All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in April 2009.
Piazza di Pasquino (Book 2) (Day 4) (View C6) (Rione Parione)
In this page:
The plate of Giuseppe Vasi
S. Maria degli Agonizzanti
Palazzo dei Ritratti
That's mine! (Minor buildings)
The Plate (No. 26 - ii)
Piazza di Pasquino is a small square near Piazza Navona which is famous for an ancient statue representing Menelaus holding the dead body of Patroclus; the statue is known as Pasquino after the name of a tailor who lived nearby and who had a reputation for lampooning. In the plate the statue is hardly visible. The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Statua di Pasquino; 2) S. Maria degli Agonizzanti; 3) Palazzo Pamphilj; 4) Strada Papale (the street by which the Pope from St Peter's reached S. Giovanni in Laterano to take possession of his diocese; see a page covering this procession). 3) is shown in more detail in another page. The small map shows also: 5) Palazzo dei Ritratti.
The buildings behind the statue were replaced in 1790-93 by Palazzo Braschi, the family palace of Pope Pius VI. This is the major change from the view by Vasi; other minor changes are related to the façade of S. Maria degli Agonizzanti and to the houses on the far right of the square.
The square was known also as Piazza dei Librai, booksellers' square, but today it should rather be named after its many small restaurants.
At the turn of the XVth century several ancient statues were found in Rome and its environs; they went to embellish the palaces of popes and cardinals, but in 1501 a very much damaged statue portraying Menelaus and Patroclus was placed by Cardinal Oliviero Carafa at the corner of the house where he lived. It soon became the most famous of the talking statues of Rome and it is the only one which is still used for posting satires (but in 2005 Pasquino mourned the death of Pope John Paul II).
Usually Pasquino talked with Marforio, more occasionally with Madama Lucrezia, Abate Luigi, il Facchino and il Babuino (click here to learn more about Pasquino and the Talking Statues of Rome).
In Loggia della Signoria in Florence there is another Roman copy of the original Greek statue: it was found in Rome in the XVIth century and brought to Florence where it was widely restored. It is one of many works of art moved from Rome to Florence (see my Florentine Recollections).
S. Maria degli Agonizzanti
The church in origin was just a chapel for the members of a brotherhood who assisted the very sick and those who were sentenced to death (hence the name agonizzanti). In 1862 it was slightly enlarged and given a new façade.
It is currently (April 2009) used by the citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country which is often devastated by conflicts; this is the meaning of the bleeding map of the country (discover multi-ethnic Rome).
Palazzo Braschi (formerly Orsini Santobono)
The coat of arms of Pope Pius VI was recently cleaned, but the heraldic symbols of the pope were erased during the French occupation of Rome; they can still be seen in the courtyard of the palace: they included Boreas, the Greek god of the cold north wind and the bringer of winter (it is shown in the image used as background for this page). This wind proved too be too strong for the pope. The palace was built by Girolamo Onesti, brother-in-law of Pope Pius VI on the site of an older building originally belonging to the Orsini and later on sold to the Caracciolo, known also as Santobono after their Neapolitan fief.
Luigi, son of Girolamo Onesti, was adopted by the pope and was allowed to add to his surname that of his uncle (Braschi), so the palace should be called Onesti Braschi, but because onesti means honest in Italian the double name sounded inconsistent with the fame of Luigi.
The palace is also decorated with a lion holding a pine-cone in his mouth, the heraldic symbol of the Onesti family and with a short ladder, the symbol of Costanza Falconieri, wife of Luigi Onesti Braschi.
The façade of Palazzo Braschi is shown in the next step of this itinerary.
Palazzo dei Ritratti
This section of Strada Papale is now called Via del Governo Vecchio after the palace by the same name. It was one of the most important streets of Rome and many palaces show the wealth of their owners. Palazzo dei Ritratti (portraits) is the name usually given to a palace decorated with paintings (XVth century) and reliefs showing great lawyers of the past (XVIIIth century).
A short stroll in the streets near Piazza di Pasquino leads to discovering many minor buildings which retain memories of their former landlords.
Before the construction of Palazzo Braschi the most important building in Piazza di Pasquino was the rear entrance of Palazzo Pamphilj; in 2009 a careful restoration has cleaned the elaborate decoration of its windows.
In 1540 a fire damaged a house which stood on the other side of the square. Giovan Antonio Alessandri, a goldsmith, celebrated its restoration with a Latin inscription which reads "IO. ANTONIUS ALEXANDRI AURIFEX DOMUM INCENDIO DIRUTAM IN MELIORE HANC FORMA RESTITUIT SIBI SUIS Q. POST. AN MDXL".
Palazzo Ricci is one of the most interesting Renaissance palaces of Rome, owing to the paintings which decorate it. Orazio Ricci, a member of the family, bought a modest house near Piazza di Pasquino, but this was not an obstacle to placing on it his name and his heraldic symbol (a hedgehog, in Italian riccio).
In some cases the reference to the owner of the house is not immediately evident; a fan window above the door of a small building is protected by iron bars starting from a point decorated with three mountains: it means it belonged to the Peretti, the family of Pope Sixtus V, whose heraldic symbols included the trimonzio, three mountains. A nearby house was bought by the Peretti who surrounded the rampant lion of the previous landlords (Matuzzi) with a wreath of pears (another of their heraldic symbols).
But there is no memory of either the owner of the gentle lion who greets those who enter a small palace in Via dell'Anima with an olive branch, or of a Renaissance coat of arms showing a star above a paw.
The Pamphilj had several properties in the area behind Piazza Navona and they placed their doves on many of them; before being bought by the Pamphilj most of these estates belonged to the De Cupis, a family from Montefalco which acquired great wealth with Giandomenico de Cupis who was cardinal for 36 years (1517-53) and Dean of the Sacred College for 16.
Just a few buildings have decorations which are not related to their owners: this is the case of Palazzo Bonadies with its laughing mask and of the generic decoration of an XVIIIth century building which was split into flats for rent.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 2: Piazza di S. Pietro in Vaticano
Next step in Day 4 itinerary: Palazzo Massimi
Next step in your tour of Rione Parione: Palazzo Massimi