The Pontifical North American College

Saturday: San Nicola in Carcere

We come today to one of the most unique churches in the stational list, St. Nicholas in Prison.  St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra, in present-day Turkey, in the early fourth century.  He was imprisoned during the persecutions of Diocletian, being released after the Edict of Milan.  Just over a decade later he would be among the defenders of the orthodox party at the First Council of Nicea.  He is perhaps better remembered for the many charitable deeds he performed during his ministry, such as paying the dowry for three daughters of a poor man.

The current church building is built in the remains of three Roman temples which once stood on the edge of the Forum Holitorium, the vegetable market of the ancient city.  After the decline of the city during the middle of the first millennium, the church of St. Nicholas was built on their site.  It is possible that one of these had been used as a prison for a time, leading to the name of the church.  The church was certainly in existence by the late eighth century, likely beginning as a diaconia.  The columns were recycled, likely from one of the temples on this site.  In the medieval period some additions were made to the church, including the bell tower, which is built in a different style than most in the city.  The current façade dates from 1599, and the interior was renovated under Bl. Pope Pius IX in the mid-nineteenth century.

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Address: via del Teatro di Marcello, 46

Directions: Take the 23 or 870 from the stop at Piazza delle Rovere (at the bottom of the Gianicolo hill) to the stop near Tiber Island. Cross the bridge at Tiber Island and continue south along the opposite side of the Tiber for one block. Cross the Lungotevere and take the via del Foro Olitorio to the church, which is on the left.

Walking Directions

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