The Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, a 16th-century, Baroque-style church dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle, stands on the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele in Rome. In the late 1500s, the Duchess of Amalfi, Donna Costanza Piccolomini d’Aragona, gave two large donations to the Congregation of Clerics Regular of the Divine Providence, an order also known as the Theatines, whose apostolate was to combat the teachings of Martin Luther.
The Duchess offered to the Theatines her mansion and small church dedicated to St. Sebastian on one condition: She requested they build a church dedicated to Amalfi’s patron, St. Andrew. This was fitting for the Theatines, for the order has a devotion to the cross, and St. Andrew was martyred on an X-shaped cross or crux decussata.
The construction for the Church of Sant’Andrea began in 1590. The nephew of Pope Sixtus V hired the architect Carlo Maderno to complete the interior of the church, including the dome and façade. Maderno also designed the façade of St. Peter’s and should also be recognized for marking Sant’Andrea with one of the largest church domes in Rome, falling behind the domes of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon.
One cannot help but gasp when stepping through the wide doors of Sant’Andrea della Valle. The church has a single nave, with chapels on both sides.
In classic Baroque style, ornate gold molding is prevalent throughout the brightly lit church, which reflects the sunshine pouring in through the windows.
Popes Pius II and III are interred in the walls on each side of the nave, above the arches of the side chapels. The church holds a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s Pietà, and each chapel is flanked with fine marble and semiprecious stones.
This church was built upon the foundation of a church dedicated to St. Sebastian, the patron of soldiers and athletes. The Church of Sant’Andrea continues to honor the third-century martyr in an adorned side chapel and by celebrating his feast day Jan. 20. The painting in the chapel of St. Sebastian depicts the suffering he experienced when Emperor Diocletian found that St. Sebastian refused to make sacrifices to the Roman gods. In anger, Diocletian ordered that Sebastian be tied to a stake so that archers could use him as target practice.
From floor to ceiling, the apse shows frescoes and paintings of St. Andrew’s life and martyrdom. The most prominent painting located behind the altar is the Crucifixion of St. Andrew by Baroque artist Mattia Preti. With eyes upon the crucifixion scene, the viewer stands in awe, witnessing the enormity of St. Andrew widely stretched upon the cross, his eyes set upward in his great longing for heaven.
About 1,500 miles northwest of Sant’Andrea della Valle is St. Teresa’s Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland. Here, the Discalced Carmelites have been serving the Dubliners for more than 200 years and live lives dedicated to prayer, contemplation and pastoral ministry. Like the transformation of the Church of St. Sebastian to Sant’Andrea della Valle in Rome, the Carmelites also experienced a transition from one church to another. In the land known for St. Patrick, in 1625, the Carmelites first set up a church on Cook Street, where they would celebrate Mass in a small front room. British civil authorities shut down all chapels just four years later, but the Carmelites did not give in and instead relocated.
The Carmelites of St. Teresa’s currently focus on the spiritual health of those in the city of Dublin, and the church is a prominent place for tourists and pilgrims to visit and light a candle with a prayer intention. The church celebrates Mass five times each day, and the priests hear nearly 30 hours of confession every week.
My first pilgrimage to St. Teresa’s in July 2014 was thanks to a dear woman, Eileen, I met on my flight from London to Dublin. As the plane prepared to take off, I saw the woman to my right moving the beads of a rosary through her fingers. We began talking, and before I knew it, she had ordered me hot tea and shared with me how she had discerned the religious life, but then felt called to married life and was now a widow of 13 years. When I asked her if she knew about St. Teresa’s, she quickly responded, “Do I? That is a beautiful church that I intend to go to as soon as I get to Dublin.” Upon arriving in the Irish capital, I made it to St. Teresa’s for Mass, with just minutes to spare. I looked all around the church, but could not find Eileen.
After walking around the church afterward, and praying in a few of the chapels, I heard a voice that sounded like hers. I peeked into the sacristy, where the sound was echoing from, and, sure enough, there she was, chatting with the two priests who had celebrated Mass. I quietly walked up to her to say hello, and she wasted no time before asking me, “Have you seen the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima?” When I said, “No,” she took me by the hand and brought me to the statue and said, “You can ask anything of her!”
She then lit a candle, gave it to me and said, “Stay with Our Lady.”
Before Our Lady, I prayed that she would help me to totally surrender and abandon my heart, mind and soul to the will of the Father. I prayed for authentic and lasting peace and joy, as well as for my future spouse, so that he, too, would allow himself to accept the Lord’s great and mighty love.
On that July day in 2014, I wrote in my prayer journal, “Help each of us, Mary, to grow in virtue and patience as we wait for one another.”
I now write with gratitude, as I returned to St. Teresa’s Carmelite Church this past December 2016.
I was with my fiancé, and, together, we made sure to “stay with Our Lady.”
Susanna Bolle writes from
St. Paul, Minnesota.
Sant’Andrea della Valle
Corso del Rinacimento, Rome, Italy
Hours: 7:30am-12:30pm, 4:30-7:30pm
Sunday Masses: 8 and 11am, noon and 7pm
Getting There: From the “Colosseo” Metro stop, walk up Via dei Fori Imperiali to Piazza Venezia. Turn left on Via Del Plebiscito, which turns into Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II. Continue past the Largo Argentina to Piazza di Sant’Andrea della Valle. The church is on the left, opposite the fountain.
For more information:
St. Teresa’s Carmelite Church
Clarendon Street, Dublin, Ireland
Sunday Masses: 9:30 and 11am and 12:30 and 6pm
Monday-Friday Masses: 7:30, 8:30 and 11:30am and 12:45 and 5:30pm
Saturday Masses: 7:30, 8:30 and 11:30am and 12:45pm and vigil Mass 6pm
For more information: