The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Palazzo Della Rovere
Palazzo Muti Papazzurri Balestra and Santuario della Madonna dell'Archetto
Palazzo Muti Papazzurri alla Pilotta
In this 1754 etching covering Palazzo Colonna quite strangely Giuseppe Vasi did not show Macchina della Chinea. This was a temporary structure for launching fireworks which was erected every year on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, in front of the palace (you may wish to see that of the year 1767 in an etching by Vasi - it opens in another window). The firework display was part of the celebrations during which the Colonna, acting as ambassadors of the King of Naples, recognized papal supremacy over that kingdom by presenting the Pope with a chinea, a white horse, carrying 7,000 silver ducats.
In the right lower corner of the plate Vasi shows some large marble fragments of an ancient temple which were instead situated in the gardens behind the palace (in 1771 he made 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 alla Pilotta.
The view in May 2010
In the late XIXth century the opening of Via Nazionale, 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 this plate 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.
(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 already possessed several fiefdoms south of Rome, e.g. 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 actual palace of the Colonna which is inside a large courtyard.
(left) Sala del Trono: copy of a lost fresco portraying Pope Martin V (Oddone Colonna) by Pisanello; (centre) portraits of Cardinals Girolamo I (1604-666) (above) and
Ascanio Colonna (1560-1608) (below); (right) uniform of the First Prince Assistant to the Pontifical Throne, a hereditary title of the Colonna (the uniform
is no longer used after the 1968 Reform of the Papal Household by Pope Paul VI)
In addition to Pope Martin V the Colonna exerted their influence on the Roman Church through some twenty cardinals: the first one was appointed in 1193 and the last one in 1766. The family had a number of military leaders from Sciarra, who took Pope Boniface VIII prisoner in 1303 to Marcantonio II, the commander of a small papal fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Many members of the Colonna family were appointed Gran Connestabile (Chief Constable) i.e. Commander of the Army of the Kingdom of Naples, when it was a Spanish possession.
(left) XVth century coat of arms; (right) XVIIIth century coats of arms
The heraldic symbol of the Colonna was quite obviously a column to which a crown was added in the XVIth century. The column was often flanked by mermaids with two tails, another heraldic symbol of the family. After the participation of Marcantonio II Colonna to the Battle of Lepanto the coat of arms was usually placed between military symbols or statues of Ottoman prisoners.
After the annexation of Rome to the Italian Kingdom in 1871 the Colonna sided with Pope Pius IX in refusing to acknowledge the new political situation. Eventually they accepted appointments to the Senate of the Italian Kingdom and were involved in politics. Prospero Colonna was Mayor of Rome in 1899-1904 and 1914-919.
Prince Aspreno II Colonna most likely resented the 1968 Reform of the Papal Household which deprived him and his heirs of most of their role in Papal ceremonies. In that same year he erected a cipollino column in the "new" courtyard of his palace. On its basement he wrote one of the Colonna mottoes: "Semper Immota" (Always not changed in position) as if to distance himself and his family from the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council (1962-965) which were endorsed by Pope Paul VI.
Sala Grande in the foreground and Sala della Colonna Bellica at its end
The redesign and decoration of the interior of the palace began in the early XVIIth century at the initiative of Filippo I, Duke of Paliano, and it was completed in 1703. During this period the Colonna experienced the growth of other families on the Roman scene: the Borghese (Pope Paul V), the Ludovisi (Pope Gregory XV), the Barberini (Pope Urban VIII), the Pamphilj (Pope Innocent X), the Chigi (Pope Alexander VII) and others to whom they had to sell palaces (e.g. Palazzo Chigi Odescalchi) and fiefdoms (e.g. Palestrina). The financial effort they made to decorate the palace where they lived was meant to keep up their standing vis-a-vis the new rich.
Sala Grande seen from Sala della Colonna Bellica
The heart of the palace is a series of three halls which are separated by two pairs of gigantic columns of giallo antico (ancient yellow), a precious marble which was quarried at Simitthus in today's Tunisia. The columns are at the same time an architectonic element and a symbol of the family. The construction of these halls which were designed by Antonio del Grande began in 1654 at the initiative of Cardinal Gerolamo I Colonna who had greatly enriched the family gallery of paintings. You may wish to see a still from Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck which was shot in Sala Grande in 1953 - it opens in another window.
Ceiling of Sala Grande with paintings depicting events of the life of Marcantonio II Colonna
The Colonna had something that the new rich families did not have: a great military past. For this reason the decoration of the three halls (and of a niche in the gardens which is a sort of prosecution of them) was dedicated to Marcantonio II (whose glorious return from the Battle of Lepanto is celebrated every year at Marino). The choice fell on Marcantonio, because, unlike other Colonna commanders, he fought for the Pope, rather than against him (as had occurred in 1556 during Guerra di Campagna).
The Battle of Lepanto by Giovanni Coli and Filippo Gherardi
The ceiling central painting shows Don Juan of Austria, the commander of the Christian fleet in a XVIth century armour while his soldiers are portrayed as ancient Roman legionaries. He is about to board the galley of the Kapudan Pacha (Grand Admiral) of the Ottoman fleet, the turning point of the battle. The Christian flag was raised on the mast of the Ottoman galley and the head of the admiral was placed on a long pike to cause dismay in the enemy ranks. You may wish to see a page on Lepanto and the actual location of the battle.
Fancy Turkish costumes in some details of the ceiling frescoes
When the frescoes were painted (1675-678) the Ottoman threat of invading western Europe had not yet faded away, but the depiction of the exotic costumes which the Ottomans were assumed to wear was very much in fashion. In some details they were portrayed wearing aigrettes, jewels holding three egret feathers, as if they had gone to a party rather than to war.
Antiquities: (left) Colonna Bellica (it was made in the XVIth century to recall Colonna Traiana); (centre) Venus Anadyomene (wringing out her hair after being born deep down in the sea); (right) Ceres
At one point the Colonna had 97 fiefdoms in the Papal State and the Kingdom of Naples. All ancient statues found in these territories were automatically a property of the Colonna and many of them were found at Marino. In the decoration of their palace however the Colonna made use of a limited number of statues. In line with the custom of the time their missing parts were replaced.
Semper Immota, the motto of the Colonna can in a way be applied to their palace. Notwithstanding the changes in taste which have occurred since the time Sala Grande was decorated, they have kept it as it was.
Sala degli Scrigni: Jewel Cabinet (XVIIth century)
There are many statues of prisoners/slaves supporting console tables in the palace. In a way they represent the some 150,000 peasants who lived in the Colonna fiefdoms at the end of the XVIIIth century.
Looking around on this beautiful land (of Genazzano), it seems as if it ought to be an El Dorado for the happy natives; yet, if you live among them, you will see, too often, hunger-stricken human beings coming out of this paradise to meet you. These abundant fruits (you may buy twenty figs or twenty walnuts for one bajocco, and in good years a flask of wine may be had for the same small coin) - these fruits do not nourish the peasant; he would starve if it were not for the meal of the Indian corn, which is his sole nutriment. The evil of these inequalities is to be explained by the agrarian condition under which the peasant exists. From remote ages the occupier of the land has had to give a fourth of his produce to his feudal lord - Prince Colonna.
Ferdinand Gregorovius - The Roman Campagna - 1858 - translation by Dorothea Roberts.
In 1855 the inhabitants of Rocca di Papa revolted against the Colonna and declared the Repubblica di Rocca di Papa which lasted only six days and ended with 17 peasants being jailed for many years.
Other halls, some of which were redecorated in the XIXth century
While other branches of the Colonna (e.g. the Sciarra) have lost their historical properties the Colonna of Paliano live in the palace, but on Saturday mornings they allow access to the three monumental halls and to other rooms which house a very interesting gallery of paintings (you may wish to see the website of Galleria Colonna - it opens in another window).
(left) Fašade; (right) central window
SS. Apostoli is a very old church, but its current aspect is the result of changes made between the XVth and the XIXth centuries; 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 1675 by Carlo Rainaldi, who added the balustrade with the statues of Jesus and the Apostles (you may wish to see three of them in a page covering Statues Close to Heaven). The upper part of the fašade was designed by Luigi Valadier in 1827.
Ancient Roman relief (perhaps from Basilica Ulpia) which Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere placed above the entrance to the church
The portico houses a famous 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 (e.g. that of Rome in Piazza del Campidoglio by Michelangelo). You may wish to see two XIXth century coins showing eagles and oak wreaths (it opens in another window).
Portico: (above-left) medieval decorations of the interior; (above-right) statues of lions which supported columns, a typical feature of medieval churches (e.g. S. Lorenzo fuori le mura); (below)
monument to Gabriele Garra, a relative of Pope Sixtus IV
At the beginning of the XVIIIth century the interior of SS. Apostoli was almost entirely rebuilt because the ancient walls were about to collapse. Some of the gravestones and fragments of the medieval decoration were moved to the portico.
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 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 inside SS. Apostoli) to the help of Giovanni Volpato, an engraver known for his set of prints reproducing the decoration of Raphael's Loggia in the Vatican (see one of them - it opens in another window). In 1807 Canova expressed his gratitude to the man who had first noticed his talent with a very neoclassical monument.
(left) Interior; (right) Monument to Cardinal Pietro Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV (d. 1474 - school of Andrea Bregno)
The interior was designed by Francesco Fontana with the help of his father Carlo, the leading Roman architect after the death of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It is very richly decorated because the Colonna and the Odescalchi had their funerary chapels inside SS. Apostoli. You may wish to see a detail of the Colonna chapel, the Monument to Maria Lucrezia Rospigliosi Salviati and the coat of arms of Pope Clement XI designed by Francesco Fontana.
Pinacoteca Vaticana (Vatican Museums): frescoes by Melozzo da Forlý from the apse of SS. Apostoli
The Fontana managed to leave some fine Renaissance funerary monuments inside the church, but they had to rebuild the apse which was decorated with a beautiful fresco by Melozzo da Forlý. Fragments of it were saved and moved to the Vatican. They have acquired a fame which perhaps they would not have reached, had they remained at SS. Apostoli (you may wish to see other angels by Melozzo at Loreto).
(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.
You may wish to see a detail of a fresco by Melozzo da Forlý portraying (left to right) Giuliano della Rovere, Pietro Riario and Sixtus IV (it opens in another window).
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. The Muti Papazurri owned the fiefdom of Filacciano, north of Rome. 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 Papazzurri Balestra; (centre) ancient capital in its courtyard; (right) Santuario della Madonna dell'Archetto
In 1796, when the French invaded the Papal State, an image of the Virgin Mary by Domenico Maria Muratori (it opens in another window) under an arch in a 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.
(left) Palazzo Muti Papazzurri alla Pilotta in a 1699 etching by Alessandro Specchi; (right) the building 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:
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.
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.
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.