Church of Saints Michael and Magnus

The Church of Saints Michael and Magnus is a Roman Catholic church in Rome, Italy, dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel and the Bishop Saint Magnus of Anagni. It lies in Rione Borgo, and is the national church dedicated to the Netherlands. It is also known as the "Church of the Frisians". In 1989, the church was granted to the Dutch community in Rome.


The Frisians were converted to Christianity in the 8th century by Saint Willibrord, known as the "Apostle to the Frisians" in the modern Netherlands. The Northumbrian missionary crossed the North Sea with eleven companions to bring the Gospel. From that time on, Frisian pilgrims regularly visited Rome. The old name for the people from the Low Countries who came to Rome has remained in use ever since.

A colony of Frisians was living in Rome as early as the 8th century. The Schola of the Frisians is mentioned at the time of Pope Leo III's return to Rome in 799, at Charlemagne's visit in 800 and by Louis II of Italy in 844. In 845, the Frisians and the inhabitants of the other scholae defended Old St. Peter's Basilica and its neighborhood against a Saracen invasion. The schola was plundered nonetheless. Shortly after, the neighborhood was surrounded by a wall, remains of which can still be seen. Any pilgrim from the Frisian territory who came to Rome would stay in the Frisian hospice, the closest to the St Peter's.

No remains of the small settlement's original church survive. Its patron saint was St Michael the Archangel, who liberated Rome from the plague. Later, a second patron saint was added to the church; Saint Magnus of Anagni, whose remains ended up in the church five hundred years after his death. Enthusiastic Frisians tried to bring the relics back to Frisia, but that initiative was stopped by Pope Leo IV, and since then, the relics remained in Rome. In 1446, Pope Eugene IV deprived the Frisians of the perpetual right to the church.


In 1141 the new and bigger church was built. It was a Romanesque building, with old columns, and a beautiful bell tower. This bell tower is still admirable, but the church looks very different from when it was built. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the interior was transformed to the extent that only small Romanesque details remain visible.

The church is built against the slope of the Gianicolo hill. Thanks to its location it was preserved in the 16th century when all the buildings at the bottom of the hill were demolished for the construction of St. Peter's basilica. The Church of the Frisians is the only existing building that reminds us directly of the scholae, built around the tomb of St. Peter.

There are two fragments of a tombstone of a Frisian knight called Hebus, who died in 1004 in Rome at the age of 90.

The church has hosted two important relics since the 1990s. These are the stone where Jesus was presented to King Solomon in his temple, and the stone where Abraham bound Isaac. These stones were previously kept in the nearby church of San Giacomo Scossacavalli, destroyed in 1937. The former stone is now used as the main altar of the church.