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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in June 2010.

Palazzo Colonna (Book 4) (Map B3) (Day 3) (View C7) (Rione Trevi)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view
Palazzo Colonna
SS. Apostoli
Palazzo Della Rovere
Palazzo Muti Balestra and Santuario della Madonna dell'Archetto
Palazzo Muti Papazzurri

The Plate (No. 63)

In this etching covering Palazzo Colonna and Piazza SS. Apostoli quite strangely Giuseppe Vasi did not show Macchina della Chinea, an ephemeral structure which was erected every year in the square as part of the celebrations during which the Colonna, acting as ambassadors of the King of Naples, recognized papal supremacy over that kingdom by presenting him with a white horse; Vasi instead showed some fragments of an ancient temple to Serapis which were visible in the gardens behind the palace (in Book 10 he added a small etching showing the ruins of that temple).
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) Roman ruins in the gardens of the palace; 2) Recent additions to Palazzo Colonna; 3) SS. Apostoli; 4) Palazzo Muti. The small map shows also 5) Palazzo Della Rovere; 6) Santuario della Madonna dell'Archetto; 7) Palazzo Muti Papazzurri.


The view in May 2010

In the late XIXth century the opening of a new street between Piazza Venezia and Stazione Termini led to modifying some of the buildings on the left side of the square, but those shown in the etchings were not affected: the only changes relate to the opening of shops on the ground floor of Palazzo Colonna and to the completion of the fašade of SS. Apostoli.

Palazzo Colonna

(left) XVIIIth century additions to Palazzo Colonna; (right) entrance to the courtyard

It is estimated that the Colonna have lived in this neighbourhood for about a thousand years; in the XIth century they controlled several fiefdoms south of Rome such as Colonna, Palestrina and Genazzano; their first buildings in Rome had very much the aspect of a fortress, with walls and towers, one of which can still be seen along the new street.
The plate shows some XVIIIth century additions (Appartamenti nuovi) by Nicola Michetti, a Roman architect who worked for several years in St. Petersburg. These buildings replaced a section of the walls which protected the residence of the Colonna which is inside a vast courtyard.

(left) Left building; (right) rear entrance to the right building

In addition to very many cardinals the fame of the Colonna is ensured by Pope MartinV and by a number of military leaders, from Sciarra to Marcantonio II (whose glorious return from Lepanto is celebrated every year at Marino); this explains why the family's heraldic symbol (a column with a crown) is surrounded by flags.
Palazzo Colonna still belongs to the Colonna and it houses a very interesting gallery of paintings which can be visited on Saturdays.

SS. Apostoli

(left) Fašade; (right) central window

SS. Apostoli is a very old church, but its current aspect is the result of changes made from the XVth to the XIXth century; a portico and a loggia were built during the pontificate of Pope Sixtus IV by his nephew Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere who lived in the palace to the left of the church; the loggia was closed in the XVIth century (you may wish to see it in a 1588 Guide to Rome), but the windows were redesigned in 1674-75 by Carlo Rainaldi, who also added the balustrade with the statues of Jesus and the Apostles. The upper part of the fašade was designed by Luigi Valadier in 1827.

Ancient Roman relief donated by Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere who placed it above the entrance

The portico houses a famous Roman relief showing an eagle holding an oak wreath in its claws. Its design influenced many Renaissance artists: not only the theme became a frequent decoration, but also the ribbon was replicated in many coats of arms like that of Rome in Piazza del Campidoglio by Michelangelo.

Portico: (above-left) medieval decorations of the interior; (above-right) medieval lions which supported columns; (below) monument to Gabriele Garra, a relative of Pope Sixtus IV

Carlo and Francesco Fontana renovated the interior of the church in 1702-1714 and three funerary monuments of members of the court of Pope Sixtus IV were removed and placed in the portico.
In other pages of this web site you can see the
coat of arms of Pope Clement XI designed by Francesco Fontana, the Monument to Pope Clement XIV by Antonio Canova and some details of interior of the church.

Portico: (left) Monument to Lorenzo Oddone Colonna or other member of the Colonna family attributed to Luigi Capponi; (right) monument to Giovanni Volpato by Antonio Canova

Relations between the Colonna and Pope Sixtus IV (whose coat of arms in the portico you can see in the image used as background for this page) were often strained; this may explain why a funerary monument (now in the portico) to a member of the Colonna family was not accompanied by any inscription: Lorenzo Oddone Colonna was beheaded in 1484 in Castel Sant'Angelo for having challenged papal authority.
Antonio Canova owed his first important commission (the monument to Pope Clement XIV) to the help of Giovanni Volpato, an engraver known for his set of prints reproducing the decoration of Raphael's Loggia in the Vatican. Canova expressed his gratitude with a small very neoclassical monument.

Palazzo Della Rovere

(left) Palazzo Della Rovere; (right) courtyard; (insets) inscription and coat of arms of Giuliano della Rovere, (Iul. Card. S. P. Ad Vinc.) titular cardinal of S. Pietro in Vincoli

Pope Sixtus IV greatly relied on the advice of his nephew Pietro Riario who was titular cardinal of SS. Apostoli; Pietro Riario started the construction of a palace to the left of the church; after his sudden death at the age of 29, the palace was completed by his cousin Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, who was titular cardinal of S. Pietro in Vincoli; he became Pope Julius II in 1503 and he established good relations with the Colonna: one of his nieces married a Colonna and the pope donated the palace to that family.
In the late XVIth century the palace was acquired by the Franciscans and today it houses the headquarters of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual.

Palazzo Muti Balestra and Santuario della Madonna dell' Archetto

(left) Palazzo Muti Balestra; (right) coat of arms of Cardinal Henri Benedict Stuart in S. Maria in Trastevere showing both the cardinal's hat and the royal crown

The Muti Papazzurri already lived near SS. Apostoli in the early XIVth century; in the XVIIth century their house facing the square was redesigned, apparently by Giovanni Battista Muti, a member of the family who was also a painter. In 1719 the palace was rented by the Papal State to provide an appropriate residence to James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, after the failed 1715 uprising in Scotland. The Stuarts lived in Palazzo Muti until 1807 when Henry Benedict, Cardinal of York, the last of the family passed away. James Francis Edward Stuart and his two sons are buried in a monument by Antonio Canova in S. Pietro.

(left) Entrance to Palazzo Muti Balestra; (centre) ancient capital in its courtyard; (right) Santuario della Madonna dell'Archetto

In 1796, when the French invaded the Papal State, a sacred image of the Virgin Mary under an arch in the very narrow lane behind Palazzo Muti moved her eyes. The event was confirmed by a papal commission and the image became known as Madonna dell'Archetto. In 1851 a tiny chapel was built to properly protect the sacred image.

Palazzo Muti Papazzurri

(left) Palazzo Muti Papazzurri in a 1699 etching by Alessandro Specchi; (right) Palazzo Muti Papazzurri today

Palazzo Muti Papazzurri, located in nearby Piazza della Pilotta, was designed by Mattia de' Rossi in 1660, most likely on the occasion of the marriage between Pompeo Muti Papazzurri and Maria Isabella Massimo. Unfortunately the light and elegant building designed by this scholar of Bernini was largely modified in 1909 and even the frames of the windows were replaced by very dull ones.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Palazzo Colonna
Fra i palazzi, che corrispondono sulla piazza de'XII. ss.Apostoli, tiene il primo luogo quello del gran Contestabile Colonna, non solo per la vasta estensione della fabbrica, contenendo molti appartamenti magnifici, e nobili, ma ancora per li preziosi ornamenti, che lo rendono ammirabile, e particolarmente per la maravigliosa galleria vecchia, e per la nuova, che attualmente si sta incrostando di marmi. Egli Ŕ antichissimo, poichŔ da Martino V. fu principiato, e terminato da Sisto IV. il quale vi dette splendido alloggio ad Andrea Peleologo Imperatore de' Greci . Vi abit˛ Giulio II. e poi s. Carlo Borromeo. Gli appartamenti terreni sono ornati di pitture del Tempesta, del Pussino , e d'altri e ancora di statue, busti, e bassirilievi antichi. Gli appartamenti superiori , non sono solo ricchi di quadri e mobili preziosi; ma essendo ultimamente stati rimodernati, e notabilmente accresciuti dal Cardinale Girolamo Colonna Camarlingoo di santa Chiesa, e zio del Contestabile, si vedono in essi delle magnificenze oltre I' espettazione: perci˛ rimetto il mio gentilissimo Lettore al custode, il quale con piena gentilezza gli darÓ conto dý tutto.
Chiesa de' XII. ss. Apostoli
A destra del palazzo Colonna Ŕ questa chiesa, della quale si legge, essere stata eretta da Costantino Magno appesso un suo palazzo. Essendo ristaurata pi¨ volte da' Pontefici, e da' Cardinali titolari, fu da Pio II. conceduta ai Frati Conventuali di s. Francesco, e per˛ il Card. Beffarione vi fabbric˛ il convento, e poi nel Pontificato di Clem. XI. fu riedificata la chiesa col disegno di Franc.Fontana, rimanendovi per˛ della vecchia il portico e prospetto colle statue fatte dal Card. Brancato religioso del medesýmo Ordine . Nella prima cappella a destra evvi un gran quadro colla ss. Concezione, ed un Santo in atto di scrivere dipinto da Ignazio Sterna, nella seconda la ss. Concezione dipinta da Corrado Giaquinto , nella terza il s. Antonio di Padova Ŕ di Benedetto Luti , ed il quadro nell'altare maggiore Ŕ di Domenico Muratori. Il s. Francesco nell'altra cappella a sinistra Ŕ di Giuseppe Chiari, e li due depositi sono, di Gio. Grossi quello a destra, e 1'altro a sinistra di Bartolommeo Ludovisi. Le pitture a fresco nella tribuna, e nella volta sono ultime opere di Baciccio Genovese, ed il disegno della porta interna Ŕ di D.Filippo Javarra Messinese. Nel piccolo chiostro del convento si vede un gran vaso di marmo, che stava in adornamento dell'antico portico fatto da Costantino, e ne' corridori varie lapidi, che erano nella chiesa vecchia.
Palazzo Muti
A destra del detto convento evvi il palazzo Muti ed altro nel vicoletto contiguo, che corrisponde con un nobile prospetto sulla vicina piazza, eretto col disegno di Mattia de' Rossi.

Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo Odescalchi
Next step in Day 3 itinerary: Giardino Colonnese
Next step in your tour of Rione Trevi: Piazza della Colonna Traiana