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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in January 2010.

Chiesa di S. Marcello (Book 7) (Map B2) (Day 1) (View C7) (Rione Trevi)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view
S. Marcello
Palazzo Mellini
Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso
Palazzo Alli Maccarani and Palazzo Maccarani

The Plate (No. 133)

This is one of many plates covering Via del Corso. Also at Vasi's time the street was a shopping area for the rich and the foreigner; Cardinal Mario Mellini who had recently restructured the palace to the left of the church, thought it wise to ask Tommaso de Marchis, the architect in charge, to plan for some shops. One of these shops was immediately rented by Bouchard & Gravier, French booksellers (a Joseph Bouchard had a bookshop in Florence and another Bouchard is recorded in Bologna; the Gravier had shops in Naples and Genoa). In the image used as background for this page you can see a detail of the etching showing potential customers looking at some plates (maybe Piranesi's ones, because Bouchard & Gravier was the publisher of that artist's works. Giuseppe Vasi lived and sold his prints in an apartment in Palazzo Farnese).
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Palazzo Mellini; 2) Part of the Monastery of the Servite Order; 3) Palazzo Decarolis. 3) is shown in another page. The small map shows also 4) S. Marcello; 5) Oratorio del SS. Crocifisso; 6) Palazzo Alli Maccarani; 7) Palazzo Maccarani.


The view in July 2009

At first sight the church and the adjoining monastery do not show any significant change; however the entrance to the monastery is not the original one. It has a XVth century appearance as it was designed for the palace built by Cardinal Giovanni Michiel before 1490 and which eventually became Palazzo Mellini; when the palace was redesigned in the XVIIIth century the portal remained at its place. In 1912 however Società Generale Immobiliare, the building society which bought the building in 1909, found the historical portal incompatible with its modernization plans. The Servites, in memory of the benefits they had received from Cardinal Michiel, accepted to relocate the portal (which bears an inscription with his name) at the entrance to their monastery.

(left) Detail of the portal bearing the erased coat of arms of Cardinal Giovanni Michiel; (right) second part of the inscription inside a typical frame of Ancient Rome

S. Marcello

(left) 1592 ceiling by Carlo Lambardi (the Servites are also known as Servants of Mary); (right) crucifix which escaped the 1519 fire

The historical evidence about S. Marcello is very limited: according to tradition Maxentius sentenced him to work in the catabulum, the first staging post along Via Flaminia (of which Via del Corso is the urban section); in the Vth century a religious building dedicated to him is recorded; in the XIIth century a church was built on the site of today's S. Marcello, but with the opposite orientation; in 1369 it was assigned to the Servites, an order founded in Florence in the previous century (you may wish to see SS. Annunziata, its main church and a monastery of the Servites). In 1519 the church was destroyed by a fire, with the sole exception of a chapel dedicated to a XVth century wooden crucifix, which became the object of a special devotion. The reconstruction of the building lasted for almost a century and the church did not have a proper façade (you may wish to see it in a 1588 Guide to Rome).

(left) Façade; (right) Blessed Gioacchino Piccolomini by Andrea Fucigna

The façade of the church was designed by Carlo Fontana in the late XVIIth century and it is considered his masterpiece; according to the original plan it should have been flanked by two bell towers. The statues which decorate it were completed in 1708.

(left) San Filippo Benizzi in the act of refusing the tiara by Antonio Raggi; (right) detail showing a putto on the upper part of the frame

The Servite Order met with many difficulties in being recognized by the Roman Church; the initial approval was granted in 1249, but the order was suppressed twice before its final approval in 1304. St. Philip Benizzi was superior of the Order between 1267 and his death in 1285. During the longest conclave of papal history he was offered to become pope, but he refused.
S. Marcello has many interesting funerary monuments: you may wish to see the fine Monuments to Giovanni Andrea Giuseppe Muti and Maria Colomba Vincentini Muti by Bernardino Cametti or the Monuments to Cardinals Fabrizio Paolucci by Pietro Bracci and to Cardinal Camillo Paolucci by Tommaso Righi or the busts of Muzio, Roberto and Lello Frangipane by Alessandro Algardi.

Palazzo Mellini

(left) Palazzo Mellini and via del Corso; (right-above) detail of a window; (right-below) portal in Via dell'Umiltà

The palace was initially built for Cardinal Giovanni Michiel who in 1490 donated it to the Servite Order; in 1532 it was sold to the Salviati and at the beginning of the XVIIth century to the Cesi, before being acquired by the Mellini, so its full name is Palazzo Michiel Salviati Cesi Mellini. The redesign by Tommaso De Marchis gave it a very light-hearted appearance.

Oratorio del SS. Crocifisso

(left) Façade; (right) detail showing the coat of arms of Cardinals Alessandro and Ranuccio Farnese

The oratory was built in 1568 by Giacomo della Porta for Confraternita del SS. Crocifisso, a brotherhood named after the crucifix which escaped the fire in old S. Marcello. The members of the brotherhood belonged to rich families. Cardinals Ranuccio and Alessandro Farnese were both members of the brotherhood and gave financial support to the erection and decoration of the oratory. The prayers were accompanied by music and the semi-dramatic musical composition known as oratorio was developed in this oratory by Emilio de' Cavalieri and Giacomo Carissimi. In 1679 at the age of 19, Alessandro Scarlatti received his first Roman commission from Confraternita del SS. Crocifisso.

Details of paintings by Niccolò Circignani known as il Pomarancio

The interior of the oratory was decorated with large frescoes mainly portraying episodes related to the Holy Cross. Il Pomarancio is best known for his gruesome paintings showing scenes of martyrdom in S. Stefano Rotondo; his works in Oratorio del SS. Crocifisso show that he had a special talent for portraying the best of XVIth century kids' fashion.

Palazzo Alli Maccarani and Palazzo Maccarani

(left) Palazzo Alli Maccarani; (right) Palazzo Maccarani

Two small XVIIth century palaces along Via dell'Umiltà behind S. Marcello are named after a prominent Roman family, the Maccarani, who also owned a palace opposite Chiesa di S. Eustachio. The Alli added Maccarani to their surname in 1666 when the last of that family bequeathed all his properties to Lellio Alli.

Portal of Palazzo Alli Maccarani

Palazzo Alli Maccarani has an interesting portal with a relief of Medusa, a Gorgon with snakes for hair. A similar relief by Alessandro Algardi can be seen in the page covering S. Maria Maggiore.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Chiesa di S. Marcello Papa
Molto antica e celebre è questa chiesa, poichè fu eretta nel luogo, ove il santo Pontefice fra li strapazzi soffrì il martirio sotto Massenzio. Era prima collegiata ed aveva sotto di se 17. altre chiese. Ma poi nell'anno 1369. da Urbano V. fu conceduta ai Frati Serviti, che l’hanno più volte ristaurata; l’ultima però è stata a spese di Monsig. Marc'Antonio Boncompagni, il quale vi fece il nobile prospetto col disegno del Cav. Francesco Fontana. E' di somma divozione al .Popolo Romano l’immagine del ss. Crocifisso, che si venera in questa chiesa, per il miracolo occorso quando bruciandosi la chiesa quella sola immagine restò illesa. Oltre il segno della ss. Croce si custodiscono sotto l’altare i corpi de' ss. Giovanni prete, Biagio, e Dionisio, e buona parte del corpo di s. Longino, che trafisse il costato del nostro Redentore; e nell'altare maggiore vi sono i corpi di s. Marcello e di s. Foca martiri. Sonovi molte pitture, tra le quali la ss. Nunziata nella prima cappella a destra dipinta da Lazzaro Bardi; quelle nella terza sono di Gio. Batista Novara, e quelle, nella cappella del ss. Crocifisso parte sono di Pierin del Vaga, e parte di Daniele da Volterra. Il s. Pellegrino col resto delle pitture nella quarta è di Aurelio Milani, e quelle che adornano la tribuna dell'altare maggiore sono del mentovato Novara, il quale dipinse ancora le istorie intorno alla nave della chiesa. Il s. Filippo Benizi nella cappella dell'altra parte è del Cav. Gagliardi, ed il s. Paolo in quella, che siegue di Federico Zuccheri; ma le pitture a fresco sono di Taddeo suo fratello, e le teste di marmo dell'Algardi. La ss. Vergine addolorata nell'ultima e di Paolo Naldini, e il deposito presso la porta fu scolpito da Francesco de' Rossi.

Next plate in Book 7: Chiesa di S. Andrea della Valle
Next step in Day 1 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Maria in Via Lata
Next step in your tour of Rione Trevi: Chiesa delle Vergini