The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
S. Maria delle Vergini
Pontifical North American College
Chiesa dell' Assunzione di Maria or S. Maria dell'UmiltÓ
Palazzo della Dataria and Palazzo della Panetteria
In this 1758 etching Giuseppe Vasi's main objective was to show the street leading from Via del Corso to Palazzo del Quirinale, the Papal residence on the Quirinal Hill (Monte Cavallo). The street was opened in 1611 by Pope Paul V to facilitate access to the palace where he usually lived.
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Street leading to Monte Cavallo (Via della Dataria); 2) Chiesa dell'Assunzione di Maria; 3) Monastero dell'UmiltÓ. The map shows also 4) Via del Corso near S. Marcello; 5) S. Maria delle Vergini; 6) Palazzo della Dataria; 7) Palazzo della Panetteria.
(left) The view in June 2009; (right) portal of Chiesa delle Vergini (now S. Rita)
Today the main access to Piazza del Quirinale is from Via XXIV Maggio and this has helped in retaining the old aspect of this part of Rione Trevi. In his etching Vasi showed a frontal view of the church and of the adjoining nunnery, but to do this he ignored the fact that these buildings were located in a rather narrow street. In 1871 the nunnery was confiscated by the Italian government and radically modified: in 1904 the church was assigned to a brotherhood devoted to St. Rita of Cascia and its name was changed.
(left) Main altar designed in 1681 by Mattia de' Rossi; (right) ceiling of the dome (1695) by Michelangelo Ricciolini (you may wish to see other ceilings of that period)
The nunnery and the church were built in 1632-634, but the fašade of the church was designed by Mattia de' Rossi later on and completed in 1696. The same architect, a scholar of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, designed the interior, but the painting on the main altar is a XXth century work portraying St. Rita. Notwithstanding the small size of the building the church has a dome which is not visible from the street.
(left) detail of the portal; (right) detail of the interior
Heads of nuns decorate the portal and the interior of the church. The (secluded) nuns belonged to the Augustinian Order. Secluded nuns were often referred to as the virgins, the sepolte vive (buried alive) or the murate (walled in), rather than by the Order to which they belonged. In the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries there were nearly fifty nunneries or other female religious institutions in Rome. The number of secluded nuns reached its peak (ca 2,800) after the 1655 pestilence (the population of Rome was ca 120,000).
(left) Portal; (right-above) inscriptions on the portal; (right-below) inscription above the inner door
Monastero dell'UmiltÓ was a Dominican nunnery which was turned into the Pontifical North American College by Pope Pius IX in 1859. By reading one of the inscriptions one can learn the Latin translation of USA (Foederatorum Statuum Americae Septentrionalis). In the vestibule there is a modern coat of arms of the college with elements taken from those of Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XII and a reference to the thirteen founding states which are represented by stars (see the image used as background for this page): the motto reads Firmum est cor meum (Steadfast is my heart) (Psalms 57:8; 108:2). Today the Pontifical North American College owns a seminary inside the Vatican City in addition to Casa Santa Maria, i.e. Monastero dell'UmiltÓ (see their website- it opens in another window).
(left) Detail of the etching; (centre) S. Maria dell'UmiltÓ; (right) bell tower seen from Via di Monticello
The nunnery had a church with an interesting baroque fašade by Carlo Fontana which lost a lot when it was modified after 1859; the interior of the church is very lavishly decorated, because the nunnery could rely on the revenue from many properties bequeathed by its founder, Francesca Baglioni Orsini; notwithstanding the dedication to Humility, all the nuns came from noble families and this contributed to the wealth of the institution.
Relief on the fašade by Vincenzo Felici (ca 1708)
The church is part of the Pontifical North American College and it is not open to the public (see an image of its interior at the PNAC website - it opens in another window).
(left) Palazzo della Dataria and Palazzo della Panetteria behind it; (right) XIXth century coats of arms of Pope Paul V (above) and Pope Pius XII (below)
Palazzo della Dataria (Chancery) was built by Pope Paul V to provide Palazzo del Quirinale with additional space where administrative activities
could be performed when the Pope was in the palace. Eventually Palazzo del Quirinale became the permanent residence of the Popes and Palazzo della Dataria was restored and
enlarged. What we see today is mainly a dull XIXth century building, which is no longer part of the Palazzo del Quirinale premises.
(left) Palazzo della Panetteria; (right) coat of arms of Pope Clement XIII
Palazzo della Panetteria is named after the bakery which is housed in its courtyard. Its official name was Palazzo della Famiglia Pontificia where famiglia did not mean the family of the Pope, but rather the servants and clerks who worked for him. It was built in 1764-766. It is still part of the Palazzo del Quirinale premises. Its interior was modified in the late XIXth century when new facilities, including a coach house, were built in the courtyard. It can be visited, but it is not allowed to take photos (you may wish to see some photos of the historical coaches which were used by the Italian Royal Family - it opens in another window).
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Le suore Agostiniane sin dall'anno 1613. possiedono quella piccola chiesa insieme col monastero, ed avendola poi nell'anno 1627. riedificata, la dedicarono alla Regina de' Vergini. ╚ ornata di marmi, stucchi dorati, sculture, e pitture diverse. Il quadro sull'altare maggiore Ŕ del Giminiani, e quello di s. Maria Maddalena Ŕ opera del Mercati, le due statue nelle nicchie sono di Filippo Carcani, e li bassirilievi di Francesco Cavallini.
Le religiose Domenicane abitano questo monastero, e ufiziano la chiesa, la quale Ŕ ornata di marmi, stucchi dorati, sculture, epitture diverse. Il bassorilievo, che si vede sulla porta, Ŕ opera di Vincenzo Felici allievo del Guidi, e le statue, che sono in chiesa, di Antonio Raggi. Le pitture della cappella a destra sono della scuola dell'Allegrini, ed il quadro dell'altare maggiore si crede esser del Nappi; il s. Michele, dell'Allegrini, e le sculture nell'ultima cappella sono del Cavallini.
Urbano VIII. avendo renduta agevole questa strada vi eresse l'abitazione pel Datario Apostolico con gli altri ufizj de' registri di tutte le spedizioni de' benefizj, e dignitÓ Ecclesiastiche, con le abitazioni di alcuni ministri, ed ufiziali.