After being darkened for four centuries, the great fresco inside Rome’s Church of San Giacomo alla Lungara has been brought back into the light. The fresco is the work of artist Giovanni Francesco ROMANELLI (1610/1662) also known as Raffaellino. The Church of San Giacomo is under the care of the friars of the San Giacomo Friary, a presence of the Italian Province of St. Francis of Assisi (Central Italy).
A presentation ceremony for the fresco was held on June 10, 2021, with the theme: “Giving a Future to the Past: The Significance of a Restoration.” The event’s speakers included the Guardian of the San Giacomo Friary, Friar Renzo DEGNI; the President of the Verderame Giulia Association, Silvia GHIA; the two restorers, Valentina WHITE and Lucia MORGANTI, expert Maria Cristina TERZAGHI, from the RomaTre University and expert Alessandra ACCONCI Superintendent of Archeology, Fine Arts and Landscape in Rome. The final speaker was the event moderator, Friar Vittorio TRANI.
The fresco, measuring six square meters [sixty-five square feet], underwent four months of restoration to bring it back to its original brightness. The restoration project was sponsored by the “Verderame – Progetto Cultura” Association of Rome. The Church of San Giacomo is located on the historic Via della Lungara (Lungotevere Farnesina). It is near the Villa Farnesina, which contains frescoes by Raphael and is close to the Galleria Palazzo Corsini and the Porta Settimiana, the ancient gate that leads visitors into Rome’s Trastevere district.
Around 1640, Francesco Cardinal BARBERINI, who was then promoting the renovation of the church, commissioned ROMANELLI, a painter from Viterbo, Italy, to create the fresco. The fresco depicts St. James with a pilgrim’s staff and the Book of the Gospel in his hand. His robes are beautifully draped and he is surrounded by angels. A hilly landscape adorns the background. Moreover, this image reconnects the church to the role it has always had throughout the centuries, namely, as a support point for pilgrims on their way to Saint Peter’s. The fresco serves as the altar painting for the main altar. It is next to Bernini’s funeral monument and is dedicated by Cardinal BARBERINI to his friend Ippolito MERENDA.
The restoration has returned this imposing fresco back to the people of Rome and to the inhabitants of Trastevere, who daily pass by along the noble Via della Lungara.
The presentation ceremony was enlivened with music provided by violinist Friar Peter HRDY and by some convivial time spent in the refectory of the Friary.
Friar Paolo FIASCONARO