The Borghese Chapel : the Pietà

Here you are now before the chapel of the Pietà, which takes its name from the sculpture standing in the middle of it.

  • import_contactsThe history of the Chapel

    This chapel was constructed in about 1570, when it was decided to prolong the church. The chapel was ceded in 1574 to Marc-Antonio Borghese, then the legal counsellor of the convent of Trinità-dei-Monti.

    The cycle of frescoes which decorates the chapel was commissioned by the son of Marc-Antonio Borghese from Cesare Nebbia in 1589. The theme is the Passion of Christ. To begin with, there was in the place where the Pietà now stands a representation of the Crucifixion that you can now see in the choir.



  • brushThe sculpture of the Pietà

    The statue which now stands in the centre of the chapel is a plaster copy offered by the German sculptor Theodor Wilhelm Achtermann, sculptor of the original statue. The latter had been made for the cathedral of Munster, where it was destroyed in 1945 by a bombardment. This plaster copy was placed here at the request of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart, the congregation then in charge of Trinità-dei-Monti, during the restoration campaign of the church in the nineteenth century.

    This sculpture shows the Virgin Mary holding in her arms her son Jesus. The latter has just died on the cross and is in a position of total abandon. His body is relaxed, totally abandoned in the arms of his mother. Mary places her head against that of Jesus, witnessing in this way the bond which unites them. They both have their eyes closed and a peaceful face, testifying a blind trust in the plan of God the Father.

    The statue is fairly realistic – notably, one sees the drops of blood that come out of the wounds of Jesus – which invite us to be conscious of how Christ has really suffered in his body, and the blood that truly gushes from his side.

  • groupThe Borghese family

    The “proprietor of the chapel”, Marc-Antonio Borghese, belonged to one of the most influential and powerful families in Italy. He was also the father of Pope Paul V, in whose pontificate the construction of the new basilica of St Peter was completed.

    Many illustrious members of the family were buried here, among whom were Marc-Antonio himself and his wife, the mother of Pope Paul V, etc.

    The arms of the Borghese family, composed of a crowned eagle and a dragon, are familiar in the Roman landscape, since they are found in many places: on the facade of St Peter’s Basilica, on Paul V’s fountain, etc. One finds them again in the chapel, on the floor and on the altar, as well as on the two sides of the central sculptural group.

A time of meditation

We suggest you take at time of silence to recollect yourself. Put aside all the things you have been worried about since this morning and concentrate on positive things.

You can turn towards the Virgin Mary and entrust to her all you have in your heart. Just as she took her son in her arms, she can also receive all our sufferings.


Here is a prayer you could say to her:

“Mary, like Jesus as a child, I place myself in your arms, I abandon myself to the warmth of your loving heart, to the security which procures the gentleness of your maternal glance. I know that you love me with a preferential love. Without considering my sins, you have lifted me up to the happiness of reposing on you Immaculate Heart.”


And now, you can listen to this song: