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 Montanara (Book 2) (Map C3) (Day 5) (View C9) (Rione Campitelli) and (Rione Sant'Angelo)
In this page:
Piazza Montanara owes its name (Montanara=of the mountains) to the
peasants from the mountains near Rome, who congregated here for their shopping
after visiting the nearby cattle market (Campo Vaccino
i. e. the Roman Forum). According to others the name comes from a Montanari family which resided in the area. The view is taken from the green dot in the map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) the fountain; 2) Teatro di Marcello (Palazzo Savelli/Orsini). The small 1748 map shows also 3) Monastero di Tor de' Specchi; 4) S. Rita da Cascia.
The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Sant'Angelo (lower left quarter) and Rione Campitelli.
The medieval area between the Capitol and the Tiber was subject in the 1930s to large changes aimed at isolating the Roman ruins and at providing the centre of Rome with a large road leading towards the southern suburbs (so called Via del Mare, because it led to Porta S. Paolo and from there to Lido di Ostia) as you can see by comparing the two maps below. In the process two small churches were pulled down. The fountain of Piazza Montanara was relocated opposite Palazzo Lancellotti.
Teatro di Marcello or Palazzo Orsini
The theatre was built by Augustus and dedicated to his beloved nephew Marcellus who had died at the age of twenty. It had two rows of arches decorated with semi-columns of the Doric and Ionian orders; similar to Colosseo it became a fortress (of the Savelli) during the Middle Ages. It was then transformed into a residential palace in the XVIth century; later on it was sold to the Orsini.
The pulling down of the buildings near Piazza Montanara led to finding the site of the temple built by Gaius Sosius and dedicated to Apollo: three columns have been re-erected; next to them there is the platform of the Temple to Bellona (goddess of war), the starting point of triumphal processions.
Gaius Sosius was a Roman politician, best known for having placed Herod upon the throne of Jerusalem. He sided with Mark Antony during the civil war and he commanded part of the fleet at the battle of Actium where he was captured. He was pardoned by Octavian (Augustus) and he returned to Rome where he dedicated his temple to his new master.
The decoration of the temple is very elaborate and it shows a full knowledge of Hellenistic art.
The inner part of the palace was redesigned during the XIXth century and it is of little interest. The Orsini (orso=bear) placed bears at its entrance and in the garden.
Monastero di Tor de' Specchi
The only medieval building which was spared is the severe Monastero di Tor de' Specchi, founded by S. Francesca Romana in 1425. The nuns who live here make vows of seclusion. The thick walls and the small windows protect them from the temptations of modern life. On March 9, the day devoted to S. Francesca Romana, the nunnery is open to the public. The door to the left leads to the older part of the building where early Renaissance frescoes show the saint tempted by Evil. The door to the right leads to the Baroque Cappella del Coro.
S. Francesca Romana was a Ponziani, a wealthy family of Trastevere. When she died in 1440 most likely she did not foresee becoming in 1925 the patron saint of car drivers; this because it is said that an angel held a light before her when she travelled.
S. Rita da Cascia
This little church was located near the steps leading to S.
Maria in Aracoeli and was rebuilt in 1940 between Teatro di Marcello
and Monastero di Tor de' Specchi. It was designed by Carlo Fontana for
Pope Alexander VII; it is one of the very first works of this architect.
Next plate in Book 2: Campo Vaccino
Next step in Day 5 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Nicolò in Carcere
Next step in your tour of Rione Campitelli: S. Maria d'Aracoeli
Next step in your tour of Rione Sant'Angelo: Piazza Giudia