Santa Susanna - Rome visitor guide showing a virtual tour of 'Santa Susanna' linked to an interactive map with local and travel information. 360° panoramas from Roma.
The church of Santa Susanna in Rome is on the Via XX Settembre on the Quirinal Hill, just over the road from Santa Maria della Vittoria. This is a 'titular'church (an early church built around the edge of ancient Rome) that dates back to around 280AD. The church of Santa Susanna was originally a house belonging to Caius (Bishop of Rome at the time) and his brother Gabinus. Susanna was the daughter of Gabinus and the church is named after her. It was very common for Christian congregations to meet in the homes of believers.
The reason that the church is dedicated to Susanna is that there is a story that she had taken a vow of chastity, and yet was being pursued by Maximianus Galerius, adopted son and heir of the Emperor Diocletian. Susanna refused his proposals and then subsequently also refused to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods. This act of rebellion against the emperor and religion of Rome proved too much for the authorities who had her beheaded in her own home.
Remains of the early church building were discovered in 1830 during renovations to lay down a new marble floor. These are visible below a glass floor in Santa Susanna's sacristy. The tiles, walls and mosaics found here may well belong to the original domus of Susanna.
Pope Sixtus V gave permission for massive renovations of the current church in the 1590's, with work beginning in 1588. The Baroque style façade by Carlo Maderno was completed in 1603. On the whole the church has a lighter feel than many in Rome. The interior is decorated with six large frescoes by Baldassare Croce on either side of the nave showing the life of Susanna from the Story of Susanna, an Apocryphal book of the Old Testament.
In 1922, after a long struggle, American Paulist priests gained permission for Pope Benedict XV to "exercise the sacred ministry to the advantage of the American colony" in Santa Susanna, and the church has been the home for the American Catholic church in Rome ever since.