"Roma ha ancora i suoi orrendi e scomodi vicoli nel pi¨ bell'abitato, e dove il concorso Ŕ maggiore, a Campo Marzio, alla Minerva, al Pantheon, a Fontana di Trevi, a S. Andrea della Valle, e dove richieggonsi strade pi¨ regolari, e pi¨ spaziose, ivi son rimaste pi¨ disagiate e pi¨ oblique e pi¨ anguste."
(Rome still retains its appalling and uncomfortable narrow streets in the very centre of the city where the influx of people is greater, at Campo Marzio, Pantheon, Fontana di Trevi and S. Andrea della Valle. Where spacious and straight streets are more needed, there they are the worst of all). This sentence was written in Principj di Architettura Civile (1781) by
Francesco Milizia, an art historian who lived in Rome. Probably Giuseppe Vasi shared Milizia's views because in this 1759 etching he greatly enlarged the very narrow street linking the Pantheon with il
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Palazzo Strozzi; 2) Palazzo Cesarini; 3) Collegio Calasanzio, once Palazzo Cenci; 4) Palazzo Amadei. The map shows also 5) SS. Stimmate di S. Francesco; 6) S. Nicola de' Cesarini; 7) Casa del Burcardo; 8) Teatro Argentina. The green rectangle indicates the area where ancient temples were found in 1929. The dotted line in the map delineates the border between Rione Sant'Eustachio (left) and Rione Pigna (right).
Views in November 2008: (left) from the same point as in the plate; (right) from the opposite direction
The wishes of Milizia and Vasi were fulfilled in part in the 1880s when a large street (Corso Vittorio Emanuele) was opened to link il Ges¨ with the Vatican. Palazzo Amadei was demolished and replaced by a much smaller building. Palazzo Strozzi was shortened too. In 1929 it was the turn of Palazzo Cesarini (and part of Collegio Calasanzio) to be pulled down.
(left) Detail of the fašade with the statue of St. Francis by Bernardino Cametti; (right) bell tower
The church was designed in 1714-721 by Giovan Battista Contini and Antonio Canevari on the site of a previous one which was dedicated to Quaranta Martiri (Forty Martyrs) di Sebaste. It belonged to a brotherhood (Arciconfraternita delle Stimmate di S. Francesco) having the objective of helping the sick and burying the dead. A statue portrays St. Francis in the act of receiving the stigmata. The bell tower is surrounded by buildings and it can be seen only from a great distance.
(left) Interior; (right) rear fašade with a coat of arms of Pope Clement XI, who laid the first stone
Giovan Battista Contini was a highly reputed architect when he was asked to design the church, but he soon had a quarrel with the leaders of the brotherhood and the task of carrying on the construction was assigned to Antonio Canevari, a younger architect who eventually left Rome to work in Portugal and in Naples. The interior of the church was in part redesigned by Giuseppe Valadier in 1828-829.
(left) Altar in Cappella del Crocifisso; (right) large painting by Francesco Trevisani (1719) in the apse in an architectural frame by Giuseppe Valadier
Only Cappella del Crocifisso, one of the six chapels, was decorated in the XVIIIth century. According to the fashion of the time this was done by using precious marbles and elaborate stuccoes.
(left) Old entrance; (centre) detail of the original part of the building; (right) Archaeological Museum of Florence: "sistrum", a musical instrument associated with the worship of Isis (Ist century AD), formerly in the collection of Leone Strozzi in this palace
The Strozzi were a family of Florentine bankers whose residence in Florence is a masterpiece of Early Renaissance. The Roman branch of the family bought this palace opposite the church in 1649 from the Olgiati for whom the building had been designed by Carlo Maderno in the early XVIIth century. The Strozzi had a "Florentine" chapel at nearby S. Andrea della Valle.
(left) Collegio Calasanzio; (centre) detail of the corner; (right) a madonnella
Collegio Calasanzio or delle Scuole Pie was a brand new building when Vasi made his etching as it had been erected in 1746. JosŔ de Calasanz was a Spanish priest who founded in 1597 the first school in Rome which did not require an admission fee. The members of his order are usually known as Scolopi, after Scuole Pie (pious schools). Architect Tommaso De Marchis made only one concession to the decoration of the building in the elaborate capitals and in the cornice. The elegant madonnella is a copy of Raphael's Madonna della Seggiola.
(left) Remains of the old church and of the temple; (right-above) relief portraying Atlas; (right-below) a Roman forica
The Cesarini were a very prominent Roman family for many centuries. Genzano was one of their fiefdoms. The palace and the family church (S. Nicola dei
Cesarini), were pulled down in 1929
to enlarge the street linking Corso Vittorio Emanuele with Via Arenula. The church was also called S. Nicola de Calcarariis,
after the medieval workshops where for many centuries ancient marbles were turned into mortar.
It was known that S. Nicola dei Cesarini had been built on a Roman temple and that its cloister made use of the columns of a second temple, but the excavations led to the discovery of four temples in a sacred precinct (Area Sacra). The ruins of the temple upon which the church was built date back to the IIIrd century BC. The columns were made with tufa coated with plaster. The travertine columns on the right belong to a later period.
A small relief showing Atlas supporting the celestial vault is walled in a modern building at the southern side of the area. The Romans took care also of practical needs and the excavations brought to light a large forica (public latrine) which probably was part of Teatro di Pompeo.
In the foreground Temple B (circular) and in the background Temple A (S. Nicola dei Cesarini)
The excavations led to unearthing a fine circular temple with tufa columns crowned by travertine capitals. It is thought that it was dedicated to Fortunae Huiusce Diei, the Fortune of Today, an indication of the importance of good luck in the beliefs of the ancient Romans. Because there is uncertainty about the names of the temples they are usually referred to with letters. At one point they might have been included in Porticus Minuciae, an area where key commodities were distributed free of charge.
Centrale Montemartini: pieces of an acrolith statue of Fortunae Huiusce Diei which were found in Temple B
The statue was an acrolith (from the Greek words meaning height/extremity and stone) i.e. the head, the arms and the legs were made of marble, whereas the clothed parts of the body were made of wood or bronze. It was not a new development in sculpture because this technique had been used by Phidias at Olympia in the Vth century BC. Another later acrolith statue was found at Basilica di Massenzio.
(left) Fašade: (right) detail of its decoration
In 1731 the Cesarini built a large theatre on a site next to their palace. The building was designed by Girolamo Theodoli, but the fašade is an 1826 addition by Pietro Holl which reflects the impact of Neoclassicism on traditional baroque subjects (you may wish to compare the two personifications of Fame on the top of Teatro Argentina with those of Fontana di Trevi). It is now a drama theatre, but in the past it was mainly used for operas.
On February 20, 1816 the premiere of Almaviva by Gioacchino Rossini was a sensational fiasco, but at the second performance the public had a different opinion and Almaviva (later on called Il Barbiere di Siviglia) became one of the best known Italian operas. The theatre was commonly called Teatro Argentina and the whole area is similarly named (Largo Argentina, Via di Torre Argentina). According to Vasi, this is due to the fact that a Cardinal Cesarini was for a while the bishop of Strasbourg (France), which in Latin was called Argentorate. When he returned to Rome he put over many windows the inscription "ARGENTINA" and this word in the end prevailed.
(left) Courtyard; (right-above) windows; (right-below) entrance
As a matter of fact the bishop was not a member of the Cesarini family. His name was Johannes Burckardt (italianized in Burcardo) and he arrived in Rome in 1479. He built a compact, tall palace where Italian and German elements are mixed. At his death the Cesarini acquired the building which was modified in the XIXth century. Today it houses a small museum and a library on the history of theatre in Italy.
Next plate in Book 9: Monte di Pietà e Banco pubblico.
Next step in Day 4 itinerary: Monastero di S. Chiara.
Next step in Day 5 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Lucia delle Botteghe Oscure.
Next step in your tour of Rione Pigna: Chiesa del Ges¨.
Next step in your tour of Rione Sant'Eustachio: S. Andrea della Valle.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Era quivi un'antica chiesa dedicata ai XL. ss. Martiri, la quale circa l'anno 1595. fu conceduta alla
confraternita delle Stimate; e perchŔ era molto piccola e cadente, fu rinnovata con magnificenza
secondo il disegno prima del Contini, e poi del Canevari. Fra gli altri quadri Ŕ molto rinomato quello
della Flagellazione alla colonna dipinto dal Cav. Benesiani nella prima cappella a destra: il s. Francesco
nell'altare maggiore Ŕ del Trevisani, quello nell'ultima di Giacinto Brandi, e le pitture nella volta sono
di Luigi Garzi.