All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in July 2010.
Chiesa di S. Maria Maddalena (Book 7) (Map C2) (Day 4) (View C6) (Rione Colonna) and (Rione Sant'Eustachio)
In this page:
This 1756 etching by Giuseppe Vasi is meant to show the convent of Ministri degli Infermi (Servants of the Sick aka Camillians), an order founded in 1582 by St. Camillus de Lellis to provide spiritual comfort to the very sick; however the focus of the view is on the richly decorated fašade of the church attached to the convent; at the time of the etching the fašade was a very recent addition to the monuments of modern Rome as it had been completed in 1735.
An inscription above the entrance to the convent says that the Camillians were authorized by Pope Urban VIII to pull down some houses to obtain a small square in front of the church they wanted to build; thanks to that decision it is today possible to take a photo which is almost identical to Vasi's view.
The construction of the convent was a very troubled affair which lasted almost as long as the process of canonization of the founder of the order who was recognized as a saint only in 1746; in 1586 St. Camillus de Lellis was assigned a small hospital which included a church dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene; the complex belonged to Arciconfraternita del Gonfalone. The construction of a new convent started in 1628, but financial difficulties delayed its completion; the side adjoining the church was designed by Carlo Bizzaccheri; the complex included shops and flats which were rented to provide a stable income to the order.
The Camillians entirely rebuilt the church by relocating its location at the southern end of the complex; they maintained however its dedication to St. Mary Magdalene, although in Rome the saint was associated with nunneries and institutions aimed at the redemption of prostitutes; however they chose not to draw much attention to her statue by placing it in the upper section of the fašade (in the image used as background for this page you can see the statue by Joseph Canard showing a very nice naked leg).
The design of the fašade is traditionally regarded as being a work by Giuseppe Sardi, but some art historians attribute it to Emanuel Rodriguez Dos Santos, a Portuguese architect who designed SS. TrinitÓ degli Spagnoli. Its rich
decoration was highly criticized during the XIXth century; in 1844 Rev. Jeremiah Donovan wrote in his very detailed guide to Rome: The front is disfigured by broken lines, tasteless and superfluous ornaments and capricious pediments.
The Capranica were a family from Capranica Prenestina, a small town near Palestrina, which at the time belonged to the Colonna; Pope Martin V Colonna appointed Domenico Capranica cardinal in 1423; after Domenico's death in 1458 Pope Pius II appointed his brother Angelo cardinal. Domenico started the construction of the family palace which he bequeathed to his brother under the condition that it should also house a college for the education of the young who chose an ecclesiastical career. Angelo preferred to enlarge the building in order to provide his residence and the college with separate entrances and facilities.
Palazzo Capranica has three Gothic windows which are rather unusual to see in Rome; the addition which included the college was similar to Palazzo Venezia in the design of the windows and in having a lateral tower; the overall proportions of the two buildings were modified by the addition of a storey without windows in the XVIIIth century. In 1527 the students of the college died fighting at Porta S. Spirito during the Sack of Rome.
A church was built on this site in the Vth century at the expense of a Cyrus, after whom the church was called "a Cyro" (built by Cyrus), thus leading to its current name, Aquiro. For a certain period however it was known as Chiesa degli Orfanelli because from 1540 the building to the right of the church housed Collegio Salviati, an institution for the care and education of orphans. The medieval church was rebuilt between 1590 and 1774 when the fašade was completed by Pietro Camporese. The interior of the church was entirely redesigned in 1866, but it retains some baroque tombs such as the fine Monument to Archbishop Carlo di Montecatini by Domenico Guidi.
In a narrow street near S. Maria in Aquiro a broken cipollino column projects from Collegio Salviati; according to tradition it was cut by Roland, the chief paladin of Emperor Charlemagne, in the vain attempt to destroy Durendal (the name of his sword). The event is remembered in the name of the street. The broken column and the piece of wall unearthed in the opposite building belonged to a temple dedicated
by Emperor Hadrian to Matidia, his mother-in-law, and niece of Emperor Trajan. Hadrian most likely decided to erect a temple to his mother-in-law to stress his links with Trajan, as there were doubts about him having actually being adopted as successor by Trajan. In the same neighbourhood Hadrian built a temple to himself and rebuilt the Pantheon.
The church is named after the Cupellari, manufacturers
of small barrels used for storing water, who had their shops in the
area. With the new aqueducts built by Pope Sixtus V and Pope Paul V this trade
was abandoned, but the name is still associated with a church, a street and a square.
The church was almost entirely rebuilt in the XVIIIth century with the design of Carlo De Dominicis and it
was entrusted with a confraternity in charge of assisting sick travellers.
A sort of mail box on the side wall of the church retains the 1750 inscription inviting (or rather requiring)
the innkeepers to provide the names of their guests needing assistance. Inside you can see
the fine Monument to Cardinal Giorgio Spinola by Bernardino Ludovisi.
Since 1913 S. Salvatore alle Coppelle is the church of the Romanian community in Rome.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 7: Chiesa dei SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio
Next step in Day 4 itinerary: Seminario Romano
Next step in your tour of Rione Sant'Eustachio: Palazzo Nari
Next step in your tour of Rione Colonna: Seminario Romano