Santa Maria della Vittoria

Santa Maria della Vittoria (English: our Lady of Victory, Latin: S. Mariae de Victoria) is a roman catholic titular church and minor basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary located in Rome, Italy. The church is known for the masterpiece of Bernini in the Cornaro Chapel, the Ecstasy of St. Teresa.


The church was begun in 1605 as a chapel dedicated to Saint Paul for the Discalced Carmelites. After the Catholic victory at the battle of White Mountain in 1620, which reversed the Reformation in Bohemia, the church was rededicated to the Virgin Mary. Turkish standards captured at the 1683 siege of Vienna hang in the church, as part of this theme of victory.

The order itself funded the building work until the discovery in the excavations of the Borghese Hermaphroditus. Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V, appropriated this sculpture but in return funded the rest of work on the facade and granted the order his architect Giovanni Battista Soria. These grants only came into effect in 1624, and work was completed two years later.


The church is the only structure designed and completed by the early Baroque architect Carlo Maderno, though the interior suffered a fire in 1833 and required restoration. Its façade, however, was erected by Giovanni Battista Soria during Maderno's lifetime, 1624–1626, showing the unmistakable influence of Maderno's Santa Susanna nearby.


Its interior has a single wide nave under a low segmental vault, with three interconnecting side chapels behind arches separated by colossal corinthian pilasters with gilded capitals that support an enriched entablature. Contrasting marble revetments are enriched with white and gilded stucco angels and putti in full relief. The interior was sequentially enriched after Maderno's death; its vault was frescoed in 1675 with triumphant themes within shaped compartments with feigned frames: The Virgin Mary Triumphing over Heresy and Fall of the Rebel Angels executed by Giovanni Domenico Cerrini.

Other sculptural detail abounds: The Dream of Joseph (left transept, Domenico Guidi, flanked by relief panels by Pierre Etienne Monnot) and the funeral monument to Cardinal Berlinghiero Gessi. There are paintings by Guercino, Nicolas Lorrain, and Domenichino.

Cornaro Chapel

The masterpiece in the Cornaro Chapel, to the left of the altar, is Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Scipione's favored sculptor, Bernini. The statues depict a moment described by Saint Teresa of Avila in her autobiography, where she had the vivid vision of an angel piercing her heart with a golden shaft, causing her both immense joy and pain. The flowing robes and contorted posture abandon classical restraint and repose to depict a more passionate, almost voluptuous trance.


Santa Maria della Vittoria is a titular church. The following is a list of its Cardinal Priests:

  • Michelangelo Luchi (1801–1802)
  • Joseph Fesch (1803–1822); in commendam (1822–1839)
  • Ferdinando Maria Pignatelli (1839–1853)
  • Adriano Fieschi (1853–1858)
  • Joseph Othmar von Rauscher (1858–1875)
  • Godefroy Brossais-Saint-Marc (1876–1878)
  • Louis-Edouard-François-Desiré Pie (1879–1880)
  • Luigi Jacobini (1880–1887)
  • Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau (1887–1898)
  • Giovanni Battista Casali del Drago (1899–1908)
  • François-Marie-Anatole de Rovérié de Cabrières (1911–1921)
  • Alexis-Armand Charost (1922–1930)
  • Angelo Maria Dolci (1933–1936)
  • Federico Tedeschini (1936–1951)
  • Giuseppe Siri (1953–1989)
  • Giuseppe Caprio (1990–2005)
  • Seán Patrick O'Malley (2006– )
References in popular culture

The church has seen a surge in tourism thanks to the widespread popularity of author Dan Brown's novel Angels and Demons, which features the building (but for purposes of his novel, the writer moved its location down to the Piazza Barberini).

  • Rendina, Claudio (1999). Enciclopedia di Roma. Rome: Newton Compton. 
  • Matthiae, Guglielmo (1999). The Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Rome: Order of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers. ISBN 9788886542869. 

Building Activity

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