The campaign to settle a Presbyterian minister in Rome began in 1846 but it was only in January 1862 that the first minister arrived and began the experiment of clandestine worship, under the shadow of the Inquisition, in a “hired house”. This continued till 1864, when the first permanent minister, Dr James Lewis, was appointed.
The growing congregation, mainly Scottish and American, moved first to a larger room and then in 1866 to another outside the city walls after the minister had been threatened with “arrest and imprisonment”. As the congregation continued to grow, Dr Lewis decided to move to a properly built church in the Via Flaminia.
This church was opened four months after Rome had been freed from Vatican control, on the second Sunday of 1871. However, by 1881, the church was threatened by the building of a new road, and the newly appointed permanent minister, Dr J Gordon Gray, launched an appeal for funds to acquire a site and erect a church in the modern quarter of Rome where new hotels were being built. Almost half the estimated cost was raised by the spring of 1883, and St Andrew’s Church opened in Via XX Settembre 7 on 21st January, 1885. Dr Gray was laid to rest in 1920 after a long and distinguished ministry, leaving this building as his lasting memorial in Rome.
The troubled wartime years saw the closure of the church, which finally resumed its peacetime look in 1948. The establishment of the FAO headquarters in Rome in 1951 brought many Americans into the congregation, and over the following years St Andrew’s became increasingly international, a characteristic which continues to the present day. There has been a long-standing relationship with a Korean congregation in Rome, many of whom are talented musicians who continue to contribute to our worship, and in recent years our membership has been enriched by the arrival of many immigrants from Africa and Asia.
St Andrew’s Church is a four storey building, constructed in the style of a Florentine palazzo, with the sanctuary on the ground floor.
A simple church, it can hold about 100 comfortably. In view of current health measures, capacity is limited to 30.
The basement has rooms normally used by the Sunday Club and Kirk Session, as well as a large church meeting room with kitchen facilities. When gatherings are permitted, these rooms are available for let.
The first and second floors are vacant at the moment but can be let out as office space. Anyone interested in renting office space in the heart of Rome is kindly asked to contact the Session Clerk to arrange a site visit.
The manse is on the fourth floor and the roof terrace above it offers magnificent views over the city to the north and west; notably towards St Peter’s and the Vatican. The terrace has frequently been used for church gatherings, and worship was conducted there in the spring and summer of 2007 while extensive renovations were being undertaken in the sanctuary and throughout the building.
A Rededication Service, conducted by the Very Rev Dr John Cairns, was held for our building on 20th April, 2008.