All Saints' Anglican Church, Rome
A growing Christian community in the heart of Rome finding and following Jesus in worship,
fellowship, study and service.
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Listen to some organ music, played by Titular Organist, Gabriele Catalucci Listen to some organ music, played by Titular Organist, Gabriele Catalucci

History - Early Days - 1816 to 1825


For over 160 years, starting from 1816, Anglican worship has been offered regularly in Rome by clergy of the Church of England. The early days of the English Chaplaincy in Rome are now remote. Although some of the buildings in which Anglican worship was celebrated are no longer easily identifiable, or even extant, an attempt can be made to reconstruct the earliest days of Anglican ministry in Rome.

It was in 1816, the year after Waterloo, that a first formal rendezvous for Anglican worship was organized. It had been impossible to hold such worship in Italy in the centuries since the Reformation, except in protected enclaves (such as the chapel in Leghorn), and no legation from the King to the Papal Court had been allowed by this date.

However, on Sunday 20th October 1816, the Jerseyman Corbert Hue arrived in Rome from Jesus College, Oxford (where he was Fellow and Bursar). He is the first Anglican priest known to have officiated publicly from the Book of Common Prayer in the Eternal City. He subsequently became Rector of Braunston, Northants and finally Dean of Jersey. He died in office at St Helier in 1837, aged 68. We do not know why, at the age of 47, the learned cleric came to Rome for a spell; but he rented rooms at via dei Greci 43, a recently restored palazzo with a courtyard. Standing just clear of the apse of the Greek Uniate church, it is a stone's throw from where the future All Saints' was to rise over the ruins of a convent on via del Babuino. It was therefore in the vicinity of the 'English Ghetto' around the Spanish Steps that four English worshippers joined the Jerseyman from Oxford while he conducted, according to his own reported boast, "the whole morning service, in the capital of the Pope, and within sight of the very Vatican!"

That was on 27th October 1816, within three weeks, the Sunday service was attracting between thirty and forty to his rooms, and at the request of the congregation he began to give a weekly sermon. Soon, people were being turned away for lack of space, and a larger, if still temporary, meeting place was created in spacious rooms near Trajan's Column. It was thought wise to ask for papal permission to conduct public worship in English, and Cardinal Consalvi, the Pope's Secretary of State, was approached. The reply, though icy by the standards of modern ecumenism, was taken as granting the request. Pope Pius VII is reported to have said,

"Il Papa sa nulla, e concede nulla"
("The Pope knows nothing, and grants nothing").
Or, as we might say, "What the eye doesn't see . . ."

Morning Prayer and Holy Communion were first said in this meeting place near the piazza Colonna on 29th December 1816. There were 120 in the congregation and it is reported the 97 communicated. 220 pounds Sterling were collected, and distributed among the poor of Rome. There continued to be a noble tradition of collections for the poor of Rome and back in England.

Hue was succeed by other clerics who officiated for a time in Rome. We know that for a spell from 1819 the services were conducted in whichever lodgings the priest occupied, following a warning that the local government objected to the English having so openly established a fixed place of worship. Despite of this measures, services continued to be well attended, with over one hundred present at the Good Friday liturgies in 1821.

From about 1822, the Revd Richard Burgess was among those who took steps to establish more securely Anglican worship in Rome. In 1828, he become the first permanent English or British Chaplain, and premises were openly obtained for the purpose in the Palazzo Corea (overlooking the Mausoleum of Augustus). In November 1823, however, the lease expired and the parish committee rented two rooms in the via Rasella, just off the Via delle Quatro Fontane. This placed the community almost under the garden walls of the Quirinale Palace, the residence of Pope Leo XII!


It seems evident that the chaplains felt a new sense of security in performing their duties, because in January 1824 Burgess began to wear his canonical robes when conducting Divine Service. By the autumn of 1824, the rooms in Via Rasella were hopelessly inadequate, and the committee began to search for much larger premises. It was to be hoped that the move would end the restless years. Indeed it did, giving Rome an identifiable, free-standing "English Chapel" which would serve Anglicans in greater spaciousness and reasonable dignity for over sixty years.

This text was adapted from the history of All Saints' Church, Rome by David Palmer (Rome. July 1978, Augusts of 1979, 1980 & 1981).

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