The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Fontane di Piazza Farnese and Palazzo Mandosi
Palazzo Fioravanti and Palazzetto Giangiacomo
S. Maria dell'Orazione e Morte
Palazzo dell'Ordine Teutonico
SS. Giovanni e Petronio
Fontana del Mascherone a Via Giulia
In 1747 Giuseppe Vasi dedicated his first book of views of ancient and modern Rome to Charles, King of Naples and of Sicily; in 1752 he dedicated his second book to Queen Maria Amalia, Charles' wife and in 1754 he dedicated his fourth book to Elisabetta Farnese, Charles' mother. In 1765 he dedicated his Grand View of Rome to Charles, who in 1759 had become King of Spain, but continued to have a say in Neapolitan/Sicilian affairs.
Vasi was born at Corleone in Sicily, but this fact does not entirely explain why he was so devoted to his king; in 1748, as a reward for the dedication of the first book, Charles allowed Vasi to settle with his family in an apartment in the rear side of Palazzo Farnese and to install a printing press for directly printing and merchandising his etchings. This arrangement was hardly welcomed by the king's ambassadors who resided in the palace and therefore Vasi dedicated his books to Charles' relatives in order to continue to enjoy the King's protection.
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. Brigida; 2) S. Maria dell'Orazione e Morte; 3) Arco di Via Giulia; 4) Palazzo della Religione Teutonica; 5) Palazzo Mandosi. 3) is shown in another page. The small map shows also: 6) Palazzo Farnese; 7) Palazzo Pighini; 8) Palazzo Fioravanti; 9) Palazzetto Giangiacomo; 10) SS. Giovanni e Petronio; 11) Fontana del Mascherone a Via Giulia.
The view in June 2010
Very little has changed in Piazza Farnese since Vasi's time: the fašade of the palace was carefully restored in the late 1990s: you may wish to see it before the restoration.
Palazzo Farnese is leased to France until 2035 and it houses the French Embassy to Italy (the Embassy to the Holy See is at Villa Paolina); it can be visited on July 14, Bastille Day, the French national holiday, and on some rare occasions.
In 1493 Alessandro Farnese, a member of a minor noble family from Canino, was appointed cardinal at the age of 23 by Pope Alexander VI; in 1495 he bought a small palace near Campo dei Fiori, a neighbourhood which was being developed by the Pope; Cardinal Farnese acquired the property of some adjoining buildings and commissioned the enlargement of his palace to Antonio da Sangallo the Younger; in 1534 Cardinal Farnese became Pope Paul III and Sangallo redesigned the palace to reflect the change in status of its landlord. In 1546, at Sangallo's death, the palace was yet to be completed; Michelangelo was asked by the Pope to take over; he modified his predecessor's project in the design of the first floor windows and in the overall height of the building; after the death of Pope Paul III in 1549, his heirs entrusted il Vignola and later on Giacomo della Porta with the completion of the palace.
Detail showing the central window and the coat of arms of Pope Paul III
The central window and the Pope's coat of arms were drawn by Michelangelo; their design was very innovative and
Filippo Juvarra included the coat of arms in his selection of papal coats of arms (one of its fleurs-de-lis can be seen in the image used as background for this page). The two small coats of arms were added
after Vasi's etching and they belong to Cardinal Ranuccio Farnese (left) and to the Duke of Parma (right); the design of the central window was slightly modified to make room for them.
Thanks to the political skills of Pope Paul III the Farnese became Dukes of Parma and Dukes of Castro.
In 1731 the last Duke of Parma died and his sister Elisabetta, wife of King Philip V of Spain, assured the Duchy to his son Charles; in 1734 Charles became King of Naples and of Sicily and transferred the property of Palazzo Farnese to this kingdom.
(above) Detail of the cornice designed by Michelangelo; (below) decoration between ground and first floor
Pope Paul III embellished his palace with two gigantic statues which were found at Terme di Caracalla: Toro Farnese and Ercole Farnese (it opens in another window). Cardinals Ranuccio and Alessandro Farnese, grandsons of Pope Paul III, lived in the palace and after them Cardinal Odoardo; the three cardinals promoted the completion of the rear side of the building and its overall decoration. In 1761, when Vasi wrote his Guide to Rome, Palazzo Farnese retained an impressive collection of statues and paintings which was dispersed in 1787 when they were relocated to Naples and Caserta; Toro Farnese and Ercole Farnese are now at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
The second act of Tosca, an opera by Giacomo Puccini based on a drama by Victorien Sardou, is set at Palazzo Farnese, where the heroine sings Vissi d'arte (wikipedia entry - it opens in another window). The first act is set at S. Andrea della Valle and the third and last act at Castel Sant'Angelo.
The Farnese relocated two basins of Egyptian granite in front of their palace; they were part of the decoration of Terme di Caracalla but, before being moved to Piazza Farnese, they embellished Palazzo Venezia; in 1621 Cardinal Odoardo Farnese placed them at the centre of two fountains which were decorated with fleurs-de-lis. You may wish to see another ancient basin with heads of lions (it opens in another window) now at Museo Nazionale Romano.
(left) Palazzo Mandosi and the eastern fountain; (right) detail of the eastern fountain
Palazzo Mandosi is a XVIIth century building which belonged to a minor noble family; in recent years its penthouse flat was considered equivalent to a prison; Cesare Previti, an Italian politician sentenced to jail for bribing judges, thanks to laws passed by Mr. Berlusconi's government, spent his prison time there, enjoying the view of one of the finest Roman squares. Summum ius, summa iniuria (Cicero - De Officiis): the strict application of law may lead to results which are very unfair.
(left) Fašade; (centre) staircase; (right-above) heraldic symbol of the Pighini; (right-below) heraldic symbol of Julie Bonaparte, wife of Marquis Alessandro di Roccagiovine
The northern side of Piazza Farnese is closed by Palazzo Pighini (or Pichini), also known as Palazzo Roccagiovine. The building was redesigned in 1705 by Alessandro Specchi, who gave it approximately the same size and sober appearance as Palazzo Mandosi, while the interior has a more elaborate decoration.
(left) Fašade and bell tower; (right) detail of the fašade
St. Bridget of Sweden lived the last twenty years of her life in Rome where she came to promote the endorsement of her order in 1350 (more on it - external link). She founded a hospital for Swedish pilgrims in a house in today's Piazza Farnese, where shortly after her canonization in 1391 a church was dedicated to her. You may wish to see a directory of national churches in Rome.
Gloria di S. Brigida by Biagio Puccini between two coats of arms of Pope Clement XI
The church was entirely renovated at the initiative of Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Albani who became Pope Clement XI in 1700; the bell tower was built in 1894; luckily it is very small because its design does not fit with the other buildings of the square.
(left) Monument to Nicola (Nils) Bielke by Tommaso Righi (you may wish to see another monument by Righi); (right) detail of the ceiling with the heraldic symbols of Pope Clement XI
Sweden was one of the first European countries to adopt Lutheranism, but the Popes always hoped that this decision could be reverted, especially after Queen Christina of Sweden came to Rome to convert to Catholicism in 1655.
Nicola Bielke grew up in Paris where his father was the Swedish ambassador to France. He was appointed commander of Swedish troops fighting for France. He eventually returned to Sweden, but he wanted to leave his country. By feigning an illness he managed to be allowed to do so. In 1731 he reached Rome where he converted to Catholicism in a ceremony presided over by Pope Clement XII. In 1737 he was appointed Senatore di Roma, a sort of Mayor of Rome, because the Pope wanted to show that Lutherans should not be afraid of converting. He held the position of Senatore until his death in 1765. He was succeeded by Count Abbondio Rezzonico.
(left) Palazzo Fioravanti; to its right S. Girolamo della CaritÓ and the first section of Via di Monserrato;
(centre/right) Palazzetto Giangiacomo
The design of Palazzo Farnese which alternated triangular and curved-top window pediments set a pattern which was followed in Palazzo Fioravanti (and in many neo-Renaissance buildings including the White House), because it made the fašade livelier.
Actually this architectonic feature was very common in Roman buildings including minor ones as one can see at the Great Necropolis of Porto (tombs 54 and 93).
The palace is named after the Fioravanti because it belonged to this family in 1748 when Giovanni Battista Nolli drew a very detailed map of Rome: the names Nolli gave in the legend to his map have become the official names by which art historians and detailed guide books identify many minor Roman buildings.
Palazzetto Giangiacomo in Via di Monserrato, again known after its 1748 owners, was built in 1582; the use of woman heads as architectonic element can be found also in Palazzo della Stamperia which was built in the same period by Giacomo del Duca.
(left) Fašade; (centre) detail of the fašade; (right) side view; in the foreground Arco di Via Giulia and in the background the loggia of Palazzo Falconieri
Memento Mori (remember that you will die) is a page of this website covering representation of Death in baroque Rome; usually the most gruesome references to Death, such as skulls and bones, were reserved to funerary monuments inside churches, but Congregazione di S. Maria dell'Orazione e Morte, a brotherhood in charge of burying the abandoned dead, required architect Ferdinando Fuga to place winged skulls with laurel wreaths on the fašade.
(left) Alms box (Hodie Mihi, Cras Tibi = Today to me, tomorrow to you) for the lamp at the cemetery; (centre) detail of the fašade; (right) 1694 alms box for supporting the activity of the brotherhood
The current church was built in 1733-737 and it replaced a previous one which was much smaller; the brotherhood had a small graveyard behind the church; it was decorated with bones similar to the ossuary of Chiesa dei Cappuccini.
The Order of the Teutonic Knights was founded in the Holy Land to assist German pilgrims, but it is best known for
having established a state along the southern coast of the Baltic Sea which ultimately evolved into the Duchy of Prussia.
This large XVIIth century building gave assistance to German pilgrims, but it was sold by Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II towards the end of the XVIIIth century (the emperor was a strong supporter of the Enlightenment views on religion).
After having been used as a wool factory, the building now houses a religious institution (Children of St. Mary Immaculate).
(left) Via del Mascherone and SS. Giovanni e Petronio; (right) detail of the fašade
In 1581 Pope Gregory XIII assigned a small church between Piazza Farnese and Via Giulia to the inhabitants of Bologna, his hometown; the dedication of the church was changed from St. Thomas to Sts. John the Evangelist and Petronius, a bishop of that city in the Vth century. The fašade was designed in 1696-1700.
(left) Main Altar; (right) Death of St. Joseph by Giovan Francesco Gessi, a pupil of Guido Reni
Vasi mentions in his guide that the main altar was decorated with a painting by il Domenichino, a famous painter from Bologna; it is now at Museo di Palazzo Barberini (you may wish to see a detail of it - it opens in another window).
Fontana del Mascherone (big mask): (left) front view; (right) side view
The aqueduct of Acqua Vergine supplied water to the fountain of Campo dei Fiori, but it could not reach Piazza Farnese; only after the construction of Fontanone di Ponte Sisto in 1613, the neighbourhood could rely on an adequate supply of water. Cardinal Odoardo Farnese built a small fountain near the rear entrance to his palace, in addition to the two fountains in Piazza Farnese.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Poco discosto dal Campo di fiori sta questa magnifica piazza, la quale Ŕ di molto pregio per i suoi
ornamenti, e per le funzioni,che vi si fanno anche oggidý, con somma pompa e fasto. Celebrandosi
la festa de' santi Apostoli Pietro e Paolo, per ordine del Re delle due Sicilie vi si fanno due nobilissime
macchine di fuochi artificiali, con fontane di vino, e suoni di varj strumenti. Sonovi ne' due lati in
giusta distanza due gran fonti di acqua perenni, con due maravigliose conche di granito egizio
tutte in un masso,che furono trovate nelle Terme di Caracalla, e per˛ nell'estate, prima che si
facesse il lago in piazza Navona quý si allagava la piazza con piacere e concorso della nobiltÓ e
cittadinanza Romana. Da una parte evvi il palazzo Pichini, in cui fra l'altre si vede la preziosa statua
del Meleagro col cignale da una parte, e col cane dall'altra: accanto evvi quello de' Mandosi con
una copiosa raccolta di manoscritti, e dall'altra banda la chiesa di s. Brigida, con il convento
de' suoi religiosi.