Station Church, 2021: XXXVI

— Feria IV infra Dominica Passionis — Statio ad S. Marcellum —


While the tradition holds that the church was built over the prison of Pope Marcellus I (d. 309), it is known that the Titulus Marcelli was present no later than 418, when Pope Boniface I was elected there. Pope Adrian I, in the 8th century, built a church on the same place, which is currently under the modern church.

On 22 May 1519, a fire destroyed the church. The money collected for its rebuilding was used to bribe the landsknechts, who were pillaging the city during the Sack of Rome (1527). The original plan to rebuild the church was designed by Jacopo Sansovino, who fled the city during the Sack and never returned to finish it. The work was continued by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, who rebuilt the church, but a Tiber flood damaged it again in 1530. It was only in 1692–1697 that the church was completed with a facade by Carlo Fontana, commissioned by Monsignor Marcantonio Cataldi Boncompagni. The exterior travertine statues were sculpted by Francesco Cavallini, and the stucco bas-relief over the entrance, with depicts San Filippo Benizio, was created by Antonio Raggi. Benizio had been a member of the Servite order.

The crucifix of San Marcello is a medieval work of religious art that is venerated in the Oratory of Santissimo Crocifisso (just a few steps away) of the Church of San Marcello al Corso in Rome. It survived a fire that destroyed the church in 1519. During an epidemic of plague in 1522 the crucifix was carried in a procession through the city. The procession caused the plague to leave the neighborhoods through which the crucifix passed, and eventually to die out in Rome.

Paris Nogari, Procession of the Crucifix Against the Plague of 1522 (1583–84), Oratorio del Crocifisso fresco

A confraternity was set up which quickly became one of the largest in Rome. Pope Francis had it brought to St Peter’s Square on several occasions during the Italian lockdown in March 2020 for an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Blessing on 25 March 2020.

An historical account of the procession: Led by friars of the Servants of Mary, the procession began on August 4 and ended on August 20, and comprised members of the nobility and churchmen alongside ordinary Roman citizens (wearing black habits and carrying crosses), as well as “barefoot youths with their heads covered in ashes”. As the procession passed, the Romans implored the crucifix to intercede on the city’s behalf with calls of “Mercy, Holy Crucifix!” while flagellating themselves. The city authorities, mindful of contagion, attempted unsuccessfully to halt the procession

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