All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in June 2010.
S. Tommaso in Parione (Book 6) (Day 4) (View C6) (Rione Parione) and (Rione Ponte)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
S. Tommaso in Parione
Collegio Nardini and Palazzo del Governo Vecchio
Palazzo della Nazione Picena
A walk between Rione Parione and Rione Ponte:
Piazza del Fico
Palazzo Tanari, Palazzetto Avila and Casa di Teodoro Amayden
Palazzo di Monte Giordano
Via del Montonaccio
The Plate (No. 110)
When Pope Martin V died in 1431 the estimated population of Rome was in the region of 30,000; a century later, just before the 1527 Sack of Rome, it had doubled; during this period Rione Ponte and Rione Parione were the heart of the city and their streets were bursting with all sorts of activities. In 1756 when Giuseppe Vasi drew this etching the city centre had moved eastwards to Piazza Colonna and Via del Corso; Vasi greatly enlarged the narrow street of Parione leading to S. Maria della Pace in order to show each and any of the buildings on its two sides, but the very few people in the street are evidence of the loss of importance of the neighbourhood.
Only a few minor changes have occurred since the time of the etching; in order to catch a glimpse of S. Maria della Pace it is necessary to stay very near the corner of Palazzo Bacicci; the building is named after Giovan Battista Gaulli, known as il Baciccio, who is famous for having painted the illusionistic ceiling of il Ges¨ and who lived in this house and was buried in S. Tommaso in Parione.
According to records S. Tommaso in Parione was consecrated in 1139 and it was a minor church; on July 1, 1517 Pope Leo X appointed an unprecedented number of new cardinals (31); he therefore "promoted" S. Tommaso in Parione which became a titular church; the cardinals who were assigned the church however did not promote its restoration and embellishment. Eventually in 1582, Mario and Camillo Cerrini, two commoners, paid for a thorough reconstruction of the building; the new fašade was designed by Francesco da Volterra; the two lion heads which decorate its upper section are most likely a tribute to Pope Sixtus V, the reigning pope (the image used as background for this page shows one of the two lions). The interior of the church was entirely modified in the XIXth century with the loss of all its old decoration and monuments (you may wish to see the building as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome and learn more about the Cerrini).
Stefano Nardini covered several important positions at the Papal court in the second half of the XVth century and in particular during the pontificate of Pope Sixtus IV who appointed him cardinal in 1473; in view of the 1475 Jubilee Year Cardinal Nardini founded a college for the education of 24 priests and at the same time he built a family palace; the two buildings border on each other (behind Palazzo Bacicci and S. Tommaso in Parione).
Cardinal Nardini donated his palace to Spedale di S. Giovanni in Laterano; in 1624 Pope Urban VIII acquired the building to house the offices of Governatorato di Roma, the body in charge of policing the city and the palace became known as Palazzo del Governatore; after Pope Benedict XIV relocated these offices to Palazzo Madama, vecchio (old) was added to the name of the palace; eventually it became known as Palazzo del Governo Vecchio and the street also had this name (it was previously known as Via di Parione).
Picenum was a region of ancient Roman Italy; it included the southern part of the current region known as Le Marche; the inhabitants of that area were (and are) particularly proud of their compatriot Pope Sixtus V, who according to Vasi and many other authors lived in this palace in Parione. Recent research found out that actually only a niece of the pope lived in the building which belonged to the Orsini family. The palace was most likely built for Cardinal Amanieu d'Albret, brother-in-law of Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI; this cardinal lived only a short time there because after the death of the pope, he had to leave Rome.
The Orsini added to the palace a pensive garden; its walls are decorated with an elegant cornice which is based on the Orsini heraldic symbols: roses and bear heads; the walls are painted with lively frescoes by Cesare Arbasia, a Mannerist painter.
A certain number of streets and squares of Rome were named after trees (e.g. Piazza del Popolo - poplar); in general the trees do not exist any longer, but Piazza del Fico, a small square at the border between Rione Parione and Rione Ponte, has a fig tree still, although not the tree which gave it the name; in summer its shadow helps the concentration of chess players.
Many narrow streets near Piazza del Fico are known only to those who live there; they retain several buildings of the XVIth and XVIIth centuries.
Palazzo Tanari was built in the XVIIth century and it is named after Cardinal Sebastiano Antonio Tanari (1650-1724); this cardinal fell seriously ill while he was participating in the conclave which elected Pope Benedict XIII; he was rushed home where he passed away a few days later; the palace has a high loggia with a very fine view.
Palazzetto Avila is another XVIIth century building which belonged to a family of Spanish origin (Avila is the birthplace of St. Teresa of Jesus); the portal is decorated with the heraldic symbols of the family: an eagle bearing a palm branch.
An adjoining Renaissance house is erroneously named after Teodoro Amayden, a Flemish lawyer who settled in Rome towards the end of the XVIth century and who wrote a widely known treatise on the Roman noble families; similar to other Renaissance houses in nearby Via dei Coronari the lintel bears a moral inscription: UNDE EO OMNIA (all things return from where they came).
The hill quoted by Dante is a mound from which it was possible to control the passage of the pilgrims to and from the Vatican; it was fortified by the Orsini in the late XIIIth century and it was named after Giordano Orsini (see a page on Dante and his views on Rome with many other quotations).
What today is known as Palazzo di Monte Giordano is actually made up of five different buildings; it included Chiesa di SS. Simone e Giuda which had a direct entrance in Via dei Coronari. The Orsini sold the whole property in 1688, but their heraldic symbol (a bear) is still visible in the main courtyard of the complex which houses a baroque fountain by Felice Antonio Casoni (two marble bears now on the wall of the courtyard gushed water into the fountain).
Via del Montonaccio
A short alley which separates Palazzo di Monte Giordano from Palazzo Tanari is a silent street which offers a peaceful haven in the very centre of Rome.
Palazzetto Turci in Via del Governo Vecchio is a fine Renaissance house which was attributed to Donato Bramante, because its design is similar (although at a much smaller scale) to nearby Palazzo della Cancelleria which also was attributed to Bramante. It was built in the year 1500 by Pietro Turci, a member of the papal court in charge of the correspondence; it must have been a very well paid job as it allowed Turci to build his house along what was the most important street of Rome at that time.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 6: S. Caterina della Ruota
Next step in Day 4 itinerary: S. Maria della Pace
Next step in your tour of Rione Ponte: S. Simeone Profeta
Next step in your tour of Rione Parione: S. Nicola dei Lorenesi