While in Rome last November, I stumbled upon the church of S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami (St. Joseph of the carpenters). And, I literally mean stumbled upon. I had decided not to go to the Mamertine prison with my friends, but opted for a visit to the church of Ss. Cosmas and Damian instead. When I traveled along the forum to meet up with everyone at the prison, I took a sort of circuitous route, up a hill, around a bend and then down toward the forum again. There at the bottom of the hill was the prison. Then, looking up I saw a beautiful church built directly above the prison. Since my friends weren't done with their tour, and the doors of the church were open, I went upstairs.
It turns out that the church is dedicated to St. Joseph as patron of carpenters. The interior is quite fancy and it seems that the work was done by the "congregation of carpenters." I'm not sure about that group, but if anyone has some information, please feel free to chime in with a comment. The church was originally known as St. Peter at the prison, but I guess the carpenters got first dibs on a name change when they moved in back in 1540.
Because the square outside of the church was lowered to permit direct access to the prison, one now has to climb stairs to gain access. But, it is well worth a visit, if you happen to find the doors open. After my friends came out of the prison tour, they told me that I had made the better choice and that the tour was poorly done without much of an emphasis on the religious aspect of St. Peter and St. Paul's imprisonment. The prison is owned by the city of Rome and the tour is run as a secular enterprise (and it's pretty expensive, as well!).
But, now back to the title of my post. Why is it so difficult to find a church dedicated to St. Joseph in Rome? I did a search and found only one other church in Rome exclusively dedicated to the saint who is the guardian of the Church. Well, there may not be many churches bearing his name in Rome, but I am sure that he is one of Pope Benedict's right hand men. Ite ad Joseph!
The main altar of St. Joseph of the Carpenters:
A painting of the death of St. Joseph: