The history and the name of the church
The original sanctuary on this site was erected as an oratory for the Confraternita del Carmine, founded in the church of San Crisogono in Trastevere. In 1515 the confraternity was transferred to the then remotely situated church of San Martino ai Monti. Cardinal Odoardo Farnese (1573-1626), protector of the confraternity, acquired some houses at the ancient "Tre Cannelle", and in 1605 the building of the oratory began. In 1606 Paul V (1605-1621) raised the confraternity to the rank of archconfraternity, and in 1621 Gregory XV (1621-1623) recognized it as "Madre e Capo" of all Carmelite confraternities. The building of the oratory was completed in 1625, but it remained a quite insignificant edifice. In time the oratory grew too modest for the archconfraternity, and the architect Giacomo Ciolli († 1736) was commissioned to amplify the building. From 1724 to 1733 the presbytery, the high altar and the nave was constructed, while the façade was erected only in the Holy Year of 1750 after the designs of Michelangelo Specchi (1684-1750). Specchi's façade is an illustrative example of the tendency towards a formal severity, which was predominant in Rome in the middle of the 18th century.
In 1772 a disastrous fire almost destroyed the church, but in the very same year Clement XIV (1769-1774) commissioned the rebuilding
of the church with the assistance of cardinal Domenico Orsini d'Aragona (1719-1789), protector of the archconfraternity. In 1775
the church was reopened for worship, and it was given the name "Santa Maria del Carmine". The church was restored in 1862.
The architecture and the art of the church
The rather simple façade has two storeys. In the lower storey double pilasters of the Corinthian order are flanking the portal, over which a lunette, originally a window, has a hardly visible fresco of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, executed in 1824. Beneath the protruding cornice, which divides the two storeys, there is the following dedicatory Latin inscription: B. MARIAE VIRGINI DE MONTE CARMELO. The upper tier has a rectangular window surmounted by a broken pediment with a hanging festoon, and on the sides double pilaster bands with a shell motif. A projecting triangular pediment crowns the façade.
The interior has a single nave with a barrel-vault and high Corinthian pilasters. The decorational theme of imitated stucco-work
was executed by the architect of the archconfraternity, Vincenzo Martinucci. The high altar, which is the work of
the aforementioned Giacomo Ciolli, has an 18th century vested sculpture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel with the Child Jesus, made
of papier-maché. Above the sculpture there is the Marian monogram in gilded wood. Earlier the high altar was adorned by a painting
of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, executed in c. 1605 by the Roman painter Gaspare Celio (1571-1640). This painting is now
preserved in the oratory of the archconfraternity. The painting of the small dome of the choir has an angel in the sky.
The right side-altar is dedicated to the prophet Elijah, and it uses a painted standard (1727) as altar painting. Corrado
Giaquinto (1703-1766) painted both sides of the standard. The show-side has The Apparition of the Virgin to the prophet
Elijah on Mount Carmel, while the reverse side shows The Virgin giving the scapular to St. Simon Stock. The saint
is interceding for the souls of Purgatory. The former painting of the left side-altar, now placed on the left wall of the choir,
had the same motif, and was executed by Giovanni Pirri in 1776. The left side-altar now has a modern painting (1927) of St.
Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1874-1897) by Tito Ridolfi.
On the counterfaçade, above the cantory, there is a fine organ from 1807. In the adjacent rooms of the church there are several art-works of interest. In the changing-room of the confrères a painting by Corrado Giaquinto representing St. Filippo Neri is preserved. In a small corridor we may behold an apparently anonymous 18th century painting depicting St. Filippo Neri exhorting the children to pray for Our Lady. In the sacristy there is a late 16th century painting of The Flagellation by an anonymous master.