Photo: The high and ornamental interior face of the Porta del Popolo (i.e., gate in the Roman Wall) is partly visible and partly obscured in the background at the left of the picture. The facade of the Church of S. Maria del Popolo is just to the right of the gate.
Originally a chapel (cappella) dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built on this site by Pope Paschal II in 1099. The Pope desired to commemorate the coming of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem into Christian control at that time.
In the year 1227, the chapel was enlarged and blessed as the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo by Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241).
It was to the Siena province of the Augustinian Order that was granted the house (convento) and church of S. Maria del Popolo in Rome about the year 1250 by Cardinal Richard Annibaldi.
He was their appointed official mentor and liaison since he had presided at the Little Union of the Tuscan hermits in 1244.
Its present baroque form of façade (as seen in the photo above) was added in the seventeenth century. It was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), the famous Italian architect, sculptor and designer.
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S. Maria del Popolo: the church and its setting. By Michael Greenhalgh, MA, PhD, FSA. He is the Sir William Dobell Foundation Professor of Art History at the
Canberra, Australia.The site contains some excellent panoramic photos of the piazza and the interior of the church.
For the Augnet photo gallery on the Church of Maria del Popolo, click here.