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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 August 2010.

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

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view (including Chiesa di S. Romualdo)
Palazzo Chigi Odescalchi
Palazzo Valentini Bonelli Spinelli Rezzonico

The Plate (No. 64)

Giuseppe Vasi dedicated two of his etchings showing the monuments of ancient and modern Rome to Piazza SS. Apostoli: the first one shows Palazzo Colonna and Basilica dei SS. Apostoli and the view is taken from the southern end of the square; in the plate covered in this page the view is taken from the northern end of the square and it shows Palazzo Odescalchi and Palazzo Bonelli Spinelli.
Charles de Brosses, a French traveller who visited Rome in 1739, wrote in his preliminary remarks on the city: The French devote all their efforts to laying down lavish banquets, while the Italians prefer to please their eyes by building fine houses and monuments (Lettres familiŔres Úcrites d'Italie en 1739 et 1740); as a matter of fact in those years the Odescalchi and Colonna engaged in a competition for the finest palace of the square; in 1731-33 the Colonna entirely rebuilt the front of their palace and in 1745 the Odescalchi responded by almost doubling the size of theirs.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 (b/w) map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Palazzo Colonna; 2) Palazzo Bonelli Spinelli (now Valentini); 3) Colonna Traiana; 4) S. Maria di Loreto; 5) Palazzo Ruffi. 1), 3) and 4) are shown in other pages. The b/w map shows also 6) Palazzo Odescalchi; 7) S. Romualdo. The coloured map shows the same area in 1925.


The view in August 2010

The southern end of Piazza SS. Apostoli was modified in 1878 when Via di S. Romualdo, the narrow street which linked it to Piazza di Venezia was enlarged by pulling down the buildings on its southern side; after WWI the new street was called Via Cesare Battisti.
The demolitions led to the loss of S. Romualdo, a small church built in 1631; the painting by Andrea Sacchi on its main altar can now be seen in the Vatican Museums (and also by following this external link); it portrays the saint talking to other members of his order about a vision he had.
In 1888 Palazzo Ruffi was enlarged and given a new design by Gaetano Koch.

Palazzo Odescalchi

Views of the courtyard

Palazzo Odescalchi was originally a possession of the Colonna family; in 1622 it was sold to Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, nephew of Pope Gregory XV who commissioned Carlo Maderno a renovation of the building; because in the following year the cardinal sold back the palace to the Colonna only the courtyard and a few rooms were completed.

Etching by Giovan Battista Falda showing the palace when it belonged to the Chigi

In 1664 the Colonna sold the palace to Cardinal Flavio Chigi, nephew of Pope Alexander VII (during that period the Chigi bought also a palace in Piazza Colonna). Gian Lorenzo Bernini, with the assistance of Carlo Fontana, unified the fronts of the existing buildings by designing an entirely new fašade.
Bernini decorated the fašade with gigantic pilasters, similar to what Michelangelo had done in Palazzi del Campidoglio; Palazzo Chigi Odescalchi influenced the design of many palaces in Italy and abroad, in particular in Vienna (see pages on XVIIth and XVIIIth century palaces in that city).

Palazzo Odescalchi

In 1693, after the death of Cardinal Flavio Chigi, the palace was leased to Cardinal Livio Odescalchi, nephew of Pope Innocent XI, who gathered an impressive collection of paintings and other works of art in his new residence; the heirs of Cardinal Livio sold the greatest part of the collection, but in 1745 they had enough money to buy the palace from the Chigi; they then enlarged it on its northern side with the assistance of Nicola Salvi and Luigi Vanvitelli; the architects respected Bernini's design, but they obviously could not avoid modifying the proportions of the building, which now appears excessively wide.

(left) Detail of the fašade; (right) coat of arms of the Odescalchi

The coat of arms of the Odescalchi is among the most complex ones. It is made up of an eagle, a lion and six incense burners: because eagles and lions were portrayed in many other coats of arms, the incense burner ended up by being the Odescalchi's distinctive mark (the image used as background for this page shows a detail of the wrought iron gate of the palace).

(left) 1889 fašade along Via del Corso; further on along the street Palazzo Mancini Salviati; (right) "medieval" coat of arms of the Odescalchi

The Chigi and after them the Odescalchi tried to enlarge their palace by acquiring the buildings behind it; they succeeded only in part, because they were unable to buy Palazzo Mancini Salviati. In 1887 a fire greatly damaged the rear part of their palace which overlooked Via del Corso. Prince Baldassarre Ladislao Odescalchi, whose wife was of Florentine origin, decided to build a fašade which resembled that of Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence; a choice totally incongruous with the character of the street; he gave a similar appearance also to a modern building in Prati.
The palace still belongs to the Odescalchi who are not very liberal in allowing access to their properties.

Palazzo Valentini

Palazzo Valentini and behind it S. Maria di Loreto

Cardinal Michele Bonelli, nephew of Pope Pius V, bought several properties in the area between Colonna Traiana and Foro di Augusto which at that time was almost a swamp during rainy periods; he promoted its draining and opened Via Alessandrina, a street named after Alessandria, his hometown town in northern Italy. In 1585 he started the construction of a palace at the southern end of Piazza SS. Apostoli; it was designed by Domenico Paganelli, a Dominican monk, who gave it the appearance of a small Palazzo Farnese.

(above-left) detail of the cornice; (above-right) statue of St. Peter on top of Colonna Traiana seen from the courtyard; (below-left) heraldic symbol of Cardinal Renato Imperiali; (below-right) plaque stating that George Frideric Handel lived and composed many works in the palace when he was a guest of the Ruspoli

In the early XVIIIth century the palace was rented to Marquis Francesco Maria Ruspoli, a great patron of musicians, who in 1707 hosted George F. Handel; the first performances of some of his works took place in a large hall on the first floor. In 1752 the palace was sold to Cardinal Giuseppe Spinelli who split the hall into smaller rooms; he was the nephew of Cardinal Giuseppe Renato Imperiali and he decorated the building with eagles, the heraldic symbol of his uncle. In his 1781 map Giuseppe Vasi designated the palace as Palazzo Rezzonico because it was leased to members of the family of Pope Clement XIII.
The palace was then bought by Vincenzo Valentini, a banker; it was eventually sold to the Province of Rome to which it still belongs. In 1980-81 excavations have unearthed some rooms of an ancient Roman private bath (click here to learn more about this recent addition to the monuments of Rome - external link).

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Palazzo Odescalchi
Incontro alla sopraddetta chiesa de' XII. santi Apostoli evvi questo magnifico palazzo giÓ del Card. Chigi, eretto col disegno del Cav. Bernino; ma ora passato ne' Duchi di Bracciano, Ŕ stato disteso pi¨ oltre del doppio colla medesima architettura del Bernini, ed Ŕ ornato di statue, busti antchi, ed altre raritÓ degne di un Principe Romano.
Palazzo Bonelli
Il prospetto di questo magnifico palazzo corrisponde sulla piazza de' XII. ss. Apostoli , e fu eretto col disegno del P. Paganelli frate Domenicano; ma elssendo rimasto imperfetto fin d'allora , non vi Ŕ stato chi compisse il magnifico cortile . In oggi spetta all'ereditÓ Imperiali , e vi sta collocata una scelta libreria in benefizio delli studenti, e letterati.

Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo S. Marco della Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia
Next step in Day 3 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Marco
Next step in your tour of Rione Trevi: Palazzo dell'Accademia di Francia