All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in November 2010.
Palazzo Corsini (Book 4) (Map D3) (Day 6) (View D7) (Rione Trastevere)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
S. Giacomo alla Lungara
Chiesa e Conservatorio della SS. Croce
Regina Coeli (and S. Teresa del Bambin Gesù)
S. Maria della Visitazione (S. Francesco di Sales)
Palazzo Salviati (and SS. Leonardo e Romualdo)
The Plate (No. 72)
When in 1754 Giuseppe Vasi published this view of Palazzo Corsini the building had just been redesigned by Ferdinando Fuga for Cardinal Neri Corsini Jr. Vasi was on friendly terms with the cardinal who supported him in the early phase of his career and to whom in 1759 he dedicated his ninth book of views of Ancient and Modern Rome.
The view of Palazzo Corsini follows that covering Palazzo Sacchetti sulla Strada Giulia; the two buildings are different in style and size, but they are both located at the beginning of long streets which were opened by Pope Julius II to facilitate the access of pilgrims to (Nuovo) S. Pietro; in the case of Via della Lungara (which is shown in this plate) the decision was taken also to improve the hygienic conditions of those who lived on the right bank of the Tiber between the Vatican and Trastevere, a neighbourhood which in summer was plagued by malaria and in autumn was at risk of being flooded (for this reason the nunneries of SS. Croce and S. Giacomo were built at the top of a flight of steps).
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) Casino Farnese; 2) S. Giacomo; 3) Porta S. Spirito; 4) Monastero di Regina Coeli; 5) Monastero delle Scalette (della SS. Croce). 1) and 3) are shown in another page. The small map shows also 6) Palazzo Corsini; 7) Monastero di S. Giuseppe; 8) Palazzo Salviati; 9) Villa Alibert; 10) S. Maria della Visitazione.
Between 1875 and 1900 all the buildings on the right side of Via della Lungara after S. Giacomo were pulled down to make room for a modern road (lungotevere) at the level of the high walls which were built to prevent floods; the buildings on the left side of the street have not been affected by major changes with the exception of Monastero di Regina Coeli which in 1881 was pulled down and replaced by a prison.
The palace was originally built by the Riario, a family linked to Pope Sixtus IV (Paolo Riario married Bianca Della Rovere, sister of the pope); Cardinal Raffaele Riario, the founder of Palazzo della Cancelleria, bought the piece of land outside Porta Settimiana, where, after the opening of Via della Lungara, a palace having approximately half the size of Palazzo Corsini was built. The property included a very large garden which reached the top of the Janiculum, where a small casino was built by the end of the XVIth century on approximately the site of the modern monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi.
In 1659 the Riario heirs rented the palace to Queen Christina of Sweden who in 1655 embraced Catholicism and came to live in Rome; she lived in the palace until her death in 1689; she was fond of theatre and literature and she hosted the meetings of several academies including that of the Arcadi.
In 1736 the property was sold to Cardinal Neri Corsini Jr, nephew of Pope Clement XII, who commissioned a major enlargement of the palace to properly display the family collection of works of art and the large personal library of his uncle; the peculiar aspect of this library is that it included books which were regarded as having heretic content and therefore were included in the List of Prohibited Books; in 1754 Cardinal Corsini opened the library to the public; his testamentary clauses prevented his heirs from selling the works of art or the library; they were donated to the Italian State in 1883 when the palace was sold; the library was incorporated into that of Accademia dei Lincei, while the works of art (mainly XVIIIth century paintings) can be seen at Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica a Palazzo Corsini.
Cardinal Corsini was very liberal in giving access to the gardens of his palace; however an elaborate railing designed by Fuga separated the section of the garden near the palace from the rest. Vasi developed the idea of drawing his 1765 Grand View of Rome by visiting the casino at the top of the hill: in his view he showed with great evidence the rear side of the palace and its gardens.
S. Giacomo alla Lungara
When Pope Julius II opened Via della Lungara he had grand ideas about the development of modern Rome: the new street should have reached Porto di Ripa Grande where pilgrims coming by ship from southern Italy were expected to land in great numbers; things went differently: the construction of the new basilica lasted for a century, the Reformation deprived the Roman Church of revenues and pilgrims, the 1527 Sack of Rome halved the population of the city and Ottoman corsairs greatly threatened navigation along the Italian shores.
Via della Lungara was developed only at the beginning of the XVIIth century with the construction of a series of charitable institutions related to the female world: malmaritate (married women deserted by their husbands), pentite (former prostitutes), pericolanti (women in danger), condannate (former convicts) and orphans lived a sorrowful life behind their bars.
S. Giacomo alla Lungara (or in Settimiano) was a medieval church (it retains a XIIIth century small bell tower in the back) which in 1620 was assigned to the Franciscan order; thanks to the support of Cardinal Francesco Barberini, brother of Pope Urban VIII, the church was redesigned by Luigi Arrigucci and next to it a small nunnery was built for the prostitutes of S. Maria Maddalena delle Convertite who accepted taking strict vows of seclusion; the nunnery was pulled down in 1887 and after a period of abandonment the church was assigned to the friars of nearby S. Dorotea; its interior contains an interesting monument designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Chiesa e Conservatorio della SS. Croce
Monastero della SS. Croce was founded in 1615 by the Discalced Carmelites for the penitenti (women who wanted to expiate their sins by conducting a life of penance) and for the malmaritate; in 1838 the institution was assigned to French nuns, called del Buon Pastore (Good Shepherd); in 1854 the building was enlarged by Pope Pius IX; Rev. Jeremiah Donovan, a contemporary writer of a Guide to Rome, so described the aim of the institution: it has the double purpose of giving protection to female innocence, and shelter to female misfortune. The convent also affords a temporary asylum to married victims of seduction or jealousy, occasionally sent here by the Ecclesiastical authorities, for their protection or reformation.
The building housed a female youth prioson until 1970; in recent years it was assigned to feminist activists who occupied Palazzo delle Governo Vecchio for years; their website - external link has images of the premises and of the activities now carried in that site of penance.
This nunnery was founded in 1643 by Anna Colonna, wife of Taddeo Barberini, a nephew of Pope Urban VIII; it became known as Regina Coeli because its inmates repeated that hymn at four hour intervals, on the signal given by the convent bell; Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) is one of the four Marian antiphons sung in honour of the Virgin Mary.
In 1873 it was decided to build on the site of the nunnery a modern and large prison to replace Carceri Nuove which was located in Via Giulia, almost opposite the new building. The church was pulled down while parts of the nunnery were incorporated into the prison which continues to be known as Regina Coeli although its inmates are not versed in Marian antiphons; the bronze bust of Anna Colonna by the school of Bernini which decorated her tomb in the church is now at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery of Buffalo.
In the past the wives of the inmates used to go near Villa Lante from where they shouted family news to their husbands who could not see them because the windows of the cells are covered by panels which do not allow viewing outside.
In 1973 a new large prison was completed near Ponte Mammolo, but Regina Coeli continues to be utilized for those inmates who have pending trials and in general for those not serving long sentences.
In 1909 the Carmelites who lived at Regina Coeli returned near to their old nunnery; the church of their new convent was completed in 1925 and it was dedicated to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun who was canonized in that year; it is located at the end of a street off Via della Lungara and opposite Sacro Cuore di Gesù.
S. Maria della Visitazione
S. Maria della Visitazione was a nunnery built in 1669 during the pontificate of Pope Clement IX for the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary which was founded in 1610 by St. Jane Frances of Chantal; the nuns of this order are also known as Salesian Sisters and their church had a second dedication to St. Francis de Sales.
In 1803 the nunnery was assigned to the Third Order of Servites; it was located behind that of Regina Coeli and in 1884 it was turned into a female prison; its small church was designed by Giovanni Battista Contini and it is included in the security area surrounding the prison, although the female section is no longer operating.
Count Giacomo d'Alibert (1626-1713) is known for having opened the first public musical theatre of Rome at Tordinona. The initiative was successful and in 1718 d'Alibert's son built a new theatre near Piazza di Spagna. By marrying Maria Vittoria Cenci, Count d'Alibert acquired a villa near Via della Lungara which included an elegant, but very small casino, almost a theatrical backdrop for the garden; the width of the central part of the building is such that there is space for just one row of rooms.
Congregazione dei Pii Operai (Pious Workers) was founded in Naples at the beginning of the XVIIth century with the aim of promoting the knowledge of the Gospel in the rural parts of the country; during the XVIIIth century the popes appreciated the efforts of the congregation, especially at a time when Enlightenment writers criticized the level of superstition which existed in many Italian villages.
The congregation was always a small one and its members lived in the premises of various churches of Rione Monti, until they were able to build a church and a friary in Via della Lungara. The church is a work by Ludovico Rusconi Sassi (1732) whilst the friary was designed by Francesco Fiori and it was completed in 1764.
In 1943, when the congregation was limited to just one member it was merged with Catechisti Rurali, a congregation having the same aim; the new institution is called Pii Operai Catechisti Rurali and its Roman members continue to live in Via dell Lungara.
Cardinal Giovanni Salviati was a nephew of Pope Leo X; in 1552 he bought a house with a large garden at the northern end of Via della Lungara; at his death the property passed to his brother Bernardo who commissioned Nanni di Baccio Bigio, a Florentine architect, the construction of a Renaissance palace; after the death of Bernardo (who was appointed cardinal in 1561, after a life spent as a military commander) in 1568 the palace was inherited by Antonio Maria, a third Salviati cardinal who is remembered for having enlarged Spedale di S. Giacomo in Augusta.
The small medieval church of SS. Leonardo e Romualdo stood opposite Palazzo Salviati; it was renovated by Ludovico Gregorini at the beginning of the XVIIIth century; in 1863 the church was pulled down to make room for the supporting pillar of an iron bridge which in turn was demolished in 1942 when it was replaced by Ponte Principe Amedeo di Savoia; the lost church is clearly visible in a detail of the Grand View of Rome (no. 301).
In 1820 the gardens of Palazzo Salviati were chosen as the site for the Botanical Garden of Rome; Pope Gregory XVI in 1833 opened a direct access to them which was decorated with copies of ancient Egyptian lions; Donovan's Guide to Rome says that from Easter to the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29), twenty gratuitous public lectures were delivered by the professor of Practical Botany of la Sapienza; in 1883 the Botanical Garden was relocated to the larger gardens of Villa Corsini.
In 1840 Palazzo Salviati was bought by the Papal Government and it housed the Urban Archives; after having been a military tribunal and a hotel the palace now belongs to Arma dei Carabinieri, a branch of the Italian armed forces in charge of policing; on special occasions the courtyard of Palazzo Salviati houses concerts of the Carabinieri Band - external link.
Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo Farnese
Next step in Day 6 itinerary: Giardino di Palazzo Corsini