The 17th century church of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio, which stands a stone's throw away from the Trevi Fountain, has a rather curious claim to fame, housing as it does the praecordia of twenty-two popes.
The praecordia, which were removed when a pope was embalmed, are stored in jars, which are kept in a room behind the high altar. The practise started shortly after the nearby Palazzo del Qurinale was built, which served the popes as a summer residence. The Palazzo del Quirinale lies within the parish of the Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio, which made the popes parishioners of the church.
The first pope to have his praecordia preserved in the church was Sixtus V (r. 1585-90). The practise only came to an end in 1903 following the death of Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903). The names of all twenty-two popes are inscribed on two plaques.
The church was built by Martino Longhi the Younger (1602-60) between 1646-50. The facade sports the coat of arms of Cardinal Mazarin (1602-61), who served as chief minister to the French kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV.
To either side of the upper part of the facade are two bare-breasted female figures.
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