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Promoting Piety, Coercing Conversion: The Roman Archconfraternity of the Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini e Convalescenti and its Oratory

 

Barbara Wisch

 

The imposing oratory of the Roman Archconfraternity of the Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini e Convalescenti was built ex novo from 1570 to 1571 and highly praised by contemporaries. Although large, elaborately decorated oratories were fundamental expressions of confraternal identity, this oratory – gutted by the French in 1798, restored in 1823, and razed in 1940 – has been overlooked. Now, unpublished documents reveal new information about the edifice and its decoration that presented the archconfraternity’s public face a half-century before its dilapidated principal church was fully renovated. Of utmost significance and unique to confraternal experience, this oratory became a centerpiece for new papal policies of Jewish ghettoization and conversion – the seat of Rome’s first compulsory, conversionary preaching in 1576. This essay considers the oratory as an impressive setting for the diverse experiences of the multiple audiences – confratelli, pilgrims, foreign visitors, and Jews – who gathered within its walls.