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Page revised in December 2010.
Chiesa di S. Maria del Rosario (Book 7) (Day 8) (View C2)
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In his book covering the friaries of Rome, Giuseppe Vasi did not show S. Maria sopra Minerva, the most important Dominican convent, but he preferred to focus on S. Sabina, a convent and church associated with St. Dominic's stay in Rome and on the far away friary of S. Maria del Rosario sul Monte Mario which was assigned to the Dominicans at the beginning of the XVIIIth century.
Vasi probably liked the new design of the building by Filippo Raguzzini.
Monte Mario is the hill which stands to the north of Prati di Castello, the meadows outside Porta Castello where the Romans had their picnics in the XVIIIth century. The hill has been regarded as part of the historical landscape of Rome and (exception made for a luxury hotel in the 1950s) it has been developed only on the side which is not visible from the city.
In 1838 Pope Gregory XVI built new steps to facilitate the access to S. Maria del Rosario; Cappella del SS. Crocifisso was damaged in 1849 during the Defence of Rome and in 1883 it was eventually pulled down to enlarge the street leading to Villa Mellini, which was turned into an astronomical observatory.
The church was built in the XVIth century as a parish church, but Pope Clement XI assigned it to the Dominicans and his successor Pope Benedict XIII, a Dominican himself, commissioned the enlargement and redesign of the complex.
According to Vasi the hill was named after Mario Mellini (or Millini), who built his villa on its top; the building was greatly modified in the XIXth century when it was turned into an astronomical observatory; it currently houses a small museum.
"Hinc septem dominos videre montes. Et totam licet aestimare Romam" (from this point you can see the seven hills and appreciate Rome in its entirety) this sentence by which Latin poet Martial (Book 4 - Epigram 64) described the view from a friend's farm is generally interpreted as being referred to the Janiculum and Vasi included it in his 1765 Grand View of Rome; other authors however believe Martial was referring to Monte Mario; as a matter of fact Villa Mellini commands an excellent view over the City of Rome; it is however a view from a long distance and the monuments of Ancient Rome are barely visible.
Read Henry James's account of his visit to Villa Mellini in 1873 (the pine he refers to was uprooted by wind in 1910).
S. Lazzaro in Borgo
S. Lazzaro in Borgo is a tiny XIIth century church at the foot of Monte Mario which was part of a small hospital for pilgrims who were thought to be affected by leprosy; for this reason it was dedicated to Lazarus the Beggar, who was venerated as patron saint of lepers; according to Vasi the hospital was closed in the XVIIIth century when S. Gallicano was opened.
The modern road which reaches S. Maria del Rosario separates two farms which belonged to the Roman branch of the Florentine Strozzi family. One of the farms has an elegant design which is attributed to Giacomo Del Duca; it was probably utilized as a summer residence because some of its rooms were decorated with frescoes.
Abito alla Balduina "I live at Balduina" is not only an indication of where you live, but a sort of status symbol which says that you are very wealthy (or that you pretend to be). It is very expensive to buy or rent a flat in this modern quarter of Rome, which is located behind Monte Mario on the site of some old villas, chiefly of Villa Massimo. The pines which here and there embellish the most expensive houses belong to the old villa.
Its casino still exists at No 296 of Via della Balduina, behind a modern church. The two wings have lost their late XVIIth century decoration, but the central part retains it.
S. Francesco d'Assisi
Travellers from Florence to Rome followed Via Cassia; when they arrived near the city they had the option to continue along Via Cassia to Ponte Milvio and enter Rome at Porta del Popolo or to directly reach the Vatican through Via Trionfale which was so named because it was used by Roman commanders returning to Rome after a victorious campaign.
St. Francis of Assisi, on his way to the Vatican, at a turn of Via Trionfale first saw the city and he knelt and prayed. A small church dedicated to him was built on that site by Pope Benedict XIII; it served the inhabitants of Borgo Clementino, a small burg the development of which was promoted by Pope Clement XI.
Fontanile di Pio IX
The Papal State between 1860 and 1870 was limited to Latium, the region around Rome; Pope Pius IX was confronted with severe budget constraints and he therefore he celebrated with his coat of arms and emphatic inscriptions even the most modest improvements he made to public facilities, such as a series of sheltered basins for washing clothes for the inhabitants of Borgo Clementino.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 7: Chiesa e Convento di S. Pasquale
Next step in Day 8 itinerary: Villa Madama