San Francesco Saverio del Caravita
is a 17th century Baroque oratory, next to the church of St. Ignatius in the rione Pigna. The church is dedicated to the great apostle of the Indies, St. Francis Xavier
. It is commonly called the Oratory of Caravita. It is home to the Caravita Community
, an international English-language Catholic community in Rome.
For reference, a plan of the church is available here
The current oratory is built over the ruins of a mediaeval church that was seriously damaged by lightning in 1405. In 1551 Pope Julius II entrusted the ruined church to Camaldolese monks, who rebuilt the church, and built a small monastery next door.
By 1631, the Society of Jesus had established itself next door with the Collegio Romano, and sought to expand nearby to accommodate the active sodalities and lay congregations regularly meeting in the College. The Jesuits acquired the property from the Camaldolese in exchange for a site near Piazza Venezia.
The current oratory was built by the Jesuit father of Terni, Pietro Gravita from 1631-1633. Known as the Oratorio del Caravita, popular corruption of the surname of father Gravita. It housed nine congregations of laypeople who served Rome's homeless, sick, and imprisoned and then returned to the oratory to pray and to receive spiritual direction from Jesuits at the Roman College, just across the street. The oratory was originally dedicated to Santa Maria della Pietà (Our Lady of Pity) in addition to the great Jesuit missionary Saint Francis Xavier.
The oratory was renovated between 1670 and 1677, probably under the guidance of architect Giovanni Antonio de’Rossi
, and was once again dedicated to Saint Francis Xavier, Apostle of the Indies, and the Madonna della Pietà as indicated in the inscription about the entrance on the Oratory’s façade. In 1716, to facilitate passage of the Jesuits across the street, a skybridge was built connecting the old Roman College to Caravita, over the Via del Collegio Romano. It is known as the Arco dei Gesuiti (Arch of the Jesuits).
After the restoration of the Society in 1813, the Oratory was used as the center of activity for all Jesuit lay associations in Rome, until falling into disuse in 1925. The Caravita Community renovated the church in 2000. Since then, it has been mostly used by an international English-speaking group, mainly consisting of expatriates from around the Anglophone world.