The Church of Sant'Alfonso in Rome
In January of 1855, the Redemptorist missionaries purchased Villa Caserta in Rome along the Via Merulana and converted it into their residence. On this same property were the ruins of the Church and Monastery of St. Matthew the Apostle. Without realizing it, the Redemptorists had acquired the very land that, centuries before, had been chosen by the Blessed Virgin herself as her sanctuary between St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran.
Four months later, construction was begun on a church in honor of the Most Holy Redeemer and dedicated to St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist Congregation. On December 24, 1855, a group of young men began their novitiate in the new house. One of them was Michael Marchi.
Curious to know more about the property they had just purchased, the Redemptorists began to dig deeper into its history. Their interest was piqued about a special painting after hearing Father Francesco Blosi, the famous Jesuit preacher, mention something in his sermon about “an icon of Mary that had been in the Church of St. Matthew on Via Merulana and was known as The Virgin of St. Matthew, or more correctly, The Virgin of Perpetual Help.”
On another occasion, a Redemptorist with the community found some references in his research about the Church of St. Matthew and an ancient icon of the Mother of God that enjoyed “great veneration and fame for its miracles.” A discussion ensued within the community regarding its whereabouts. Then Father Marchi remembered all that he had heard from old Brother Augustine Orsetti and told his confreres that he had often seen the icon and knew very well where it could be found.