S. Domenico e S. Sisto
Community ID
 
468
 
Alternate Names
 
San Sisto; San Sisto Vecchio; Monasterium Sancti Systi; Monasterium Sancti Sixti
 
Town
 
Rome
 
Diocese
 
Rome
 
Region
 
Lazio
 
Medieval Location
 
The early Christian church together with the later medieval monastery of San Sisto (or San Sisto Vecchio as it is called today) was situated under the Coelian Hill in the Porta Capena region of Rome, a short distance from the beginning of the Via Appia
 
Dedication
 
Dominic / Sixtus (pope Sixtus II, partyred in 258 under the emperor Valerian)
 
Date Founded
 
1207 -- 1221 (this date is debatable: see Le 'Monasterium Tempuli' et le fondation dominicaine de San Sisto, p. 54 ff).
 
Date Terminated
 
1931 -- in this year, sisters then living at the 16th c. site of the community moved to the suburban Monte Mario region of Rome and took the name S. Maria del Rosario.
 
Religious Order
 
Dominican (the house was originally planned to be a part of the Gilbertine order, but this was never realized).
 
Rule
 
Augustinian, following the model of S. Maria of Prouille.
 
Foundation Information
 

About 1207, as part of a plan to establish a single monastery for all the religious women of Rome, which could then serve as a model to standardize monastic life for women throughout the Christian world, Innocent III began restoring the ruined bascilia of San Sisto and building next to it a large cenobium universale (universal monastery). Innocent made the church structure smaller, but built a monastery for sixty nuns above the church. Innocent III died in 1216 and Honorius III oversaw the completion of his predecessor's monastic complex. In 1219 St. Dominic received authorization from Honorius III to undertake the task of organizing a community within Innocent's splendid buildings. Due to the relucatance of most Roman women, it was not until 28 February 1220 that the new model monastery was inhabited by five nuns from the nearby convent of Santa Maria in Tempuli move into. The night before, their precious seventh century icon of the Blessed Virgin (now in the monastery of the successors of those sisters on Monte Mario) was carried in a procession to San Sisto from its old home of S. Maria in Tempulo. Among these first five sisters was nineteen-year-old Cecilia of Rome, who provided us with a facinating and dramatic account of the several phaseses of foundation in her biography of Saint Dominic, Miracula beati Dominici. Three more sisters from Santa Bibiana in Rome soon joined them.

 
First Members
 

The first members came from the communities of S. Maria Tempoli and S. Bibiana all'Orso Pileato. Le Più antiche carte del Convento di San Sisto in Roma (905-1300) gives the names of sisters present in the community during the thirteenth century (pages lxv-lxix), a list made on the basis of surviving legal documents, which she published (pages 1-473). Noteworthy are members of the following prominent Roman families: de Carbonis, de Bobaccianis or Bovaccianis, de Iudicis, de Andreoctis, de Filipinis, Consolini, Bobonis, de Thedallinis, de Arciconinis. A Jewish recruitment may be indicated by "Maria, who is called Iudea " and "Iohanna de Ponte Judeorum" (lit. "Bridge of the Jews").

 
Notable Members/Residents/Guests
 

Sister Cecelia of Rome, author of the Miracles of Saint Dominic, a work in which Cecelia recounts the dramtic events and controversies accompanying the foundation of the community.

 
Incorporated Communities
 

S. Maria Tempoli (1221), S. Bibiana all'Orso Pileato (1221), S. Cesario "Corsarum" (1433), Santa Aura, S. Cosma e S. Damiano in Mica Aurea (possibly in the fifteeth century). Santa Aura was Dominican and San Cosimato Benedictine at the time of incorporation. The other three Roman communities are generally considered or assumed to have been Benedictine.

 
Other Ecclesiastical Relations
 

Ecclesiastical jurisdiction as evidenced by other types of sources. Ordinary, a capacity exercised by the provincial prior of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) or his vicar. Eg. Bull of Alexander IV, dated October 14, 1259, in which he sets the upper limit of membership at 60.

 
Assets/Property
 

Real property including farm estates cultivated by tenant farmers in the enviorns of Rome, as well as buildings, and parts of various kinds of structures within Rome, including part of the Colosseum.

 
Early Documents
 

[1] April 15, 1221: fist known document with S. Sisto mentioned as an operational house. // [2] April 25, 1221: Pope Honorius III supresses S. Maria in tempule and transfers its properties to the new community of S. Sisto.

 
Art & Artifacts
 

Miracle-working icon first known as "The Madonna of Santa Maria in Tempuli" and, after the incorporation of the convent of Santa Maria in Tempuli into that of San Sisto, as "The Madonna of San Sisto." The icon was an asset that distingushed the community housing from all other Roman institutions. The miraculous icon of the Virgin, was considered a brandeum or associative relic, because it was believed to have been painted by the apostle Luke. Since the tenth century the nuns of Santa Maria in Tempuli publically processed behind the icon on the great liturgical feast days in Rome. Tradition held that Pope Sergius III had endorsed the ritual and miraculous status of the icon by processing with the image on his own shoulders. It would be hard to overestimate the prestige of this icon, which was publicized throughout Europe in sermons and miracle stories. For a recent account of the social and political import of this icon of Virgin see Likeness and Presence. A History of the Image before the Era of Art and Salus populi Romani: die Geschichte römischer Kultbilder im Mittelalter, with their extensive bibliographies.

 
Architecture & Archaeology
 

Over the centuries the early Christian church of San Sisto underwent many changes, notably in the pontificates of Innocent III (1198-1216) and Benedict XIII (1724-1730). Under Innocent III the two aisles of the original church were totally demolished, a new floor was laid down in the nave well above the old one to bring the church into line with the then level of the valley, the walls of the nave that remained were raised, the entire structure was made smaller and a monastery for women was built over the church.

 
State Of Medieval Structure
 

The nuns moved from San Sisto, then called SS. Domenico e Sisto, in 1575. The monastery continued to be the property of the sisters and the Dominicans maintained services in the church, but the fabric of the monastic complex suffered from neglect. Pope Clement VIII handed the properties over to the Dominican Order in 1602. Beginning in 1930-1935 the site of the
medieval church of San Sisto become the object of archaeological investigation by Professors
Josi and Prandi of the Pontifical Commission on Archeology who uncovered part of the
paleochristian church. This work was continued in the 1960s by Herman Geertman of the Dutch
School of Archeology, who definitively established the plan the early Christian church. Between
1602 and 1677 various Dominican Generals, Niccolo Ridolfi in particular, restored the
monastery.

Beginning in 1930-1935 the site of the medieval church of San Sisto become the object of
archaeological investigation by Professors Josi and Prandi of the Pontifical Commission on
Archeology who uncovered part of the paleochristian church. This work was continued in the
1960s by Herman Geertman of the Dutch School of Archeology, who definitively established
the plan the early Christian church.

 
Manuscript Sources
 

Fondo S. Domenico i San Sisto (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Archivio Segreto);
Registri Vaticani (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Archivio Segreto);
Camerale I, 1369-1870. Inventario 112;
Archivi Notarili;
Corporazioni religiose femminili, secc.XV-XIX..;
Archivio Generale dell'Ordine Predicatori;
Archivio del Vicariato (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Archivio Segreto);
Archive of of the convent of the Madonna del Rosario

 
Published Primary Sources
 

Miracula beati Dominici, pp. 293-326;
Le Più antiche carte del Convento di San Sisto in Roma (905-1300);
"Miracles of S. Dominic," pages 391-93 in Early Dominicans: Selected Writings
"Primitive Constitutions of the Monastery of San Sisto" pages 7-22 in Early Documents of the Dominican Sisters

 
Admin. Notes
 

Link MS sources to archive info when available.

 
Contributors
 
WRL Project
 
Date Started
 
1207
 
Date Finished
 
1931
 
Length
 
5455