This 1758 plate by Giuseppe Vasi shows three important monuments of the period of transition (1585-1610) from Late Renaissance (or Mannerism) to Early Baroque style.
The development of this part of Rome on the Qurinal Hill was brought about by Acqua Felice, an aqueduct built by Pope Sixtus V. The aqueduct was completed in 1587, S. Susanna was entirely renovated in 1595-1603 and S. Maria della Vittoria was built in 1608-620.
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) S. Susanna; 2) S. Maria della Vittoria; 3) Strada Pia (a street which links Piazza del Quirinale with Porta Pia); 4) Fontana dell'Acqua Felice in Piazza di Termini. The small map shows also 5) Vigna Panzani and the dotted line delineates the border between Rione Trevi (upper left corner) and Rione Monti.
The view in April 2008
In 1926-932 a new street (Via Barberini) was opened to link Piazza Barberini with Stazione Termini, the central railway station of Rome. This led to pulling down the part of the nunnery which stood to the right of S. Susanna. The plate shows some trees behind S. Maria della Vittoria; they belonged to a villa owned by the Barberini; this villa, together with many others (including that of the Ludovisi), was replaced by modern buildings towards the end of the XIXth century.
(left) Fašade; (right) detail showing the projecting columns
The church was built by Pope Leo III in the early IXth century. It probably replaced a minor building. In 1587 the church was assigned to the Cistercian nuns; a few years later S. Bernardo alle Terme, a friary for the Cistercian monks, was built opposite S. Susanna.
The nuns, with the financial help of Camilla Peretti, sister of Pope Sixtus V, and of Cardinal Girolamo Rusticucci promoted the enlargement of the nunnery and the total renovation of the church. The new S. Susanna was completed in 1603 by a fašade designed by Carlo Maderno which is regarded as the first baroque fašade. Maderno used as a starting model that of il Ges¨, but he created more light effects by increasing the stepping out of the central columns and of other architectural elements from the wall. This approach influenced the design of many other Baroque fašades. The name of Cardinal Rusticucci was written at the centre of the fašade, similar to what can be noted in S. Pietro and other churches (e.g. S. Agostino).
You may wish to see the fašade as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome, before the changes made by Maderno.
Susanna and the Lusty Elders by Baldassare Croce (frame by Matteo Zaccolini)
The church was dedicated to St. Susanna, a martyr of the end of the IIIrd century who lived in the area; according to the traditional account she refused
to marry the son of Emperor Diocletian because he was not a Christian and for this refusal she was put to death.
The guidelines issued by the Roman Church in the second half of the XVIth century recommended the decoration of churches with
events of the life of the martyrs.
The likelihood of the life and martyrdom of St. Susanna was very questionable and for this reason the decoration included also events of the life of biblical Susanna; the scene where she is seen by two old men while bathing was very popular; many oil paintings meant for the bedrooms of the rich portrayed this scene; the pious subject was thought to have a positive effect on the accomplishment of marital duties (see a painting by Tintoretto - it opens in another window).
The frescoes by Baldassare Croce were retouched a few years later by Matteo Zaccolini to make them look as if they were tapestries hanging on the walls of fake chapels.
(left) Martyrdom of Pope St. Eleuterus by Cesare Nebbia and Giovan Battista Pozzo; (right) 1692 gravestone of Giulia Poiana de' Crispolti
The martyrdom suffered by Pope St. Eleuterus was represented in a very dynamic and vivid way in a chapel dedicated to St. Lawrence.
Both saints were placed on a gridiron with coals beneath it, but in addition Eleuterus' body was tied to a horse and dragged through the streets of Rome (an episode taken from Book 22 of Homer's Iliad: Achilles tied the dead body of Hector to his chariot and dragged it around the walls of Troy). Eleuterus was pope in 175-189 and the circumstances of his martyrdom were very doubtful so the painters were free to unbridle their imagination.
The church does not have chapels belonging to noble families, however the pavement has some gravestones with typical features of the XVIIth century.
In 1922 S. Susanna was assigned to the Pontifical North American College. It is the American national church in Rome and its premises house the Santa Susanna Catholic American Community in Rome (it opens in another window).
(left) Mostra dell'Acqua Felice; (right-above) Moses making
water spring from the rock by Prospero Bresciano or Leonardo Sormani; (right-below) copy of an ancient Egyptian lion which is shown in the image used as background for this page (from original - it opens in another window - at Cortile della Pigna)
This fountain is aka "Mostra" (to mean that it is worth being seen) because of its imposing design: it celebrates the completion of Acqua Felice, the aqueduct
built by Pope Sixtus V to restore an adequate supply of water to the Esquiline, Viminal and Quirinal hills. Initially the monumental end of the aqueduct was planned to be built opposite Villa Peretti, the Pope's villa, but it was eventually placed along Strada Pia where more people could see it.
The design of the fountain by Domenico Fontana was inspired after that of a Roman triumphal arch, although it did not have a central higher section as Arco di Costantino or Arco di Settimio Severo have. This pattern was eventually followed in Mostra dell'Acqua Paola, but not in Fontana di Trevi which is more similar to an ancient Roman arch.
(left) The gathering of manna?; (right) Joshua selecting the soldiers for the battle of Rephidim against the Amalekites?
The central statue and the two side reliefs depict episodes of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt and they all contain references to water.
The subjects of the two side reliefs are not very clear.
During the Renaissance characters and events of the Old Testament were widely popular as is proved by some of Michelangelo's masterpieces (the statues of David and Moses and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel).
The unhappy execution of the central statue and the complexity of the episodes narrated in the reliefs however led to abandoning these biblical subjects in the decoration of later fountains (e.g. Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and Fontana di Trevi).
Upper part of the fountain with the coat of arms of Pope Sixtus V and branches of pears, one of his heraldic symbols
Acqua Felice was called after Felice (Peretti), the name of Pope Sixtus V before his appointment. This is explicitly said in the long inscription. The coat of arms was considered a masterpiece by Filippo Juvarra (see his drawing).
(left) Fašade; (centre) detail showing a dragon, a heraldic symbol of the Borghese;
(right) view of the exterior of the Cornaro chapel showing the projecting window designed to bring light to its altar
S. Maria della Vittoria was built in 1608-620 at the expense of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V
and it was dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle (a saint rather neglected in the list of Roman churches). In 1622 the dedication was changed because the new church was chosen to house a sacred image which favoured the victory of the Imperial (Catholic) army against the Protestants at the Battle of the White Mountain, near Prague.
The fašade was designed by Giovanni Battista Soria, a favourite architect of Cardinal Borghese for whom he built also S. Gregorio Magno al Celio and S. Grisogono. In all three fašades he placed eagles and dragons, the heraldic symbols of the Borghese.
(left) Cappella Vidoni; (right) Cappella Giustiniani
Although S. Maria della Vittoria was in a rather remote location, its patronage by Cardinal Borghese led some wealthy families which did not belong to the Roman nobility to buy and lavishly decorate the chapels of the church. Cardinal Girolamo Vidoni (1581-1632) came from Cremona in the Duchy of Milan, at the time a Spanish possession. His family eventually bought a palace near S. Andrea della Valle. The Giustiniani were of Genoese origin and they accumulated a fortune by trading in the Levant. In 1566 Giuseppe Giustiniani settled in Rome where in 1590 he bought a palace near S. Luigi dei Francesi. The chapel at S. Maria della Vittoria as well as the restoration of S. Prisca and the purchase of the fiefdom of Bassano were means by which the Giustiniani improved their standing in Roman society.
Cornaro chapel: (left) altar; (right) coloured relief portraying Cardinal Federico Cornaro (on the left) and members of his family
The Cornaro chapel is perhaps the richest of all the chapels; it was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini who coordinated a team of sculptors and high level artisans. Cardinal Federico Cornaro commissioned Bernini the chapel in 1645, at a time when the artist was not enjoying the favour of the papal court.
The Cornaro (or Corner) were a very important Venetian family which included Caterina Cornaro who was Queen of Cyprus in the late XVth century and a number of dogi, Venice's supreme magistrates. In theatre boxes at the two sides of the altar Bernini portrayed members of the family; while Cardinal Cornaro is engrossed in watching the ecstasy of St. Teresa, the other men in the box are busy chatting.
More on the design of Cappella Cornaro in a section covering three chapels by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Cantoria by Mattia de Rossi and a detail of it
The victory at the Battle of the White Mountain did not end the Thirty Years' War.
In 1648 the Peace of Westphalia greatly reduced the influence of the Popes on European matters and in a way the
relevance of the Battle of the White Mountain and of S. Maria della Vittoria. In 1683 another war event gave new impulse to the decoration of the church: the
Failed Siege of Vienna was to some extent a victory of Pope Innocent XI who promoted a Holy League to defeat the Ottomans.
The decoration of S. Maria della Vittoria had more and more military references.
True Faith triumphs over Heresy by Andrea Antonio and Giuseppe Orazi
The fresco of the ceiling portrays heretics in the company of horrible monsters. The painting is surrounded by a very rich white and gold stucco frame which was completed in 1700; it follows a pattern established at il Ges¨ in 1679. The inscriptions say: "Rejoice o Virgin Mary, thou only hast killed all heresies in the universe" and "The victory shall be credited to my name". A similar subject was painted a few years later in Karlskirche in Vienna.
(left) 1744 inlay decoration of the floor; (right) altar of the Giustiniani chapel
Museo e Galleria Borghese: Sleeping Hermaphroditus (mattress by Andrea Bergondi - late XVIIIth century)
According to tradition the Carmelite monks for whose monastery the church was built, expressed their gratitude to Cardinal Borghese by donating him an ancient statue of a Sleeping Hermaphroditus they had found in their premises. The Cardinal asked Gian Lorenzo Bernini to restore it and to make Hermaphroditus' sleep more comfortable by placing the statue on a soft mattress (rather than just on a lion's skin). It became one of the main attractions of the collection of antiquities the Cardinal gathered in his villa. In 1807 it was sold to Napoleon and it is now at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Borghese however had another ancient Sleeping Hermaphroditus, which most likely was found near S. Maria della Vittoria too; they kept it in their city palace, but in 1814 they relocated it to the villa. A third Sleeping Hermaphroditus was found in the late XIXth century near Villa Peretti: it is the only one where Hermaphroditus was not provided with a soft mattress.
Antiquarium di Lucrezia Romana: small statue of Hermaphroditus (IInd century AD)
Statues of Standing Hermaphroditus as that found in the outskirts of Rome, not far from Villa dei Sette Bassi, are not as intriguing as those where the son of Aphrodite and Hermes is portrayed in his sleep and his sexual identity is not immediately visible.
Vigna Panzani: (left) remaining window to the right of the fountain; (right) reconstructed portal at Museo Nazionale Romano alle Terme di Diocleziano
"Le Grand Hotel de Rome" was built in 1894 by Giulio Podesti for CÚsar Ritz, a famous Swiss hotelier, between Piazza di Termini and Mostra dell'Acqua Felice on the site of a vineyard which at the time of Pope Sixtus V belonged to two Panzani brothers. We know their names because they are quoted in a contract by which they agreed that the stonecutters who worked on the fountain could install their workshops on their property. The portal is dated late XVIth century whereas the window was added in the early XVIIIth century.
Next plate in Book 8: Monastero dei SS. Domenico e Sisto.
Next step in Day 2 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Bernardo alle Terme.
Next step in your tour of Rione Trevi: Chiesa di S. Niccol˛ da Tolentino.
Next step in your tour of Rione Monti: Porta Pia.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Nel campo Verano, ove fu sepolto il santo Diacono, si osserva questa santa Sulla piazza vicina Ŕ questa chiesa, eretta nella casa di s. Gabinio padre della s. Titolare, e fratello del suddetto s. Cajo Papa, il quale la contagi˛, circa l'anno 290. Fu rifatta e ristaurata pi¨ volte; ma il Card. Rusticucci, essendone Titolare, vi fece il nobile prospetto col disegno di Carlo Maderno, il soffitto dorato, e molte pitture a fresco. L'istoria di Susanna del Testamento vecchio Ŕ di Baldassare Croce; le prospettive sono del P. Zoccolino reatino, e le statue di stucco del Valsolino. La morte di s. Susanna dipinta nell'altare maggiore Ŕ di Tommaso Laureti Siciliano, e le pitture nella tribuna di Cesare Nebbia; il martirio della Santa nell'altare a destra con altre pitture sono del Nogari, e la pittura incontro Ŕ di Baldassare Croce; il s. Lorenzo nell'altra cappella Ŕ del Nebbia, e le altre pitture di Gio. Batista Pozzo. Nell'altare di mezzo vi Ŕ parte de' corpi di s. Felicita, e suoi figliuoli, e nel monastero annesso sonovi le monache di s. Bernardo postevi in tempo di Sisto V.
Da Sisto V. fu condotta in Roma lĺantica Acqua Marzia, che ora dal di lui nome dicesi Felice, e presso alle divisate Terme fece il magnifico, e nobilissimo fonte con la direzione di Domenico Fontana, ornato di marmi, colonne di granito, e sculture antiche e moderne. Il MosŔ nell'arco di mezzo, statua gigantesca in atto di aver colla verga battuto il sasso per farne scaturire l'acqua, Ŕ opera di Prospero Bresciano; e ne' due archi laterali sonovi in bassorilievo Aronne col popolo Ebreo, e Gedeone coll'esercito, che si levano la sete coll'acqua miracolosa. I quattro leoni sul labbro della gran tazza sono opere egizie, due lavorati in porfido bianco, e due in granito nero.
A destra del descritto fonte evvi la magnifica chiesa eretta l'anno 1605. col disegno di Carlo Maderno in onore della ss. Vergine sotto il titolo della Vittoria. ╚ questa tutta incrostata di marmi, ed ornata di stucchi dorati, pitture, e sculture eccellenti. Il quadro di s. Maria Maddalena nella prima cappella a destra Ŕ di Gio. Batista Mercati; la ss. Vergine, e s. Francesco con li due laterali sono del Domenichino; il bassorilievo nella cappella, che siegue, Ŕ di Pompeo Ferrucci; li due altari uniformi nella crociata sono disegno del Cav. Bernini, il quale scolpý mirabilmente la s. Teresa coll'Angelo, che la ferisce; il s. Giuseppe per˛ incontro, coll'Angelo, che lo avvisa, Ŕ scultura di Domenico Guidi, e li bassirilievi ne' laterali sono del medesimo. Nell'altare maggiore ornato di preziosi marmi, vi Ŕ l'immagine della ss. Vergine portata dalla Germania l'anno 1621. da un religioso de' Carmelitani Scalzi, che ne hanno cura. Nel coro vi sono due quadri; quello della ss. Nunziata Ŕ del Baroccio, e l'altro di s. Paolo Ŕ di Gerardo Olandese. Nella prima cappella dopo la crociata evvi il quadro dipinto dal Guercino da Cento: il ss. Crocifisso laterale, e lĺaltro incontro sono di Guido Reni; le pitture a fresco sono per˛ di Gio. Francesco Bolognese; la cappella, che siegue, fu dipinta da Niccol˛ Lorenese, ed il Cristo morto nell'ultima cappella Ŕ del Cav. d'Arpino. Le pitture nella cupola sono di Gio. Domenico Perugino, e quelle nella volta maggiore degli Orazj.