The Congregation of the Oratory, founded by St. Philip Neri in the second half of the 16th century is one of the most important religious movements during the Catholic-Reformation.
The Marche Region was a breeding ground for the expansion of St. Philip’s movement, thanks to the relationship with Rome and the papacy, which lasted for centuries, and the harmony between the religious spirit of the Marche people, as well as for the real nature of the Oratorian Institute. The Church of St. Philip Neri is located along Corso Cavour, near the old College of the St. Philip’s Fathers (now the Courthouse) and it represents the most significant trace of the stay of the St. Philip’s fathers in Fermo.
The Church was built on the remains of a 14th-century church dedicated to the Holy Spirit, later used as a new location of the Oratorian Congregation. It was the second place of stay of St. Philip in the Marche Region after San Severino and before Camerino.
On 9th May 1594, the first stone of the new temple was laid with bold foundations on the cliffs behind the Contrada San Bartolomeo.
It is unknown if the old Church of Santo Spirito was incorporated into the new factory or demolished, but it is sure that a high wall was erected to adapt the plan of the new building.
The initial design of the plan of the new church had many changes due to the disapproval of Father Flaminio Ricci (promoter of the Oratory of St. Philip in Fermo), who judged the project too limited and therefore asked for more suitable designs to be send from the important church in Naples.
The plan is actually very similar to the Neapolitan one, although in Fermo it was necessary to adapt the Church to the conformation of the ground. The project could be attributed to Giovanni Antonio Dosio, who worked in Naples in building sites for the Neapolitan Congregation. On 2nd June 1607, the church was consecrated and blessed together with the Oratory below, by the Archbishop of Fermo, Alessandro Strozzi.
The construction of the Church continued with difficulty, because of the numerous foundation problems and it was never completed on the façade, except in the Doric portal made of Istria stone, which overlooks Corso Cavour.
The door is made by Giovanni Mistichelli; on a marble plaque surmounted by a cherub it is written in latin: “SPIRITUS SANCTUS / DIVO PHILIPPO NERIO VIVENTE / TEMPLUM HOC / ELIGIT / IN DOMUM ORATORII”. The construction of the church was supported by many sides: the fathers of the Oratory in fact had a close relationship with some of the most influential families in Naples, who ordered numerous and rich altars in the church. The same city of Fermo contributed to the new factory: actually eagles with crowns and crosses can be find on the keys of the cross vaults and on the major altar’s freize.
After the suppression of the religious Congregations, in 1861, the entire complex was assigned to the Municipality of Fermo and used as a female primary school and kindergarten and, in 1882, it was assigned to Government and Financial Offices.
The church was closed to worship in 1925 due to erosion, which took place along the rear side facing west despite the robust wall septations. Two years later, restorations of the structures and decorations were made, with the contribution of worshippers and then it was reopened to the public.
The church still preserves pictorial masterpieces of extreme value, even if those of greater artistic importance such as "The Adoration of the Shepherds" by Peter Paul Rubens and "La Pentecoste" by Giovanni Lanfranco are in the Civic Art Gallery.