All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in April 2009.
S. Lucia alle Botteghe Oscure (Book 6) (Map C3) (Day 5) (View C8) (Rione Pigna) and (Rione Sant'Angelo)
A series of arcades of ancient Roman buildings were re-used in medieval times to
establish there some small shops (It. bottega) which received light only from the entrance; for this reason they were called oscure (poorly lighted).
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below.
In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Palazzo Ginnasi;
2) S. Lucia; 3) Part of Palazzo Ginnasi once used by the nuns; 4) Palazzo Mattei Paganica, then Caetani; 5) S. Stefano dei Polacchi.
The small map shows also: 6) Porticus Minuciae; 7) Torre del Papitto.
The buildings on the left side of the street were pulled down in 1937 to enlarge the street leading to Monument to Victor Emmanuel II. The balcony you see in the plate was added to a new building, which is to some extent similar to the old one.
In the period 1950-90 Botteghe Oscure was a synonym for saying Italian Communist Party because their headquarters were housed in the large red building at the end of the street (right side).
The entrance to the church of S. Lucia was added to the front of the new building in Via delle Botteghe Oscure. A part of the monastery with a 1585 portal by Ottavio Mascherino was not affected by the enlargement of the street.
The official name of the church was S. Lucia dei Ginnasi because it was built in 1630 by the Ginnasi on the site of a XIIth century church previously known as S. Lucia de Calcararia; calcararia were the kilns where the marbles of the nearby Roman monuments were turned into lime mortar.
The Ginnasi became a prominent Roman family at the beginning of the XVIIth century when Domenico Ginnasi was appointed cardinal by Pope Clement VIII. The Baroque funerary monuments of the family which were in S. Lucia have been relocated in a modern chapel inside the new building. The coat of arms once stood on the façade of the old palace.
This palace is called in the plate Palazzo Mattei-Paganica; the Mattei had several properties in this district. It was bought in 1776 by Francesco Caetani, a distant heir of Pope Boniface VIII who placed the family name above the main entrance of the building. It was thought to have been designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati, but it is now attributed to either Claudio or Annibale Lippi, the latter being the architect who designed Villa Medici. Its design is similar to Palazzo Ruspoli and Palazzo Sacchetti.
The church of the Polish Nation is today the Sunday meeting point of the large Polish community of Rome. You can see above the entrance the white and crowned Polish eagle on the red background. The main windows of the attached monastery are decorated by the same eagle so I had to pay tribute to Poland by showing this decoration in the background (click here for a list of national churches in Rome).
In 1578 the church was given by Pope Gregory XIII to Cardinal Stansislaus Hosius who financed the construction of a hospital and a house for the Polish pilgrims. In 1729-35 the whole complex was largely modified by Francesco Ferrari who decorated it with very elaborate stuccoes.
For a long time the walls of ancient Roman monuments which were included in later buildings were thought to be those of a large circus (Circus Flaminius). The 1930s excavations aimed at enlarging the street and more recent studies have led to establishing that the left side of the street was previously occupied by Porticus Minuciae and the right side by Teatro di Balbo.
Porticus Minuciae was a large courtyard surrounded by low buildings which was used for the distribution of key commodities; two columns of a temple which stood at its centre have been re-erected.
Teatro di Balbo was built in 13 BC by Lucius Cornelius Balbus Minor: the ruins of its porch (Crypta) were included in a monastery behind S. Caterina dei Funari. This building now houses a section of Museo Nazionale Romano (the building can be seen in the first photo of this page: it is painted in light blue and it stands on the right side of the street).
Other excavations in 1929 near Palazzo Cesarini isolated a medieval tower called Torre del Papitto or Torre Persiani. Papitto (small pope) is most likely a reference to Anacletus II, antipope in 1130-38, a member of the Pierleoni family.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 6: Chiesa di S. Marco
Next step in Day 5 itinerary: Palazzo Mattei
You have completed your tour of Rione Pigna!!!
Next step in your tour of Rione Sant'Angelo: Palazzo Mattei