The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
- Biblioteca Corsini
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)
When in 1754 Giuseppe Vasi published this view of Palazzo Corsini the building had just been redesigned by Ferdinando Fuga for Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini. 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 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 River 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 map shows also: 6) Palazzo Corsini; 7) Monastero di S. Giuseppe; 8) Palazzo Salviati; 9) Villa Alibert; 10) S. Maria della Visitazione.
(left) The view in March 2010; (right) view of Via della Lungara from Monastero della SS. Croce (left) and S. Giacomo (right) towards Porta S. Spirito and the bell tower of S. Spirito in Sassia
Between 1880 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) on 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 turned into a prison.
Detail of the façade
The palace was originally built by Cardinal Raffaele Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV. He bought a 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. It was meant to be a suburban residence because the Cardinal had already a town palace (Palazzo della Cancelleria). The estate included a wood which reached the top of the Janiculum hill, where a small casino was built by the end of the XVIth century.
(left) One of the two courtyards; (right) passage leading to Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica a Palazzo Corsini
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 Maria Corsini, nephew of Pope Clement XII, who commissioned a major enlargement of the palace to properly display the family collection of works of art, chiefly paintings.
(left) Railing surrounding the private part of the garden; (right) detail of the pillars; the image used as background for this page shows a detail of their jars
Cardinal Corsini was very liberal in giving access to the gardens of his palace; however an elaborate railing designed by Fuga separated the section near the palace from the rest of the estate.
Palazzo Corsini in the 1765 Grand View of Rome
To Mr. West. May 1740. Figure to yourself a Roman
villa; all its little apartments thrown open, and
lighted up to the best advantage. At the upper
end of the gallery, a fine concert, in which La
Diamantina, a famous virtuosa, played on the
violin divinely, and sung angelically; Giovannino
and Pasqualini (great names in musical story)
also performed miraculously. On each side were
ranged all the secular grand monde of Rome, the
ambassadors, princesses, and all that. Among
the rest, II Serenissimo Pretendente (as the Mantova gazette calls him) displayed his rueful length
of person, with his two young ones, and all his
ministry around him. "Poi nacque un grazioso
ballo," where the world danced, and I sat in a
corner regaling myself with iced fruits, and other
Thomas Gray - Letters from France and Italy in 1739-1741
Giuseppe 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. Fuga incorporated Palazzo Riario into the southern (right in the view by Vasi) wing of the new building.
The Corsini had a villa outside Porta S. Pancrazio which we know from Vasi was embellished with ancient statues. These were lost in 1849 during the fights for the defence of the Roman Republic. The town palace had only a limited number of antiquities. The Corsini followed a pattern established by the Borghese who kept their collection of paintings in their town palace and that of antiquities in their suburban villa.
(left) Queen Christina's bedroom; (right) early XVIIth century ceiling depicting "The Judgement of Solomon"
In 1883 the palace and the collection of paintings were acquired by the Italian State. In 1895 a museum was opened in the oldest part of the building which included the apartment of Queen Christina. It displays most of the Cardinal's collection (some items were moved to Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica a Palazzo Barberini), plus other exhibits with the aim to provide visitors with a comprehensive selection of Italian XVIIth century painting.
(left) Galleria del Cardinale; (right) Camera Verde
The largest part of the collection was displayed on the walls of a gallery which led to the hall where the Cardinal received his guests, so that they could notice his wealth and appreciate his taste before meeting him. After the death of Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini in 1770 his grand-nephew Cardinal Andrea Corsini made changes to some rooms (e.g. at Camera Verde) and to the works of art on display. Today Camera Verde houses paintings which were acquired after 1770.
Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini carefully planned the decoration of his painting gallery; all details were expected to match high standards. Later in the century Prince Marcantonio IV Borghese refurbished his villa and had its doors painted, but those at Palazzo Corsini are by far finer.
(left) The Rape of Orithyia by Boreas by Giovanni Battista Foggini (1652-1725); (centre) Menelaus with the body of Patroclus (copy of an ancient statue) by Antonio Montauti (1683-1740); (right) The Abduction of the Sabines (XIXth century copy from the original by Giambologna)
The Corsini came from Florence and Cardinal Neri Maria placed small bronze statues made by Florentine sculptors on console tables along the gallery. In 1687 Giovanni Battista Foggini bought a foundry in Florence where he specialized in small bronze statues which soon became very fashionable and were sold throughout Europe. His nephew Filippo della Valle became one of the most renowned sculptors in Rome, but he did not make bronze statues.
(left) Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist by Guido Reni in Camera del Camino which houses Sedia Corsini, a IInd century BC marble chair which was found at S. Giovanni in Laterano during the construction of the Corsini chapel; (right) Virgin of the Milk by Bartolome Esteban Murillo in Camera Verde
This extremely formal painting by Guido Reni was bought by Pope Urban VIII in 1639 and it was therefore part of the Barberini Collection. It was purchased by Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini after 1728.
The painting by Murillo was made in ca 1675 and it entered the Corsini collection in the early XIXth century.
(left) Funerary urn; (right) Corsini cup
The provenance of the urn is unknown; it is rather puzzling because it portrays a woman with three children attending a funerary banquet, but the dead was a man aged 50. The silver cup was found in 1759 at Anzio, where the Corsini had a villa. It depicts Athena casting her vote in the trial of Orestes. Pliny the Elder reported that Zopyrus represented the Court of the Areopagus and the trial of Orestes, upon two (silver) cups valued at twelve thousand sesterces. The cup found at Anzio might have been a copy of that by Zopyrus. Athena saved Orestes with her vote: the episode is described in many Greek tragedies.
(Athena:) But since this weighty cause hath lighted here,
Judges of murder, bound by oath, I'll choose,-
Solemn tribunal for all future time.
(..) Assume the pebbles, and decide the cause,
Your oath revering. All hath now been said.
(..) With me it rests to give the casting vote,
And to Orestes I my suffrage pledge.
The Dramas of Aeschylus translated by Anna Swanwick - Eumenides
Vestibule: (left) portrait of Pope Clement XII; (right) entrance to the library
The main reason which led Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini to enlarge the Riario building so greatly was that he wanted to properly house the rich private library of his uncle. The books were grouped in five reading rooms according to the topic they dealt with.
Sala della Storia Profana, one of the painted busts portrays Niccolò Machiavelli, a Renaissance historian who regarded religion only as a means to keep a state in order
The passage from one room to the other was embellished by a couple of fine ancient columns; a painted frame below the ceiling housed trompe l'oeil painted busts of some of the authors of the books in that room.
Sala della Filosofia e della Scienza
Pope Clement XII was known for his open-mindedness and his library had books on the most recent scientific and theological developments including some which were regarded as having heretic content and therefore were included in the List of Prohibited Books.
Sala della Teologia: ceiling portraying an Allegory of Religion by Vincenzo Meucci, a Florentine painter; it shows one of the illusionistic tricks for which the ceiling of Il Gesù was renowned
The ceilings of the rooms were painted with subjects consistent with their contents.
(left) "Fallopii Opera Omnia" by Gabriele Falloppio, a XVIth century physician and anatomist, and "De Thermis" by Baccius (Andrea Bacci), a XVIth century treatise on the benefits of bathing; (right) page from an atlas showing the unknown springs of the Nile
In 1754 Cardinal Corsini opened the library to the public; his testamentary clauses prevented his heirs from selling the works of art or the books; they were donated to the Italian State in 1883 when the palace was sold; the library was incorporated into that of Accademia dei Lincei and subsequently new rooms were added to it.
(left) Façade; (centre/right) details of its decoration, one of which shows a bee, the Barberini's heraldic symbol
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 S. Pietro Nuovo 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 by the construction of a series of charitable institutions related to the female world: malmaritate (married women deserted by their husbands), pentite or penitenti (women who wanted to expiate their sins by conducting a life of penance), pericolanti (women in danger) and condannate (former convicts) lived a sorrowful life behind the high walls of hostels and nunneries.
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, albeit gruesome monument designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. You may wish to see a map showing in detail the church and the nunnery in 1748.
Museo Nazionale Romano: sarcophagus which was found in 1884 near the church
The inscription indicates that the sarcophagus was made in the 330s during the last years of Emperor Constantine's rule. Its complex decoration covers both the lid and the box and it includes The Nativity, The Sacrifice of Isaac, The Arrest of Peter, The Miracle at Cana and The Resurrection of Lazarus. At the centre of the box the orant, a female figure, stands with her hands raised in the position of prayer. Jesus is portrayed as a young Roman in typical Roman dress, in toga and pallium, and clean-shaven. Similar sarcophagi were found near S. Paolo fuori le Mura, at Syracuse and Arles.
(left) Entrance from Via della Lungara; (right) courtyard
(Rome has) Remedies for ill Married Women,
whose unadvised choice (Marriages being often made for Interest) or incompatible
humours force to a Corporeal separation,
and lest such unfortunate Women should either live incontinently indeed, or give suspition of it, they are provided here with a
House where they live retiredly under Lock and Key, till they either reconcile themselves again to their Husbands; or upon just
occasions, leave them for ever. Over the
door of this house is written "Per le donne
Richard Lassels' The Voyage of Italy, or a Compleat Journey through Italy in ca 1668
Monastero della SS. Croce or della Penitenza was founded in 1615 by the Discalced Carmelites for the penitenti 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 and eventually it housed a female youth prison (until 1970); in 1992 it was assigned to feminist activists who had occupied Palazzo delle Governo Vecchio for years; their website (it opens in another window) has images of the premises and of the activities carried out in this former site of penance.
View from Villa Lanti
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 proficient in Marian antiphons.
In the past the wives of the inmates used to go near Villa Lanti 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, a characteristic of some Roman nunneries, e.g. SS. Annunziata delle Religiose Turchine.
In 1973 a new large prison was built near Ponte Mammolo, but Regina Coeli continues to be utilized for 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 their old nunnery; their new church 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 opposite Sacro Cuore di Gesù at the end of a street off Via della Lungara.
(left) Façade (modern) and side view; (right) details of the decoration
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 Regina Coeli, although the prison is not operative.
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 his 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.
(left) Last section of Via della Lungara; (centre) detail of the friary; (right) S. Giuseppe
Congregazione dei Pii Operai (Pious Workers) was founded in Naples at the beginning of the XVIIth century to promote 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 1732 work by Ludovico Rusconi Sassi, 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 at Via dell Lungara.
Interior of the church
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 1843 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.
A Carabinieri Band concert
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.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Questo magnifico palazzo già de' Riarj nipoti di Sisto IV. fu abitato alla Regina di Svezia, quando venne a Roma per abjurare l'eresia, che aveva professata. Ma dipoi comprato dal Card. Neri Corsini nipote di Papa Clemente XII. fu rinnovato, e cresciuto molto più della metà dalla parte verso ponente con disegno del Cav. Fuga. Fra gli altri ornamenti, che lo rendono cospicuo, uno è la galleria ornata di quadri, quasi di tutti gli autori celebri; l'altro è la Biblioteca ricca di libri e manoscritti rari, con una prodigiosa raccolta delle più famose stampe di uomini eccellenti, legate nobilmente in 400. volumi, e il terzo è la deliziosa villa ornata di fontane, di lunghi viali, e boschi altissimi, con un ameno teatro con portici costruiti tutti di verdure, in cui si tengono le virtuose radunanze degli Accademici Quirini, e sull'alto evvi un magnifico casino di ritiro, da dove talmente si scopre l'abitato di Roma, con tutte le tue campagne, che di lì appunto io presi il partito del gran prospetto di Roma, che ho dato alla pubblica luce.
In Septimiana fu detta questa chiesa, dalla vicina porta, e vi stettero per qualche tempo i monaci Silvestrini: ma nell'anno 1626. sotto Urbano VIII. vi fu stabilito il Conservatorio per le povere donne levate dal peccato, le quali vogliono dare ad una vita penitente sotto la regola di s. Agostino. Il s. Giacomo sull' altare maggiore è del Romanelli, e gli altri quadri sono di Francesco Toppa. Incontro evvi la
Nell'anno 1615. fu eretta la chiesa insieme col conservatorio da un religioso Teresiano coll'elemosine del Duca di Baviera, e di Baldassare Paluzzi nobile Romano, per collocarvi le povere donne, che renunziate le vanità del mondo, vogliono dare ad una vita penitente sotto la regola di s. Teresa, ma senza voti, e senza clausura. Segue dopo la
D. Anna Colonna moglie di D. Taddeo Barberini rimasta vedova eresse sulla strada della lungara la chiesa e Monastero l'anno 1654. e collocandovi una famiglia di religiose Teresiane, ella si ritirò con esse, e poi piamente vi morì, lasciando erede di molte entrate, e ricche suppellettili la chiesa, in cui si vede il suo deposito ornato di marmi con busto di metallo. Il piccolo tabernacolo sull'altare è ricoperto di lapislazzoli, gioje, statuette, ed altro; il quadro della Presentazione è del Romanelli; del quale è ancora quello di s. Teresia; la s. Anna però è opera di Fabrizio Chiari. Queste Religiose per ispeciale ossequio alla ss. Vergine recitano ogni 4. ore l'antifona Regina Coeli ad un replicato ed artificioso sogno della loro campana, dal che la chiesa ed il monastero ha preso il nome.
Nel vicolo accanto alla chiesa di Regina Celi corrisponde questa piccola, ma devota chiesa, e monastero, il quale fu fabbricato sotto Clemente IX. per le religiose istituite dal detto s. Vescovo, e per tale effetto fece venire da Turino le maestre per istabilirvi una comunità di quell'istituto. Ma essendo poco dopo morto il Pontefice, proseguì l'impresa il Principe Borghese colla Principessa sua consorte, e fu dedicata la chiesa alla Visitazione di s. Elisabetta, e però sull'altare maggiore si vede dipinta da Carlo Cesi; il s. Giuseppe però è di Guido Reni, e la statua di s. Francesco di Sales è di Francesco Moratti. Segue poco dopo la
I Chierici Pii operarj edificarono questa chiesa, e la loro abitazione l’anno 1734. colle
limosine di Monsig. Carlo Majella Napoletano. Evvi nella chiesa la deposizione dalla
Croce opera di Niccolò Ricciolini, e la s. Anna incontro di Girolamo Pesci.