Giuseppe Conte

Piazza di San Egidio: Everything You Need to Know

Explore the artistic and community spirit of Piazza di San Egidio in the heart of Trastevere.

Picturesque view of Piazza di San Egidio


Did you know that there is a piazza in Rome that is named after the patron saint of cripples and beggars? And that this piazza is home to a church that was occupied by a community of peace activists in the 1970s? If you are curious about these and other stories, you should visit Piazza di San Egidio, a charming and quiet square in the heart of Trastevere, one of the most lively and picturesque neighborhoods of the Eternal City.

Piazza di San Egidio is not as famous or crowded as other squares in Rome, such as Piazza Navona or Piazza di Spagna, but it has its own charm and history. In this article, we will explore the origins, historical significance, lesser-known stories, intriguing facts, dark histories, and local folklore of this hidden gem in Trastevere.

Historical Context

Piazza di San Egidio owes its name to the church of Sant'Egidio, which stands on the eastern side of the square. The church was founded in 1630 by the Carmelite nuns of Santa Maria della Scala, who wanted to honor St. Giles (Sant'Egidio in Italian), a Benedictine monk from Provence who lived in the 8th century and was renowned for his miracles and charity towards the poor and the sick. The church was built on the site of an earlier chapel dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, which was demolished to make room for the new construction. The church has a simple Baroque facade with a triangular pediment and a circular window. The interior has a single nave with six side chapels decorated with paintings by various artists. The most notable artwork is the altarpiece depicting St. Giles healing a wounded deer, painted by Giovanni Lanfranco in 1634 .

The church of Sant'Egidio was abandoned by the nuns in 1971, due to the decline of vocations and the urban transformation of the area. In 1973, it was occupied by a group of young students who had formed a community of prayer and solidarity in 1968, inspired by the Second Vatican Council and the social movements of the time. The community, which had not had a name before, then chose to name itself after its church: the Community of Sant'Egidio. The community is now an international movement of lay Catholics who are committed to promoting dialogue, peace, human rights, ecumenism, and service to the poor. The community has been involved in several peace initiatives around the world, such as the mediation of the Mozambican civil war in 1992 . Together with the adjacent former Carmelite monastery, which houses offices, meeting rooms, and a library, the church forms the seat of the Community of Sant'Egidio. The church is open to visitors and hosts daily liturgies and prayers.

The other attraction on Piazza di San Egidio is the historical building Palazzo Velli, which occupies the western side of the square. It was built in the 15th century by the Velli family, who were wealthy merchants and bankers. The palace has two floors with six windows each and a portal with an architrave bearing a marble inscription that indicates that it belonged to the Ospizio dei Pellegrini e Convalescenti (Hospital for Pilgrims and Convalescents) in 1656 . The palace was later divided into smaller buildings and sold to different owners, including the Orsini family, whose coat-of-arms (a bear with a red rose) can still be seen above one of the doors . The palace is now used as an exhibition space for art and cultural events.

Architectural Features

The church of Sant'Egidio has a simple facade with a triangular pediment and a round window. The interior has a single nave with six side chapels decorated with paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. The main altar has a painting of St. Giles by Giovanni Lanfranco. The church also preserves some relics of St. Giles, such as his skull and his staff.

Palazzo Velli is a two-story building with six windows on each floor. It has a portal with an architrave that bears a marble inscription indicating that it was once the property of the Ospizio dei Pellegrini e Convalescenti, a hospice for pilgrims and convalescents founded in 1608. Above the door, there is the coat-of-arms of the Orsini family, who owned the building in the 18th century. The building also has another portal with the coat-of-arms of the Velli family, who built it in the 15th century.

Tips and Recommendations

Piazza di San Egidio is a good place to enjoy the atmosphere of Trastevere, one of the most characteristic and lively areas of Rome. You can admire the architecture, visit the church, or relax in one of the cafes or restaurants around the square. You can also explore the nearby attractions, such as:


Piazza di San Egidio is a hidden gem in Rome that offers a glimpse into the history, art and spirituality of Trastevere. It is also a place where you can experience the social commitment and solidarity of the Community of Sant'Egidio, which organizes various initiatives to help the poor, the elderly, the migrants and the refugees in Rome and around the world.