All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in June 2009.
S. Pietro in Vinculis (Book 3) (Map B3) (Day 2) (View B8) (Rione Monti)
Vinculis (links, but also chains) is a reference to a miracle concerning the chains of St. Peter. In 439 Elia Eudocia, wife of Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where she found several relics, including chains which had been used to bind St. Peter in Jerusalem; she sent these to her daughter Licinia Eudocia, who was the wife of Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III; eventually the chains were given to Pope Leo I who decided to keep them together with the chains used to bind St. Peter in Carcere Mamertino; at this point the two sections spontaneously joined together. In order to celebrate the miracle and to appropriately allow the devotion of the relics a church was built on this site as early as 442 by Licinia Eudocia; for this reason the church is also known as Basilica Eudossiana.
The view is taken from the green dot in the map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Part of the monastery of S. Francesco di Paola; 2) Street leading to S. Martino ai Monti; 3) S. Pietro in Vincoli; 4) Palazzo del Cardinal Titolare. The small 1748 map shows also 5) Monastery of S. Antonio Abate; 6) Torre dei Cesarini; 7) Torre degli Annibaldi; 8) "Case dei Borgia".
The bell tower and the adjoining monastery were pulled down at the beginning of the XXth century to leave room for a huge building which houses the Engineering Faculty of the main Rome University.
A minor change occurred in Palazzo del Cardinal Titolare (the residence of the titular cardinal of the church, i.e. its honorary chief) where the baroque door was replaced by a much simpler entrance.
At the far right of the plate Vasi shows a portal which led to the monastery of S. Antonio Abate; the portal is still there, but the monastery has been replaced by a complex of late XIXth century buildings.
The Renaissance portico of S. Pietro in Vincoli was designed by Meo del Caprina in 1475 for Pope Sixtus IV Della Rovere; the fašade was completed in 1570-78 by Cardinal Antoine de Granvelle: he was more of a statesman than a priest and he is mainly remembered for having conducted the negotiations for the marriage of Mary I of England and Philip II of Spain and for having been the de facto governor of the Netherlands (1559-64) and the viceroy of Naples (1571-75).
S. Pietro in Vinculis
Today the church is rarely visited by pilgrims interested in St. Peter's chains, but it is a "touristic must see" because it houses the statue of Moses by Michelangelo which is part of the unfinished Monument to Pope Julius II. You may wish to see the church as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome.
The miracle of the chains had also a political meaning: at the death of Emperor Honorius, his nephew and heir Valentinian III was a boy of four. The Western Roman Empire was ruled first by Joannes, an usurper, and then by Galla Placidia, the mother of Valentinian III. The marriage of Valentinian and Licinia Eudocia in 437 was seen as the reunion in the same family of the two parts of the Roman Empire.
The statue of Moses was designed for a grand monument to be placed in the centre of S. Pietro (nuovo), the new basilica which Pope Julius II decided to build on the site of the existing one. The death of the pope in 1513 stopped the completion of the monument; the new pope Leo X Medici was hostile to the Della Rovere because both families competed for the control of the Duchy of Urbino. Eventually it was Francesco Maria Della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, who asked Michelangelo to rethink the design of his uncle's monument. This was completed in 1545 in S. Pietro in Vincoli; however the pope is buried in a very simple way in S. Pietro.
Andrea Bregno was the leading sculptor of Rome before Michelangelo; he excelled in reliefs, in particular in very low reliefs. His monument to Cardinal Cusano in S. Pietro in Vincoli is very interesting for its polychromy. Cardinal Cusano's fields of interest were typical of a man of the Renaissance; in addition to religious treaties, he wrote about astronomy, mathematics, law and philosophy. He also played a significant political role as advisor to Popes Eugenius IV and Nicholas V.
The cloister is now inside the University buildings, but it is definitely worth a visit. It is generally attributed to Giuliano da Sangallo who was asked by Pope Julius II to build a (lost) villa adjoining the church.
At the centre of the cloister an elegant well reminds us that this part of Rome did not have a supply of water until Pope Sixtus V built the aqueduct of Acqua Felice. The decoration of the well is attributed to Simone Mosca, a Florentine sculptor who worked with Michelangelo.
Behind the well a small spouting fountain is a sign of the return of a constant supply of water on the hills of Rome. A lengthy inscription in a very elaborate frame celebrates the virtues of bees, the heraldic symbol of the Barberini:
e scatebra inexhausta;
Ea est Antonii Cardinalis Barberini Liberalitas.
Disce Suavitatem; Eam Apes profundunt.
Sapor in aquis caeteris vitium,
In hac mel et nectar est.
Nulla melior influat in hortos aqua
dum apes propinant
Melleam flores usuram bibunt.
At the death of his uncle Pope Urban VIII, Cardinal Barberini had to fly to France to escape imprisonment: Romans had had enough of the Barberini bees.
S. Francesco di Paola
The church and the large monastery dedicated to St. Francis of Paola are now isolated on high ground because of the large street (Via Cavour) built to link the Railway Station of Termini with the southern part of the city. The church was built in 1623 and enlarged in 1650 at the expense of Donna Olimpia Aldobrandini (see the capital with her family's heraldic symbols - stars and stripes) and it has some interesting details. Olimpia Aldobrandini was the last of her family and thus the heiress of many important properties; she was the wife of Prince Paolo Borghese; when she lost her husband in 1646 she was convinced by Pope Innocent X to immediately marry his nephew Francesco Maria Pamphilj who renounced a cardinalship for this. Through this marriage the Pamphilj acquired the palace in Via Lata where they still live.
The area near S. Pietro in Vincoli retains several medieval buildings:
a) a tower next to S. Francesco di Paola which came into the possession of the Cesarini in the XVth century when it was given a Renaissance appearance;
b) a medieval tower in good condition and not modified by excessive restoration; it belonged to the Annibaldi who (in the XIIIth century) were fierce enemies of the Frangipane who lived not far from here in a fortified section of Colosseo; the ciceroni of the past claimed that on this tower Emperor Nero stood fiddling while Rome was burning (read William Dean Howells' account of his visit to S. Pietro in Vincoli and to this tower in 1908);
c) a house of the Cesarini where it was thought Vannozza Cattanei lived; she was the mistress of Pope Alexander VI Borgia. For this reason the house is called Casa dei Borgia; the Cesarini had family bonds with the Borgia: in 1493 the pope gave the cardinal's hat to Giuliano Cesarini, whose brother Gianandrea had married Gerolama Borgia, a daughter of the pope.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page: