A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fr Jean-Claude Colin in Rome (1)

Fr Kevin Head sm

The First Visit: September 1833 – February 1834

Between 1833 and 1854, Fr Jean-Claude Colin, the Founder of the Society of Mary, visited Rome five times. In all, he spent 18 months there. The purpose of these visits was, first of all, to present the general plan for the Society of Mary to Church authorities; secondly, to discuss the Constitutions of the Society with Church authorities; and, eventually, to negotiate with the Roman Curia in regard to the complications of the mission in the Pacific that had been assigned to the Society of Mary. Fr Colin met twice with Pope Gregory XVI and twice with Pope Pius IX.

Fr Colin’s first journey to Rome was with Fr Jean-Antoine Bourdin, representing the Marists in Belley, and Fr Peter Chanel, representing those in Lyon. After a difficult journey of 17 days from Marseille, they arrived in Rome on 15 September 1833. They met with Pope Gregory XVI towards the end of September, then journeyed to Loreto, where Fr Colin stayed for a week, while Fr Chanel and Fr Bourdin returned to France.

Courtyard of the Franciscan monastery

Façade of the Church
of the Holy Apostles

Courtyard of the Odeschalci Palace

On returning to Rome, Fr Colin stayed fourteen weeks in the Conventual Franciscan monastery next to the Church of the Holy Apostles, opposite the Odescalchi Palace, which is probably where Fr Colin met a number of times with Cardinal Castracane, representing the Holy See.

The Church of the Holy Apostles holds the relics of the Apostles Philip and James. The parish dates from the sixth century, the present church was completed in 1714, and the façade in 1827. Fr Colin spent many hours of prayer in this church.

Tomb of Sts Philip and James

The shrine of the Madonna dell’Archetto, the ‘smallest Marian Sanctuary of Rome’, contains a painting called Causa Nostrae Laetitiae – Cause of Our Joy.

Madonna dell’Archetto

Fr Colin spent a great deal of time praying in front of this painting. The image was painted on rock by Domenico Muratori in 1690 and was positioned under a small arch between two buildings. The painting was moved to its present site within the small chapel in 1851. The chapel itself is considered to be a fine example of neo-Renaissance artistry, which the architect, Virginio Vespignan, considered to be his best work. The hot wax paintings in the shrine are by Constantino Brumid, who used the same technique on the frescoes in the Capitol in Washington DC.

Up until 1870, the Popes lived in the Quirinal Palace. It was here that Fathers Colin, Bourdin and Chanel met Pope Gregory XVI on 28 September 1833. It is recorded that the Pope welcomed them with kindness, and even though Pope Gregory could not speak French and they could not speak Italian, they managed to communicate in Latin, and the meeting lasted three quarters of an hour.

During his first visit to Rome, Fr Colin liked very much the Church of San Andrea al Quirinale. Designed by Bernini in 1658 for the Jesuit novitiate, it is considered to be a wonderful example of Bernini’s genius, and one of few churches in Rome that survives in its original design. St Stanislaus Kostka, a Polish novice who died at the age of 18, is buried there. During November 1833, Fr Colin celebrated Mass nine times at the altar dedicated to St Francis Xavier.

The Quirinal Palace

Of his time in Rome, Fr Colin wrote to Fr Convers, “The journey has been one of the greatest graces God has given me since I began working at the Society.” He was happy that he had achieved the main purpose of his visit, namely, to present the plan for the Society of Mary to Church officials.  

Altar and reliquary of St Stanislaus Kostk

Church of San Andrea al Quirinale

Altar dedicated to St Francis Xavier


1. Craig Larkin SM, Jean-Claude Colin, Rome, A Superior General at Work, Padri Maristi, November 2014

2. Vatican Press, Madonna Dell’Archetto

3. Wikipedia, Santi Apostoli Roma

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