San Nicola in Carcere – Rome, Italy - Atlas Obscura
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San Nicola in Carcere

This small church was constructed over the ruins of three temples dating to the Roman Republic. 

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Viale del Teatro di Marcello and Via Petroselli present an eclectic display of restored Roman churches and exceptional ancient Roman architectural remains. This includes the small church of San Nicola in Carcere (Saint Nicholas in Prison). 

The church was constructed over the remains of three small republican temples dedicated by victorious Roman generals between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. These temples were commonly identified with three deities known as Spes (Hope), Janus, and Juno Sospita.

During the 12th or 13th century, the church was restored, reconsecrated, and named after Saint Nicholas, an important saint for the Greek and Byzantine community in Rome. The church incorporated major architectural elements from the temples including the columns visible on the façade and side walls. The church itself was constructed on the podium of the temple of Juno Sospita. 

One inscription that stands out on the second column on the left-hand side celebrates its donation by Anastasius dedicated to “Saints Anna, Simeon, and Lucia.” The column was most certainly located elsewhere before the medieval consecration of the present church.

Beneath San Nicola, excavations have revealed the foundations of the temples and provides an insight into the architectural techniques used by the Romans.

Know Before You Go

Excavations are normally accessible to the public during the church's opening times for a small fee.

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