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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 November 2009.

Palazzo Sacchetti sulla Strada Giulia (Book 4) (Map C2) (Day 7)
(View D4) (Rione Ponte) and (Rione Regola)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view
Palazzo Sacchetti
Palazzetto Farnesiano
S. Biagio della Pagnotta
Palazzo dei Tribunali
S. Anna dei Bresciani and S. Maria del Suffragio
Oratorio del Gonfalone
Carceri Nuove (and S. Niccol˛ degli Incoronati)
S. Filippo Neri and S. Spirito dei Napoletani
S. Eligio degli Orefici
Arco di Via Giulia

The Plate (No. 71)

Pope Julius II is the pope to whom Strada Giulia owes its name. The layout of Medieval Rome was very much influenced by a few powerful families (Orsini, Colonna, Frangipane) who transformed ancient buildings into fortresses with their followers living in small houses clustered around; in this way the city was divided into areas having very little communication among them. In the late XVth century, thanks to the growth of the Papal power and with the aim of giving Rome a more rational layout, Pope Sixtus IV and Pope Alexander VI started opening new streets in the medieval net; the former opened Via Recta (today Via dei Coronari), the latter Via Alessandrina or Borgo Nuovo (today replaced by Via della Conciliazione) and Via del Pellegrino .
Pope Julius II, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, gave to Renaissance Rome its first high street by opening Via Giulia which linked Ponte S. Angelo with Ponte Sisto, the bridge built by his uncle.
Giuseppe Vasi named this view after Palazzo Sacchetti but his real intent was to show all the palaces and churches which were aligned along the right (western) side of the street. 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) S. Biagio della Pagnotta (and Palazzo dei Tribunali); 2) S. Maria del Suffragio; 3) Carcere Nuovo; 4) Spirito Santo dei Napoletani; 5) Palazzo Falconieri; 6a) Arco del Palazzo Farnese; 6b) Collegio Apostolico. 5) and 6b) are shown in other pages. The small map shows also 7) Palazzo Sacchetti; 8) S. Anna dei Bresciani; 9) S. Eligio degli Orefici; 10) S. Filippo Neri; 11) Oratorio del Gonfalone. The dotted orange line in the small map delineates the borders of Rione Ponte (left), Rione Parione (small area in the upper part of the map) and Rione Regola (right).


The view in April 2009: (left) final section of Via Giulia with Palazzo Falconieri (the building with the Hungarian flag) and Arco del Palazzo Farnese; (centre) central section with S. Maria del Suffragio and Carcere Nuovo; (left) initial section with Palazzo Sacchetti

Eventually Via Giulia did not become the high street of Renaissance Rome, but rather the most cosmopolitan street of the city; the Florentines lived next to the river where the street started: along the street there were the churches of the Armenians, of the inhabitants of Brescia, of the Neapolitans and of the inhabitants of Siena (S. Caterina da Siena a Via Giulia) (click here for a list of national churches in Rome). In the XVIIth century the construction of the new prison of Rome had a negative effect on the reputation of the street, but a positive one on its Renaissance appearance because it was not affected by later major changes.
Today it is a very sought after location because it is very quiet and without that excess of bars, pizza places and ice-cream parlours which spoil some other historical parts of Rome.
The plate enlarges the width and shortens the length of Via Giulia to show all its churches and palaces, so the view seems very different, but by actually walking along the street one finds that almost all the buildings quoted by Vasi are still there and they show only minor changes.

Palazzo Sacchetti

(left) Fašade; (right) view from the Lungotevere

Palazzo Sacchetti is a severe but elegant palace: it is not clear whether it was built by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger in 1543 for his personal use (as suggested by an inscription on the fašade) or if it was built slightly later, on Sangallo's house. It was bought in 1576 by the banker Tiberio Ceuli from Pisa who was considered the richest banker in Rome. His son however was soon bankrupt and was forced to sell the building which in 1649 was eventually bought by the Sacchetti, a family of Florentine origins.

(left) Ceuli fountain; (centre-above) erased coat of arms of Pope Paul III; (centre-below) inscription stating that the building was the house of Sangallo in 1543; (right) Sacchetti coat of arms on the apse of the chapel inside the palace

The many changes of property the palace underwent are visible in its decoration; the Ceuli built a small fountain at the corner of the palace; their surname was also spelled Cevoli, which is a variant of cefali, the name of a fish (flathead mullet), so the design of the fountain hinted at the owners of the palace. The erased coat of arms at the centre of the fašade was of Pope Paul III, the pope who commissioned Sangallo the construction of new walls. The coat of arms of the Sacchetti can be seen in the courtyard.


In 1660 Carlo Rainaldi built a fine nymphaeum in the garden which is clearly visible in the Grand View of Rome. The garden had direct access to the river, today it is almost strangled by the new street along the river (Lungotevere) which runs at a higher level; it regains its beauty when seen from the courtyard of the palace (photo taken during a FAI weekend).

Palazzetto Farnesiano

Coats of arms of Pope Paul III (centre), Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (left) and of either Pierluigi Farnese or his son Ottavio, Dukes of Parma

While the coat of arms of Pope Paul III was erased from the fašade of Palazzo Sacchetti, a small palace which stands on the other side of the street is still embellished with three coats of arms of the Farnese, the family of this pope. The ownership of the building is not known with certainty; some believe it belonged to Cardinal Durante Duranti, lover of Costanza Farnese, a daughter of the pope.
The horses at the sides of the central coat of arms were in origin unicorns, a heraldic symbol of the Farnese (see the fountain of the unicorns at Ronciglione).

S. Biagio della Pagnotta

(left) Fašade; (right) sacred image and Armenian inscription

The little church of S. Biagio is called "della Pagnotta" (of the round loaf) because on the day of S. Biagio (Feb. 3) little round loaves were distributed to children. The church was almost thoroughly rebuilt in 1730 by Giovanni Antonio Perfetti. It is also called S. Biagio degli Armeni, because in 1832 it was assigned to the Armenian community of Rome (the saint was born at Sebaste, today's Sivas, in historical Armenia).

Palazzo dei Tribunali

The uncompleted ground floor walls of the palace which are known as "the sofas of Via Giulia"

Pope Julius II had grand ideas for the street which bore his name; he commissioned Donato Bramante the construction of a complex of buildings where he wanted to relocate all the tribunals of Rome; it should have been named Curia Julia, with a clear reference not only to the pope, but to Curia Julia, the seat of the Ancient Roman Senate. Bramante designed a monumental entrance leading to large rectangular courtyard surrounded by palaces. The death of the pope in 1513 and of the architect in the following year led to halting the construction which was in its early stage. The project was abandoned (eventually the tribunals were moved to Palazzo di Montecitorio); the bugnato walls which were designed to convey a feeling of strength and majesty became "the sofas of Via Giulia".

S. Anna dei Bresciani and S. Maria del Suffragio

(left-above) Etching by G. M. Rossi showing S. Anna dei Bresciani and to the right S. Biagio della Pagnotta; (left-below) buildings belonging to the brotherhood of the inhabitants of Brescia (Lat. "Brixia") in Rome; (right) S. Maria del Suffragio

The major part of the unfinished Palazzo dei Tribunali was bought by SocietÓ dei Bresciani, the brotherhood of the inhabitants of Brescia living in Rome; Brescia, a town between Milan and the Garda Lake, was and still is very rich and pious; between 1426 and 1797 it belonged to the Republic of Venice. The brotherhood was founded (and funded) in 1569 by Cardinal Giovanni Gambara, the first owner of Villa Lante at Bagnaia. SocietÓ dei Bresciani built a series of small houses which would generate a steady source of income which were used to cover the expenses for the maintenance of a church and of a small hospital. The church was originally housed in a sort of Corinthian temple designed by Bramante; it was modified by Carlo Fontana at the end of the XVIIth century; unfortunately in 1888 it was pulled down to build the walls along the river (you may wish to see its interior as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome).
Suffragio (suffrage) is a reference to the prayers for the souls of the dead which were the aim of another brotherhood which erected S. Maria del Suffragio in 1669. Carlo Rainaldi, its architect, suggested an elliptical shape, but the commissioners preferred a more traditional and sober design.

Oratorio del Gonfalone

(left) Fašade; (centre) relief above the entrance showing a member of the brotherhood in the traditional costume to the right of the Virgin Mary; (right) fresco in the interior

A small church has existed on this site since the VIIIth century, but the current oratory was built in the XVIth century by Arciconfraternita del Gonfalone. Gonfalone means standard/banner and it refers to the fact that in the XIVth century the members of the brotherhood used to raise the standard of the Pope (at the time in Avignon) to support his role as sovereign of Rome. The upper part of the fašade was added in the XVIIth century by Domenico Castelli.
The brotherhood was known for the organization of processions and other religious ceremonies. The representations of Christ's Passion were so realistic that in 1539 Pope Paul III had to forbid them as the crowds attending them became so upset that they assaulted the houses of the Jews. The frenzy was also due to the fact that the members of the brotherhood wore a white habit and their heads were covered by a blue hood.
The interior of the oratory is fully painted with 12 gigantic frescoes showing the Way of the Cross. It is now used as a small concert hall by Coro Polifonico Romano (you may wish to see some photos of the frescoes in their website - external link).

Carceri Nuove

(above) Side view; (below-left) Via delle Prigioni; (below-centre) main entrance; (below-right) Vicolo del Malpasso (bad step)

The medieval prisons of Rome were at Tor di Nona (opposite Castel S. Angelo) and at Corte Savella and they had a scary reputation. In 1655 Pope Innocent X built a new prison (Carceri Nuove) which is today very nice to look at (it was designed by Antonio Del Grande). However for those who had to enter the building to be jailed it was not that nice, as the name of a side street indicates. It was used as a prison until the late XIXth century when it was replaced by a new building which is situated on the other side of the river (former Monastero di Regina Coeli); however Carceri Nuove has not entirely lost its original vocation because now it houses the Police Department fighting Mafia related crime.
The only major change to Via Giulia occurred in 1931 when some buildings (including S. Niccol˛ degli Incoronati, a small church) to the left of Carceri Nuove were pulled down to make room for a new road which should have linked the Lungotevere with Corso Vittorio Emanuele; luckily the project was abandoned and no further damage was done.

S. Filippo Neri and S. Spirito dei Napoletani

(left) S. Filippo Neri; (right) S. Spirito dei Napoletani

Plagis plaga curatur, the wound is cured by the wounds was the motto of a brotherhood (Congregazione delle Santissime Piaghe) founded in 1617 by Rutilio Brandi, a follower of S. Filippo Neri. The sentence can be seen on a property tablet near a small oratory dedicated to this saint, who used to preach in nearby S. Maria in Vallicella. After a very long period of abandonment the XVIIIth century fašade of the oratory has been restored.
S. Spirito dei Napoletani was in origin a church dedicated to S. Aurea which was part of a nunnery; in 1572 it was assigned by Pope Gregory XIII to the newly founded brotherhood of the Neapolitans living in Rome; the church underwent a very long series of changes which ended only in 1889 with a new fašade, which retains from the previous one the coats of arms of Ferdinand II, King of Naples and of Pope Pius IX. The king belonged to the Bourbon family and his coat of arms was very similar to that of the King of Spain (until 1931). The church is associated with the memory of Francis II, the last King of Naples whose only daughter was buried (until 1984) behind the altar. In 1860, as a consequence of one of the wars which led to the Unification of Italy, Francis II lost his kingdom and came in exile to Rome with the hope of returning one day to Naples. But in 1870 Pius IX lost his state too. The Italy of the Seven States (Kingdom of Sardinia, Lombardo-Veneto, Parma, Modena, Tuscany, Papal State and Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) was over.

(left) Relief on the fašade of S. Filippo Neri; (right) coat of arms of the King of Naples in S. Spirito dei Napoletani (you may wish to compare it with that drawn by Giuseppe Vasi)

S. Eligio degli Orefici

(left) Fašade; (right) Side view

The little church of the goldsmiths' guild is thought to have been designed by Raphael; its Greek-cross shape is probably due to the influence of Bramante; the elegant dome was completed after Raphael's death by Baldassare Peruzzi. S. Eligio is also honoured by the blacksmits in S. Eligio dei Fabbri (click here for a list of churches belonging to a guild).

Arco di Via Giulia

Western side

Via Giulia ends at Collegio Ecclesiastico, but before that it passes between two very important palaces: Palazzo Farnese and Palazzo Falconieri, the main fašade of which is seen from the river. The side on Via Giulia has two interesting hawk heads (see image used as background for this page) because falconieri means hawkers.
The Farnese possessed a villa (la Farnesina) on the other side of the river; although nearby Ponte Sisto provided an easy passage to Trastevere and to this villa, they built an arch over Via Giulia to the river bank, from where they reached la Farnesina by boat.

Eastern side (to the right rear entrance to Palazzo Farnese)

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Chiesa dello Spirito Santo de' Napoletani
Fu quivi anticamente una chiesa dedicata a s. Aurea vergine e martire con un monastero di monache, e dicevasi Castrum Senense ma essendo queste nel Pontificato di Onorio III. come molte altre trasportate nel monastero di s. Sisto, nel 1572. fu conceduta ad una confraternita di Napoletani, e rifacendo questi la chiesa la dedicarono allo Spirito Santo, e poi l'hanno ornata di marmi, e di pitture, tra le quali evvi il s. Gennaro dipinto da Luca Giordano, ed il s. Francesco di Paola da Ventura Lamberti; le pitture a fresco nella cupoletta sono di Giuseppe Passeri, ed il quadro sull'altare Ŕ di Giuseppe Ghezzi.
A sinistra di questa chiesa vi Ŕ il collegio Ghislieri fondato l'anno 1636. per la giovent¨, che ha voglia di studiare le scienze umane e divine senza obbligo del chiericato. E nel vicolo a destra della chiesa si vede la
Chiesa di s. Eligio degli Orefici
L'anno 1509. fu eretta questa chiesa dagli Orefici, ed Argentieri con disegno di Bramante Lazzari, ma poi nel 1601. fu riedificata sul medesimo disegno, e fu ornata di pitture e stucchi. I ss. Re Maggi nel primo altare, ed alcune pitture sull'altare maggiore sono del Romanelli, il quadro per˛ Ŕ di Matteo da Leccio, e la NativitÓ nell'altro Ŕ di Giovanni de' Vecchi.
Appresso di questa chiesa corrisponde il passaggio della barchetta, e nell'altro vicolo dopo il suddetto collegio si vede la
Chiesa di s. Niccol˛ degli Incoronati
Da una nobile famiglia Romana, che ancor ivi risiede porta il nome questa piccola chiesa, perchŔ dalla medesima fu eretta, e vi mantiene la cura delle anime. Ritornando poi sulla strada, si vede a destra altra piccola
Chiesa di s. Filippo Neri e Oratorio delle cinque piaghe
Nel Pontificato di Paolo V. fu edificata questa da Rotilio Brandi Fiorentino, il quale essendo devoto delle cinque piaghe del nostro Redentore, unitosi con altri pii fedeli vi eresse una confraternita, ed un oratorio, in cui se ne facesse particolare commemorazione. Il ss. Salvatore impiagato, che si vede in esso, Ŕ pittura di Federigo Zuccheri, ed il ss. Crocifisso di rilievo, che sta in chiesa, vi fu trasportato dalle grotte vaticane, e si crede fatto da' primi Cristiani. Incontro eccovi le
Carceri nuove
Da prima stavano le carceri incontro alla chiesa di Monferrato, che dicevansi a Corte Savelli; dipoi a Tordinona; ma finalmente Innoc. X. per dare pi¨ comodo a' poveri prigioni volle, che qui sulla strada Giulia fossero le nuove carceri, e poi furono terminate da Alessandro VII. con tutti i comodi spedienti; tanto per la salute del corpo, quanto per quella dell' anima, e ne fu incaricata l'Archiconfraternita della CaritÓ, la quale, come dicemmo, pensa ad alimentare i poveri, e a mantenere cappellani, ed ogni altro per la cultura delle anime.
Chiesa di s. Maria del suffragio
Nel 1594. risoluti alcuni fratelli della Confraternita della Morte, di impiegarsi con particolare istituto in suffragare le anime del Purgatorio; per qualche tempo esercitarono le loro funzioni nella vicina chiesa di s. Biagio della pagnotta; ma poi ottenuto questo luogo da Clemente VIII. nel Pontificato di Clemente X. eressero la loro chiesa, ed oratorio con disegno del Cav. Rainaldi, nella quale sono delle cappelle ornate di marmi, e di pitture, con varj depositi e sculture.
Nel vicolo a destra di questa chiesa, evvi l'oratorio dell'Archiconfraternita del Confalone, e in quello a sinistra la
Chiesa di s. Anna de' Bresciani
Il mentovato Buonarroti per comodo delli Notarj, e Curiali aveva piantata nella divisata curia una chiesa, la quale essendo ottenuta da una Confraternita di Bresciani nell' anno 1575. la compirono, e la dedicarono ai ss. Faustino e Giovita, ma poi avendo acquistata la reliquia di s. Anna, ne celebrarono con solennitÓ e pompa la festa; onde la chiesa ha preso il nome di questa. Fu dipoi rinnovata, e con disegno del Cav. Carlo Fontana ci fu fatto il prospetto. Sulli fondamenti della medesima Curia evvi ancora la
Chiesa di s. Biagio della Pagnotta
Molto antica Ŕ, come dicemmo, questa piccola chiesa, poichŔ fu eretta sopra il tempio di Nettunno, e fu una delle venti Badie privilegiate di Roma, consagrata da Alessandro II. circa l'anno 1069. e la possedevano li monaci Benedettini. Ma poi essendo stata unita al Capitolo di s. Pietro in Vaticano, rimase quý soltanto la cura delle anime, e della sua antichitÓ il campanile alla gotica. Si dice della pagnotta, per i panetti, che per devozione di quel Santo si dispensavano al popolo, che concorreva nella di lui festa: anticamente per˛ dicevasi Iner Tyberim, & Portam sancti Petri, & de cantu secuto. Siegue il
Palazzo Sacchetti
Da Antonio Sangallo Architetto di Paolo III. e con suo disegno fu edificato questo palazzo per sua abitazione: dipoi passato nella famiglia Leodi, e poi Sacchetti fu ornato di statue, busti antichi, e quadri di sommo pregio, e sono quelli, che vedemmo nella galleria di Campidoglio comprati da Benedetto XIV.

Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo Corsini

Next step in Day 7 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Lucia del Gonfalone
Next step in your tour of Rione Regola: S. Caterina alla Ruota
You have completed your tour of Rione Ponte!