After some years living in a religious congregation and carrying out pious works in Rome, St. Philip Neri (1515-1595), usually identified as the Third Apostle of Rome, saw the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri formally recognised by a papal bull in 1575. The members of the congregation – known as Oratorians – were secular priests living together under a Rule without having taken religious vows. From early on, the Oratorians were in close connection with parishes, serving as clergy and getting involved in apostolate, assistance and education, as well as in the production of art. Later on, numerous Oratorian congregations were established across Europe, as well as in America and Asia. These congregations functioned autonomously, but maintained direct connections between them, forming a kind of confederation; unlike other religious orders, they were not subordinated to a central authority.
The Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella (Rome) was granted as the headquarters of the first Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri; it was completely renovated soon after, and consecrated in 1577. This church is an artistic masterpiece, having received contributions from some of the most renowned artists and architects from the 16th century onwards. Whilst the Oratorians apparently never developed their own brand of “artistic style” – as occurred with other religious institutions, the fact remains that they sponsored a vast number of works of art, often of considerable significance, forming a corpus that is yet to be studied in due depth.
We are thus encouraging academic researchers and independent scholars to present their paper proposals (300 words + a brief biographical sketch of 100 words) for the international conference Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri: Art & Culture, to debate on Oratorian art (architecture, painting, sculpture, music, etc.) through all periods and geographical areas. The conference will take place in Lisbon, at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, between 15 and 17 October 2020, organised by ARTIS - Institute of Art History, School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon.