In 1639, after the construction of the left wing of the Franciscan convent, the square looked as in the Falda engrave (1676) (pict.1). The right wing had already been built at the end of the XVI century, as might be deduced from the engraves of Tempesta (1593) and of Maggi (1625) (pict.2). At the end of the XIX century the right wing, such as the other buildings on the Trastevere side of the island, were demolished for widening the right branch of the river during the construction of the embankments, and the square assumed the present aspect.
In the middle of the square, in the place of the legendary obelisk - mast of the "stone ship", there was a column on which every year were stuck up the names of people that did not get the Holy Communion on Easter; it was replaced in 1869 by a spire (Ignazio Giacometti) as mentioned in the inscription: "PIUS IX PONT.MAX IN COLUMNAE LOCUM QUAE PLAUSTRI IMPETU QUASSATA CONCIDERAT PECUNIA SUA FIERI ERIGIQUE IUSSIT - ANNO CHRISTIANO MDCCCLXIX CONCILIO VATICANO INEUNTE" [Pius IX Maximum Pontiff, in the place of the column that fallen pulled down by a cart impact, ordered (this spire) to be built and erected at his charge. Christian year 1869, beginning of Vatican Council].
Inside the four niches are located the statues of the saints: St. Bartholomew facing the church, then clockwise St. Francis, St. John of God and St. Paolino bishop. Their names are indicated at the niches top: S.BARTHOLOMAEVS AP[OSTOLUS] - S.FRANCISCVS AS[SISI] - S.IOANNES DE DEO - S.PAVLINVS EP[ISCOPUS] (pict.3).
The original building was probably smaller than the present one: the image carved in the marble disc in the emperor's hand, in a detail of the well located behind the main altar (pict.4), lets us suppose that the church had only one aisle.
In 1624-25 the façade was moved forward incorporating the old porch (visible in the engravings of Tempesta and Maggi - see pict.2) and assuming the present aspect, perhaps according to the design of Martino Longhi, already active in the basilica but dead thirty years before or, thanks to the architect Orazio Torriani.
The façade has two orders: the lower one consists of three arches spaced by two niches between granite columns, perhaps designed to hold statues. On the drip-stone of the lower trabeation is the inscription: IN HAC BASILICA REQUIESCIT CORPUS S. BARTHOLOMAEI APOSTOLI" [In this basilica lies the body of the apostle St. Bartholomew] (fig.5)
The upper order was originally limited to the three central windows area and two great volutes connected the tympanum to the lower order (see Falda in pict.A1). In the XVIII century the side windows surmounted by the small volutes has been added.
A Romanesque bell tower is at the left of the façade (pict.6): it has three orders of windows: mullioned in the lower order and three mullioned in the upper ones.
During the recent restoration of the portico, that included the remaking of the floor, the remains of the XII century portico (pict.7) have been discovered, walled in the left side, and probable remains of old entrances trabeations.
On the marble portal are two engraved inscriptions; (pict.8) the one on the inside border of the trabeation indicates the presence in the church of the bodies of the saints Paolino and Bartholomew:
+QV[A]E DOMUS ISTA GERIT SI PIGNERA NOSCERE QU[A]ERIS.CORPORA PAVLINI SINT CREDAS BARTHOLOM[A]EI [If you want to know the relics that this house contains, know that they are the bodies of Paolino and Bartholomew].
The inscription on the upper border indicates the construction date (1113, at the time of Pasquale II) and the transfer of the bodies of the saints by Ottone III:
TERTIVS ISTORVM REX TRANSTVLIT OTTO PIORUM CORPORA - QVIS DOMUS HAEC SIC REDIMITA VIGET - ANNO D[OMI]NIC[AE] INC[ARNATIONIS] MILL[ENO] CXIII IND[ICTIONE] VII M[ENSIS] AP[RI]L[IS] D[IES] IIII T[EM]P[O]RE P[A]SC[A]L[IS] II P[A]P[AE] [The king Ottone III transferred the bodies of these saints - for which this so crowned house blooms - in the year of the Lord incarnation 1113, VII indiction, 4th of the April month at the time of pope Pasquale II (the indition is a 15 years period)].
At the left and at the right of the portal there are walled two marble plaques indicating papal resolutions about religious indulgences. Below the left one there is the plaque that indicates the level of the Tiber flood in 1937; another plate, relevant to the 1870 great flood, is walled on the right external side of the same portico.