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Page revised in November 2009.
Palazzo Madama (Book 4) (Map C2) (Day 4) (View C6) (Rione Sant'Eustachio)
Palazzo Madama owes its name to Margaret, illegitimate daughter of Emperor Charles V, who acquired the life tenancy of this palace at the death of her husband Alessandro de' Medici, whose family owned the building.
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) Palazzo Carpegna; 2) Spire of S. Luca (S. Ivo) alla Sapienza; 3) Palazzo Giustiniani; 4) Chiesa del SS. Salvatore. 2) and 3) are shown in other pages. The small map shows also 5) Palazzo Madama.
In 1871 Palazzo Madama was chosen to house the Senate of the Kingdom of Italy (and after 1946 of the Italian Republic). In order to provide this institution with appropriate facilities, the palace was enlarged at various steps and the small church of S. Salvatore was pulled down, but the façade was not affected by these changes; in 1936-38 the building which is shown on the right side of the etching was pulled down to make room for a new road (see image towards the end of this page).
Margaret was called Madama perhaps because she had too many titles; when Charles V recognized her he named her Margaret of Austria; at the age of eleven she married Alessandro de' Medici and she became Duchess of Florence. At fifteen years of age she was already a widow, because her husband was killed by a distant cousin; she was then almost forced to marry Ottavio Farnese, grandson of Pope Paul III, who in 1547 became Duke of Parma and Piacenza (but he managed to actually acquire the duchy only some years later). In 1559 Margaret was appointed governor of the Low Countries, a post she held for eight years, and which was held by her son Alessandro Farnese from 1578 to 1592.
Margaret returned to Italy, but not to Parma; she lived in her Roman palace, in Villa Madama, in her fiefdom of Castel Madama or in Abruzzo, the region east of Latium which was a Spanish possession and where she was appointed governor of L'Aquila.
At the time of Margaret Palazzo Madama was a complex of buildings of different sizes and shapes, which were bought by Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici (the future Pope Leo X); he and his family had other properties (Palazzo Medici Lante) in Rione Sant'Eustachio.
At the death of Margaret Palazzo Madama returned to the Medici, who in 1637 commissioned Paolo Marucelli a restructuring of their property. The choice of this minor architect, rather than Gian Lorenzo Bernini or Francesco Borromini, led to the design of a façade which is quite different from the patterns which were prevailing in Rome at that time: its structure is that of a XVIth century palace and its decoration is regarded as more suited to a villa than to a city palace; critics were puzzled by the many references to Hercules and by the size of the cornice.
In 1755 Pope Benedict XIV bought Palazzo Madama to relocate there the office of Governatore di Roma (a sort of Chief Police Officer), previously in Palazzo Nardini and the coat of arms of the Medici was replaced by that of the pope. Vasi retouched his etching to reflect the change.
Palazzo Carpegna was originally built towards the end of the XVIIth century and it is generally attributed to Giovanni Antonio De Rossi. The Carpegna had another palace near SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio.
In 1919 Palazzo Carpegna was acquired by the Italian State and initially it was used as an addition to the University which was located in Archiginnasio della Sapienza; when this institution was relocated outside the walls of Rome Palazzo Carpegna was pulled down and rebuilt (1926-29) to expand the facilities of the Senate.
Excavations made in the courtyard of Palazzo Madama led to discovering a large granite basin of the ancient baths. In 1987 it was placed in a small square behind Palazzo Carpegna.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo Sacchetti sulla Strada Giulia
Next step in Day 4 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Luigi dei Francesi
Next step in your tour of Rione Sant'Eustachio: Convento di S. Agostino