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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 July 2010.

Chiesa e Monastero di S. Maria dei Sette Dolori (Book 8) (Map D3) (Day 6) (View E10) (Rione Trastevere)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 S. Maria dei Sette Dolori
 Conservatorio dell'Assunta
 Piazza delle Fornaci
 Accademia degli Arcadi (Bosco Parrasio)
 Cartiera Sampieri

The Plate (No. 159)

The beginning of the Industrial Revolution is generally set in Great Britain during the second half of the XVIIIth century; news of the development of new manufacturing techniques involving a greater use of machines reached Rome where attempts were made to develop some modern factories; the area around S. Maria dei Sette Dolori was chosen because the water of Acqua Paola could be exploited as an energy source.
In his 1759 etching Giuseppe Vasi showed a tobacco factory and workers and horses carrying sacks of flour from a mill. He also showed a partial view of Rome which can be seen at this point of the street leading to Janiculum.
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Mill; 2) Conservatorio dell'Assunta; 3) Tobacco factory; 4) Palazzo Falconieri and Dome of S. Andrea della Valle. These two last monuments are shown in other pages and are not included in the small map which shows 4) S. Maria dei Sette Dolori; 5) Accademia degli Arcadi; 6) Cartiera Sampieri; 7) Acqua Paola.


The view in June 2010; (inset) dome of S. Agnese in Agone

The high wall which surrounds S. Maria dei Sette Dolori has most likely the same height it had at Vasi's time, but in the etching it did not obstruct the view so much; the small manufacturing district opposite the nunnery did not survive for a long time and all its buildings were eventually used for other purposes; the tip of Palazzo Falconieri is hidden by trees, whereas with some effort a dome is visible, but it is the dome of S. Agnese in Agone, rather than that of S. Andrea della Valle as indicated by Vasi.
The street is now named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian national hero who fought in 1849 for the defence of the Roman Republic.

S. Maria dei Sette Dolori

(left) Entrance to the church (the decoration includes two Farnese lilies); (right) entrance to the nunnery

The construction of the nunnery and of the church started in 1642 at the initiative of Donna Camilla Virginia Savelli, wife of Pietro Farnese, Duke of Latera, a small fiefdom in the north of Latium. The Farnese at that time were a very powerful family and to protect their possessions they did not hesitate to wage war on the Papal State and force Pope Urban VIII to acknowledge their rights. In 1649 however they lost the Duchy of Castro and they eventually sold Latera. This explains why the completion of S. Maria dei Sette Dolori was delayed several times and the fašade of the church was left unfinished.


Francesco Borromini designed the unusual fašade of the nunnery; he clearly had in mind a curved wall of Villa Adriana which projects from a flat one; also in the use of small flat bricks for decorative purposes the architect showed his knowledge of the ancient Roman construction techniques.

(left) Portal; (right-above) design of the lower part of the gate (probably by Borromini and very similar to that of Ponte S. Angelo by Gian Lorenzo Bernini); (right-below) inscription containing a decree by Pope Clement XIII on the external wall stating that the area near the nunnery should stay free of buildings

Conservatorio dell'Assunta

(left) Fresco in the Vatican Library celebrating the transformation of Conservatorio dell'Assunta into a factory by Pope Pius VI; (right) the building today

Conservatorio dell'Assunta was built in ca. 1740 by Pope Benedict XIV; it was one of the many institutions of Trastevere caring for unmarried women; in 1777 the building was modified and turned into a factory where women worked at the production of linen clothes; the fresco in the Vatican Library is very interesting because it shows the original colours of the building which was repainted using a uniform reddish tone during the XIXth century (more on this topic).

Piazza delle Fornaci

(left) Old tobacco factory (white building) and above it Acqua Paola; (right) Conservatorio delle Pericolanti

Piazza delle Fornaci, the old name of via Garibaldi indicates that there were kilns in the area, probably before the construction of large kilns at Porta Fabrica, outside the walls. The tobacco factory built in 1742 was turned in 1775 into a linen factory in order to employ young women; the factory was later on enlarged with the acquisition of Conservatorio dell'Assunta; in 1792 the production was changed and woollen clothes were manufactured; eventually in 1888 the building was turned into a large Carabinieri barracks. At the beginning of the road, near Porta Settimiana, Pope Pius VI built a new house for Conservatorio delle Pericolanti, a charitable institution previously located in Palazzo Leoni, which also cared for young women; they worked at a small silk-factory inside the building.
These attempts of combining charities with enterprises did not yield great results and the Papal State was never able to develop a proper industrial structure.

Accademia degli Arcadi


Accademia degli Arcadi was founded in 1690 to preach simplicity in poetry and for this reason it was named after Arcadia, a region of Greece, which Vergil established as a poetic ideal in the Eclogues; the members of the academy used to meet in gardens which they called Bosco Parrasio (Parrasian Grove), after a mythical town of that region. The current name of the institution is Arcadia - Accademia Letteraria Italiana; it is now located with its historical library at Biblioteca Angelica.

(left) Fountain with inscription celebrating King John V of Portugal; (right) small building for meetings during rainy days; (inset) detail of the decoration

For many years the meetings took place in gardens owned by one of the rich members of the Academy: this until 1724 when King John V of Portugal donated a piece of land next to S. Maria dei Sette Dolori. The king made the donation as part of a public relations effort aimed at being recognized as the legitimate ruler of Portugal by the Pope.
J. W. Goethe was admitted to the Academy and he described the ceremony in his Italian Journey. His academic name was Megalio Melpomenio which meant great tragedian, Melpomene being the Muse of Tragedy. Giuseppe Vasi himself was a proud member (Pastore Arcade - Arcadian Shepherd) of the Academy.

Cartiera Sampieri

(left) Former Cartiera Sampieri; (centre) detail of its decoration when it became a nunnery; (right) view towards Rome; (inset) S. Maria della Consolazione and Basilica di Massenzio

In his guide of Rome, Vasi did not give a flattering judgement about the quality of the paper manufactured in the rather elegant factory built by Carlo Melchiorri for Conte Giovan Battista Sampieri. He wrote: "... both the writing and printing papers do not reach a high standard of quality yet, but maybe one day they will reach it". Apparently the papers never reached appropriate quality standards, because the building was later on enlarged and used as a nunnery. Today it houses the Spanish school of Rome and it is part of a sort of Spanish block which includes Casino Giraud and S. Pietro in Montorio. Cartiera Sampieri can be seen in Vasi's 1765 Grand View of Rome.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Cartiere e Mole da grano
Nel Pontificato di Benedetto XIV. fu eretta la cartiera dal Conte Sanpieri col benefizio dell' acqua paola; e sebbene le carte tanto da scrivere, che da stampare ancora non riescano di buona qualitÓ, pu˛ essere, che col tempo riesciranno. Le mole, che le sono appresso, furono erette da Innocenzo X. per maggior comodo del popolo, essendo state dismesse sin dal tempo di Bellisario, il quale introdusse quelle sul Tevere. E a piŔ delle mole evvi il
Bosco degli Arcadi
La celebre Accademia de' Pastori Arcadi, dopo avere goduta per molto tempo la residenza negli orti Farnesiani, finalmente in questa parte del Gianicolo ombrosa e comoda ai loro virtuosi, e nobili congressi, col favore del fedelissimo Re di Portogallo formarono un nobile teatro rurale con capricciose scale, secondo il disegno del Cav. Antonio Canevari. Di sotto a questo vi Ŕ la
Fabbrica del tabacco
Per il comodo dell'acqua, che scende dal celebrato fonte dell'acqua Paola sul Gianicolo fu quivi eretta questa gran fabbrica con molti ordigni, che con celeritÓ lavorano tutte le sorte di tabacchi per il consumo dello Stato Ecclesiastico.
Quivi stette alcun tempo il conservatorio della divina Provvidenza per le donne mal maritate; ma poi fu trasportato come dicemmo presso la chiesa di s. Calisto. Evvi per˛ incontro il
Monastero e Chiesa di s. Maria de' Sette Dolori
Da D. Cammilla Farnese Duchessa di Latera fu fondato questo monastero l'an. 1652. per alcune donzelle nobili, ed invalide, che volessero vivere sotto la regola di s. Agostino, ma con voti semplici, e senza clausura. Perci˛ tengono la loro chiesa entro il monastero, dedicata alla ss. Vergine de' sette Dolori, in cui di particolare evvi il s. Agostino dipinto da Carlo Maratti.

Next plate in Book 8: Conservatorio di S. Pasquale di Baijlon

Next step in Day 6 itinerary: Palazzo Corsini