February 9, 2010 / Places
Roma, Lazio
santapollonia1Saint Apollonia is the Patron Saint of Dentistry. 15 years ago, after practicing Orthodontics for 30 years, the “Two Tourists” were on a 6 month self guided tour of Italia. One of the goals was to find a church or statue or some type of memorial to her.

Saint Apollonia was a martyr circa 250AD, who, as the legend goes, had her teeth removed before giving up her life for Christianity at the hands of the struggling Romans. The TTs thought that they had found her in the first weeks of adventure. However, the church in Trento turned out to be Saint Apollonaria. A wholly different saint.

Then, one day while wandering through Trastevere in Rome, the TTs came upon “Piazza S. Apollonia…. so excited, but also confused as the church in the square was Santa Margherita. An inquiry at the café confirmed the church.

There it was, a very small chapel dedicated to the Patron Saint of Dentistry. The curator was so excited to have someone inquire about this special part of his church. He had a difficult time finding a pray card to her, but after rummaging through a few dusty drawers was able to come up with one.

Fast forward 15 years. Piazza S. Apollonia is of course still there, but sadly the doors of Santa Margherita are “chiusi,” and the neighborhood is a little run down. Hopefully the Dental Society of Rome will realize that her chapel is no longer accessible and will soon move it to a place of prominence, which she deserves.


– Contributed by Michael Yaccino, dal Colorado, an reader. Many thanks! -ed.

16 Responses to “Sant’Apollonia”

  1. Are you the same Michael Yaccino that practiced in Forest Hills? I’ve been reading this blog because my son is a priest studying in Rome! Trastevere is gorgeous. Too bad the chapel closed! Small world!! Great story!!

  2. Alan Hartman

    It is also interesting to note that many fishermen (in Sicily at least) have a devotion to S. Appolonia. In Boston’s North End, the “Little Italy” of Boston, one of the largest feasts is the “festa di S. Appolonia”, which was originally celebrated by fisherman from Sciacca, Sicily.

    Perhaps if dentists really want to see (the statue of) S. Appolonia in procession with music and a street fair, they may want to put Boston as the locus of their pilgrimage. The statue will be found in either St. Leonard’s Catholic Church or Sacred Heart Catholic Church… each are only a block or so away from one another.

  3. Pat Hanna

    This is such an interesting story. I have a great devotion to St. Apollonia. I worked in the dental field for 22 years and would send up a little prayer to her every day as I rode up in the elevator to help me to be gentle and understanding in my dealings with our patients.
    Pat Hanna

  4. Michael Yaccino

    Alan, I of course was courious to the her link with fishermen. Now I am a bit confused. When I googled Sciacca I found that the fishermen’s festi was to Madonna del Soccorse. When I went to St Leonard’s site there was no mention of a feast day to her. I do remember that the dental society of Boston celibrated her from time to time. Today is her feast day Feb 9th. If you could give me a little more clarification I would appreciate it. you can contact me at

  5. Michael Yaccino

    Yes Connie the TTs are Irene and I. Anita told me that Tom and Stephanie went to Roma to attend a ceremony for your son. Irene talks to Anita from time to time. She also talks to Patty McClane. Check out my other piece in the Italian Notebook in the Archives November 20th. Thanks for the note.

  6. Glad to know you and Irene are well! We’ll be returning to Rome in June to spend time with Father Nick before he returns to Pittsburgh to begin his ministry! We are Italian wanna be’s! Give our best to your family!!

  7. Donna O'Connor

    I’m not sure of the name of the church, but I think it is in Izmir (there are so few),Turkey, where there is a chapel to St. Apollonia. It is cared for by three Italian nuns. They don’t speak English, but will tell you the storia in Italian.

  8. St Appolonia

    Would appreciate any information on St Appolinia.Have severe dental problems and have invoked her aid

  9. You can follow the link in the notebook piece. I would suggest that you contact a Dentist or try a Dental School, if one is near. I am sure that is what S. Appolonia would suggest.

  10. I learned online that her head is kept in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, close to Piazza Sant’Apollonia, but I could not find it when I went there yesterday. There was no one available to ask either. Does anyone know about this?

  11. Michael Yaccino

    Ciao Rose,
    I do not know of the location of the head and have not heard that story. Could you give me a reference for your info. on the web. I will be in Rome tomorrow and again in a about a week. Maybe I can find something out. You can contact me at or through this link.

  12. I learned through a Wikipedia article about her that her head is at St. Maria’s in Trastevere. Other web sites also referred to this, but I can’t remember which ones. When I went to the church, I could not find anything with her name, not even on the posting in the vestibule describing the parts of the church. At times there is a gift shop open there, but it was closed when I went. Something in the gift shop would know. In August, it be less often, however.

    I learned also somewhere on the web (Wikipedia too?) that her arms are at St. Lawrence outside the walls church (San Lorenzo fuori muro?)

    Have a great trip, and post again, please, if you learn anything more!

  13. Sorry for some typos above. Let me correct: “Someone in the gift shop should know. In August, it might be open less often, however.”


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