All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in April 2010.
Prospetto Principale del Collegio Romano (Book 9) (Map B2) (Day 1) and (Day 4) (View C7) (Rione Pigna)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
S. Stefano del Cacco
Piè di Marmo and Palazzo Frangipane
The Plate (No. 162)
The Counter-Reformation effort needed support from a theological/cultural viewpoint and the Society of Jesus, the order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola provided it through a series of educational institutions in all Catholic countries. In Rome the Jesuit schools were housed in Collegio Romano, a large building, the construction of which was promoted and completed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582-83. Many popes and cardinals studied here, but at Giuseppe Vasi's time the schools were not reserved only to those who sought an ecclesiastical career, but also to children of the wealthiest families. The plate shows several pupils heading towards the entrance; they wore tricornes which were very popular at the time, because they helped rainwater to fall behind the shoulders.
In the plate Vasi shows the tip of the façade of S. Ignazio, the large church built behind Collegio Romano; the tip of the façade cannot be seen from the street level, but perhaps Vasi's aim was to highlight that the church did not have a dome.
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Part of Palazzo Pamphilj; 2) S. Marta; 3) Street leading to Piè di Marmo. 1) is shown in another page. The map shows also 4) Collegio Romano; 5) S. Stefano del Cacco; 6) Palazzo Frangipane.
In recent years the City of Rome has forbidden parking cars in most of the historical squares of the city centre, but the few remaining ones where parking is allowed are always full of cars; the only change to the square is the enlargement of the street leading to Piè di Marmo (and S. Maria sopra Minerva); in 1852 part of the Augustinian nunnery next to S. Marta was pulled down and replaced by a smaller building designed by Luigi Poletti.
For some time the design of Collegio Romano was attributed to Bartolomeo Ammannati, but it is now generally believed that the building was designed by Giuseppe Valeriani, a Jesuit. Whoever the architect, he had to deal with the irregular shape of the area chosen for the building; of the two portals, only one was actually needed (it leads to the large courtyard around which the palace is structured); the other one had only an aesthetic purpose.
The heraldic symbol of Pope Gregory XIII was a dragon and this explains why dragons were placed in so many locations of Collegio Romano.
Pope Gregory XIII is known for the reformation of the calendar which established that of the years at the end of the centuries only those which can be divided by 4 are leap-years. So the year 20(00) was a leap-year, but the year 19(00) was not a leap-year. The commission which recommended the adoption of the new calendar was headed by Christopher Clavius, a Jesuit who taught astronomy and mathematics at Collegio Romano. In 1787 a turret was built on the roof of Collegio Romano to serve as astronomical observatory, but in 1852 for stability reasons the observatory was placed exactly above the missing dome of S. Ignazio (you may wish to see it in an external link).
After the 1870 conquest of Rome by the Kingdom of Italy, the building was confiscated; its main part houses Liceo Ennio Quirino Visconti, one of the best high schools of Rome. The choice to dedicate the school to Ennio Quirino Visconti was not without political meaning. Visconti, a former student of Collegio Romano, was an antiquarian and art historian who wrote a most comprehensive catalogue of the ancient works of art of the Vatican Museums and he was the curator of Musei Capitolini; in 1798 when the French occupied Rome he accepted becoming one of the five consuls who formed the government of the Roman Republic. At the end of 1799 Rome was occupied by Neapolitan troops and Visconti fled to France, where he held important positions at the Louvre, was appointed Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur and where he remained until his death in 1818.
S. Marta was built in the second half of the XVIIth century; it was part of an Augustinian nunnery having its entrance opposite S. Stefano del Cacco. The church was designed by Carlo Fontana; in 1872 it was confiscated and used for several different purposes; niches were replaced by windows and the portal was removed; in the 1960s the portal was reconstructed and the building is now used for small exhibitions.
Today the monastery houses a police station, which has jurisdiction on an area which is very critical because it includes the residence of the Prime Minister and the Parliament. The writer of this page remembers being brought there after having voiced his views.
S. Stefano del Cacco
S. Stefano del Cacco is located on the site of a Temple to Isis and Serapis which was initially built during the first triumvirate; it was surrounded by obelisks and it was decorated with statues; the complex was known as Iseum Campense; the "cat" of Palazzo Grazioli and the statue known as Madama Lucrezia come from this complex, as well as six small obelisks.
The reference to Cacco is generally thought to derive from a broken statue - external link of an Egyptian deity which was thought to represent a macaque.
In 1563 Pope Pius IV assigned the medieval church to the Silvestrini, a branch of the Benedictine order, who greatly modified the church, which had a small porch and an apse decorated with mosaics; the Silvestrini also built a monastery on the back of the church.
Piè di Marmo
Piè di Marmo is the name given to the fragment of a gigantic statue of a goddess which portrays her left foot (It. piede). At Vasi's time it was placed in the street by the same name; in 1878 it was moved at the beginning of the side street leading to S. Stefano del Cacco.
A small and somewhat hidden square in the nearby street leading to il Gesù is embellished by the late XVIth century portal of Palazzo Frangipane. The Frangipane family played an important role in Rome from the XIIth to the XIVth century. They had turned the Colosseo into a fortress, but in the XVIth century their influence and wealth were greatly reduced. They had their family chapel in S. Marcello al Corso.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 9: Collegio
Romano e S. Ignazio