All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in September 2010.
Palazzo Farnese (Book 4) (Map C3) (Day 7) (View D7) (Rione Regola)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Palazzo Mandosi and the fountains of Piazza Farnese
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
The Plate (No. 73)
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.
Giuseppe 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, King 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 favour.
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 Palazzo Farnese; 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.
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.
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 owner. 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.
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; 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 the Two Sicilies and transferred the property of Palazzo Farnese to this kingdom.
Pope Paul III embellished his palace with two gigantic statues (carved in a single block) which were found at Terme di Caracalla: Toro Farnese (external link) and Ercole Farnese (external link); 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; when Giuseppe Vasi wrote his 1761 Guide to Rome Palazzo Farnese retained an impressive collection of statues and paintings which was dispersed in 1787 when they were transferred to Naples and Caserta; Toro Farnese and Ercole Farnese are now at the Archaeological Museum of Naples.
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 incorporated them into the centre of two fountains which were decorated with fleurs-de-lis, the heraldic symbol of the Farnese.
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 nicest Roman squares. Summum ius, summa iniuria (Cicero - De Officiis): the application of law may lead to results which are very unfair.
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 appearance as Palazzo Mandosi, while the interior has an elegant staircase.
St. Bridget of Sweden lived the last twenty years of her life in Rome where she came to promote the endorsement of her order (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 (click here for a list of national churches in Rome).
The church was entirely renovated at the initiative of Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Albani who became Pope Clement XI; 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.
The design of the window pediments of Palazzo Farnese (alternately triangular or curved) set a pattern which was followed in Palazzo Fioravanti (and in many XIXth century neo-Renaissance buildings). The palace is named after the Fioravanti because it belonged to this family in 1748 when Giovanni Battista Nolli designed 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.
S. Maria dell'Orazione e Morte
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.
The current church was built in 1733-37 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.
Palazzo dell'Ordine Teutonico
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.
SS. Giovanni e Petronio
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 (click here for a list of national churches in Rome). The fašade was designed in 1696-1700; Vasi mentions in his guide that the church had a painting portraying the Virgin Mary between the two saints by il Domenichino, a famous painter from Bologna; it is now at Museo di Palazzo Barberini (you can see it by following this external link).
Fontana del Mascherone
Acqua Vergine supplied water to the fountain of Campo dei Fiori, but it could not reach Via Giulia and Piazza Farnese; only after the construction of Fontanone di Ponte Sisto in 1613, the neighbourhood could rely on an adequate supply of water (Acqua Paola). Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, in addition to the two fountains in Piazza Farnese, built a small fountain near the rear entrance to his palace.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo della Cancelleria Apostolica
Next step in Day 7 itinerary: Palazzo Falconieri a Strada Giulia
Next step in your tour of Rione Regola: S. Paolo alla Regola