All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in May 2010.
Piazza alli Monti (Book
2) (Day 3) (Rione Monti)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
SS. Sergio e Bacco (S. Maria al Pascolo)
Fontana di Papa Sisto V
Cappella di S. Benedetto Giuseppe Labre
XVIIIth century buildings
S. Salvatore ad tres images (S. Francesco di Paola) and Subura
The Plate (No. 37)
During the XVIIIth century Rome experienced a growth of its population, although lower than that of other European cities; this development led to the urbanisation of areas which had become almost rural after the fall of the Roman Empire.
By 1752 (when Giuseppe Vasi drew this etching) the area around S. Maria ai Monti had become a middle class neighbourhood with many buildings having some luxury pretension. According to Vasi Via dei Serpenti, its main street, was named after a house which had a balcony supported by stucco statues of snakes; other old guides talk of a (lost) painting showing Laocoon and his two sons in the coils of the
snakes sent by Apollo, but most likely the name is due to the snakes which lived in the area before its urban development. Nearby streets have names which confirm this theory: Via del Boschetto (small wood), Via del Sambuco (elder), Via Caprareccia (of the goats), Via delle Frasche (branches).
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference
to: 1) Chiesa dei SS. Sergio e Bacco; 2) S. Maria ai Monti; 3) Via dei Serpenti. The small map shows also 4)
Cappella di S. Giuseppe Benedetto Labre; 5) Casa Stefanoni; 6) Piazza degli Zingari; 7) S. Salvatore ad tres images.
The view in March 2010
In the late XIXth century the fašade of SS. Sergio e Bacco was modified and the buildings at its sides were enlarged; the shape of the square however is still that shown in the plate; today the neighbourhood is very lively with many restaurants, small hotels, nightclubs and specialized shops.
SS. Sergio e Bacco
(left) Fašade; (above-centre) inscription celebrating the image of Madonna del Pascolo; (above-right) symbol of St. Basil (a column surrounded by flames meaning unscathed faith); (below) interior showing the modern iconostasis
Sts. Sergius and Bacchus were particularly popular in Constantinople where a large church was dedicated to them. It is possible that the Roman church named after them was founded by Kallinikos I, Patriarch of Constantinople, who was exiled to Rome in 705, because medieval sources called the church SS. Sergio e Bacco in Calinico. The church was renovated in the XVIIth century and it was assigned with the adjoining monastery to Basilian monks from Eastern Europe.
In 1718 during the restoration of a room of the monastery a fresco was discovered on a wall; it was a copy of a famous sacred image found by shepherds in 1470 on a tree at Zyrovici, in today's Belarus; the fresco was detached from the wall and placed on the main altar; the church became known also as Madonna del Pascolo (pasture).
In 1741 the church was entirely rebuilt and its fašade was redesigned in the late XIXth century.
Fontana di Papa Sisto V
(left) The fountain; (right-above) detail of the
middle basin; (right-below) coat of arms of Pope Sixtus V
The fountain was designed by Giacomo della Porta and it was built in 1588-89; it was the first of a series of fountains to distribute water from Acqua Felice, an aqueduct built by Pope Sixtus V to carry water to Rome.
Cappella di S. Benedetto Giuseppe Labre
(left) House where St. Benedict Joseph Labre passed away; (centre) tablet indicating that the building belonged to the hospital of S. Antonio dei Portoghesi (to see similar tablets click here); (right) ancient relief on the back of the house
On April 16, 1783 Benedict Joseph Labre, a French monk who was leading a very
penitential life in the streets of Rome, sleeping on the ground and eating very little, lost consciousness on the steps
of S. Maria ai Monti. He was brought to a nearby house where
he passed away that same day. Later on the room where he died was transformed into a small chapel (more on St. Benedict Joseph Labre - external link).
The narrow street behind the house is named after a Roman relief showing a griffin, a mythological animal
often portrayed on the smaller sides of sarcophagi.
XVIIIth Century Buildings
(left) Detail of a house in Piazza alli Monti; (right) detail of Casa Stefanoni
The neighbourhood retains many XVIIIth century houses which are embellished by an elaborate stucco decoration; you may wish to see a page covering this type of buildings.
House in Piazza degli Zingari
S. Salvatore ad tres images and Suburra (left) Series of inscriptions/reliefs in Piazza della Suburra; (centre) upper part of the inscriptions; (right) coat of arms of the Copo family
According to tradition Vannozza Cattanei, the mistress of Pope Alexander VI Borgia, lived in a house called Casa dei Borgia between Piazza alli Monti and S. Pietro in Vincoli; a small church at the foot of the steps leading to that house was restored by Stefano Copo, a delegate of the pope; it was called S. Salvatore ad tres images (at the three images because of three portraits of the Saviour above its entrance) and it was also known as S. Francesco di Paola (Vasi shows it with this name in his Map of Rome). The church was pulled down in 1884, but the inscriptions celebrating the restoration by Copo were walled in a modern building. They contain also a reference to Subura, the ancient and rather infamous name of the neighbourhood. The image used as background for this page shows an erased coat of arms of Stefano Copo with the words OB MAIESTATEM (in front of majesty) which according to a 1744 guide by Francesco de' Ficoroni was a reference to the nearby home of Julius Caesar.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Chiesa di s. Maria del Pascolo
Era prima dedicata questa piccola chiesa ai ss: Sergio e Bacco, ed era parrocchiale, ma ora
per l'immagine della ss. Vergine ha mutato nome, e vi risiedono alcuni Preti di nazione Rutena.
Il fonte, che si vede sulla piazzetta, vi fu eretto da Sisto V. per comodo di quella contrada;
e la strada di fianco si dice de' serpenti, per l'immagini di quelli, che fingono di
reggere un balcone.
Quindi ripigliando il cammino per la strada della nuova suburra, si trova una
piccolissima chiesa dedicata al ss. Salvatore, che fu detta anticamente alle tre immagini;
ora ne ha cura la compagnia di s. Francesco di Paola, e si conserva in essa il corpo di s. Severa.
Next plate in Book 2: Piazza
di Colonna Trajana
Next step in Day 3 itinerary: Chiesa e Monastero di S. Lorenzo in Panisperna
Next step in your tour of Rione Monti: Chiesa e Monastero di S. Lorenzo in Panisperna