The Church of Santa Susanna is one of the oldest churches in Rome. The original place of worship was built around the year 280 AD on the remains of three Roman villas, outside the wall of the Baths of Diocletian and the Servian Wall, the first wall built to defend the city. According to tradition, the church was built in Susanna’s House, where the Saint was martyred in 294 AD.
Excavations made in the 19th century, actually brought to light the remains of a Roman house from the 3rd century, now visible through the glass paving of the sacristy. Other excavations from 1990 brought to light a Roman sarcophagus with fragments of painted plaster inside.
Pope Sergius I restored the church at the end of the 7th century, Pope Leo III rebuilt it from the ground in 796 and later, in 1475, the church was rebuilt again by Pope Sixtus IV. The facade of the church was completed in Baroque style in 1603 by the architect Carlo Maderno.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The facade of the church, with two orders, is considered the first fully realized example of Baroque architecture in Rome. On the first order, the portal is flanked by double columns with Corinthian capitals, while the central window on the second order has on each side a column and two squared pilasters with the same type of capitals.
The portal and the second order are surmounted by triangular tympana and each order has two niches with statues inside. On the first order, there are the statues of Saint Susanna and Saint Felicitas of Rome, by Stefano Maderno, and on the second order we can find the statues of Pope Caius and Saint Genesius, by Giovanni Antonio Paracea.
The interior of the church has a single nave with a side chapel near the balustrade of the presbytery. The walls were completely frescoed with Stories from the life of Santa Susanna by Baldassare Croce in 1595.
The ceiling has gilded coffers and bears a central image of the Madonna surmounted by a coat of arms of the Rusticucci family. The high altar houses the Martyrdom of Santa Susanna, by the painter Tommaso Laureti.
Behind the apse of the church, separated from it by an iron grate, is the nuns’ choir, built in 1596 by Cardinal Girolamo Rusticucci, who was the deacon of the church between 1570 and 1597.
HOW TO GET THERE
The closest Metro station is Repubblica, located in the homonymous square, about 300 meters away, on the Metro Line A. The closest bus stop is Largo di Santa Susanna, located near the church, on the bus Lines 61, 62, 85, 150F and 492.