altar image of the Depositio Christi is particularly wothy of note. Saraceni is responsible for the depiction of the miracle of St. Benno in the St. Benno Chapel and that of the martyrdom of St. Lambert in the chapel which bears his name. Both were realized around 1618. Lorenzetto, who was married to the sister of Giulio Romano, created the Pietà in the Chapel of the Pietà. The work was completed in 1532 and adorned the high altar until 1560. The Fugger Chapel was decorated by Sermoneta. His work in the Church of Santa Maria dell’Anima is remarkable due especially to its precision of design.