Skip to main content

Chapel of St Calcedonius,

Casa Manresa

An important aspect of the Catholic reform was its emphasis on the cult of the saints, in response to the Protestant Reformation. This brought about a renewed interest in the catacombs and early Christian art, as they strengthened the apostolic claim of the Roman Church. For nearly four centuries, between the 16th and 19th centuries, corpi santi were extracted from Roman catacombs and gifted to churches all over Europe and the world.

To complete their undertaking at Casa Manresa, the Jesuits brought over from Rome the holy remains of a Christian martyr, following a request made by the founder Fr Pier Francesco Rosignoli SJ. On 20 May 1753, the remains of St Calcedonius arrived at the chapel from the cemetery of Pretastato, Italy, as a gift from Pope Benedict XIV. Eventually, the devotion to this martyr became so ingrained in the fabric of the retreat house that St Calcedonius is the name by which the locality became popularly known.

The chapel of Saint Calcedonius was decorated by the Maltese painter Francesco Zahra (1710-1773), a master of religious paintings in the Neapolitan Baroque style. The chapel was built at the back of the main altar, with a separate entrance on the side of Casa Manresa, so as not to disturb the retreatants. The relics could thus be venerated from the sides of the altar in which they were kept.

The titular painting depicts Saint Calcedonius in prison awaiting the crown of martyrdom. This is flanked by two panels portraying the saint’s Refusal to worship idols and the Martyrdom of Saint Calcedonius. The ceiling of the entrance hall leading to the chapel portrays an Allegory of the Order of Saint John.