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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 September 2010.

Palazzo della Cancelleria Apostolica (Book 4) (Map C2) (Day 7) (View D6) (Rione Parione) and (Rione Regola)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view
Palazzo della Cancelleria
S. Lorenzo in Damaso
Oratorio delle Cinque Piaghe
Via del Pellegrino and Tabernacolo di S. Margherita
Arco degli Acetari
Palazzo Montoro

The Plate (No. 74)

In 1754, when Giuseppe Vasi published this etching, new palaces were built in Late Baroque style, yet Palazzo della Cancelleria was not regarded as being old-fashioned, but rather a masterpiece which still deserved admiration for having marked a breakthrough in civil architecture; Vasi attributed it to Donato Bramante, the architect who introduced the Renaissance style to Rome, but art historians discard this theory because Bramante came to Rome in 1499, when the design of Palazzo della Cancelleria was already established.
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) SS. Lorenzo e Damaso (S. Lorenzo in Damaso); 2) Vicolo de Leutari (lute makers) leading to Piazza di Pasquino; 3) Strada degli Argentieri (silversmiths), usually called Via del Pellegrino (pilgrim); 4) Palazzetto del Marchese Galli. The small map shows also: 5) Palazzo della Cancelleria; 6) Oratorio delle Cinque Piaghe; 7) Tabernacolo di S. Margherita; 8) Arco degli Acetari; 9) Painted houses in Via del Pellegrino; 10) Palazzo Montoro. The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Regola (left) and Rione Parione (right).


The view in June 2010

The buildings at the end of the square, including Palazzetto Galli, were pulled down in the 1880s to open Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a road linking Piazza del Gesù with the bridge by the same name; Jacopo Galli was an advisor to Cardinal Raffaele Riario, the founder of Palazzo della Cancelleria; he bought a statue of Bacchus by Michelangelo which the cardinal had refused; it is now at Museo del Bargello in Florence (you may see it in this external link).
Palazzo della Cancelleria shows some very minor changes; coats of arms of Pope Sixtus IV and Pope Julius II, respectively uncle and cousin of Cardinal Riario were placed at the corners of the building in the 1940s; during the annexation of Rome by the French Empire, the palace housed the imperial tribunals and a large inscription with the words Corte Imperiale was placed above the central balcony.

Palazzo della Cancelleria

(left) Detail of the corner with Via del Pellegrino with the initial part of the 1495 inscription celebrating the foundation of the palace; (right) coat of arms of Cardinal Raffaele Riario

Raffaele Riario was appointed cardinal in 1477 at the age of seventeen and a few years later he became titular cardinal of S. Lorenzo in Damaso; he went to live in the cardinal's residence near the church, but he soon decided to rebuild the church and the palace; according to tradition he financed their construction with his dice winnings and he won an enormous amount of money from Franceschetto Cybo, son of Pope Innocent VIII.
You can see Cardinal Riario wearing a blue robe behind his uncle in the icon of the Abridged History of Rome (click here to enlarge - external link); by 1495 the southern side of the palace from Via del Pellegrino to the entrance was completed.

Balcony on Via del Pellegrino with the motto "Hoc opus sic perpetuo" - this work will stay forever (school of Andrea Bregno)

The decoration of Palazzo della Cancelleria is mainly based on reliefs depicting rosa canina, a spontaneous species of rose with five petals which was the heraldic symbol of the Riario. The quality of the reliefs is very high; if not personally executed by Andrea Bregno, they are the work of one of his best scholars. The completion of Palazzo della Cancelleria was delayed because Cardinal Riario preferred to leave Rome during the final years of the pontificate of Pope Alexander VI.

(left) Courtyard which perhaps was designed by Bramante as it was built after Cardinal Riario returned to Rome; (right) details of its decoration

In 1517 Cardinal Riario was charged with being involved in a plot to kill Pope Leo X and he was imprisoned in Castel Sant'Angelo; he was eventually acquitted, but he had to relinquish his palace; he went to live in Naples where he died in 1521. While a section of the palace continued to be used as residence of the titular cardinals of S. Lorenzo in Damaso, its major part housed Cancelleria Apostolica, the body in charge of issuing papal bulls which was previously in Palazzo Sforza Cesarini.

1589 central portal and balcony designed by Domenico Fontana and showing the heraldic symbols of Pope Sixtus V

It is said that the columns of the courtyard came from Teatro di Pompeo and that the travertine coating of the façade was made with blocks fallen from Colosseo; the design of Palazzo della Cancelleria influenced that of Palazzo Giraud which was built a few years later. The palace belongs to the Holy See.

S. Lorenzo in Damaso

(left) Entrance; (centre-1) bronze relief on the door portraying St. Lawrence; (centre-2) coat of arms with the symbol of S. Lorenzo in Damaso on a building near Piazza Farnese; (right) monument to George Conn by Lorenzo Ottoni (portrait) and Giovanni Giorgetti (angel); Conn was a Scottish theologian from Aberdeen, sent by Pope Urban VIII to London to advise Queen Mary Henrietta, the Catholic wife of King Charles I (you may wish to see more monuments portraying the dead in a medallion)

The name of the church suggests that Damaso is a location, while it is the name of Pope Damasus I (366-84), the founder of the church. S. Lorenzo in Damaso was entirely rebuilt by Cardinal Riario inside the northern wing of the palace; a small portal designed by il Vignola in the second half of the XVIth century is its only external evidence.

(left) Interior; (centre) XVth century gravestone (from the old church); (right) monument to Giovanni Pacini, a physician, by G. A. Dosio;

The titular cardinals of S. Lorenzo in Damaso took care of its decoration, but the church suffered a lot from being used as a stable by French troops in 1799 and perhaps even more by a radical restoration (1868-82) by Virginio Vespignani, the favourite architect of Pope Pius IX.
You may wish to see the building as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome.
It contains an interesting monument to Alessandro Valtrini by Gian Lorenzo Bernini which is placed very near the entrance and is not very welcoming.

Oratorio delle Cinque Piaghe

(left) Via dei Baullari; (right) detail of the façade

Many of the streets near Palazzo della Cancelleria are named after trades; Vasi mentioned in his plate lute makers and silversmiths; Via dei Baullari was the street of the trunk makers; in this street a brotherhood which used to meet in S. Lorenzo in Damaso built a small oratory the façade of which was modified in the XIXth century; the inscription above the entrance says: ARCHISOD. SSMI. SACRAM. ET V VULNERUM D. N. I. C. Archbrotherhood of the Holy Sacrament and of the Five Wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Via del Pellegrino

(left) Via del Pellegrino; (centre/right) Tabernacolo di S. Margherita by Francesco Moderati

Via del Pellegrino was enlarged in 1497 by Pope Alexander VI in the frame of various initiatives meant to develop Campo dei Fiori; although it was used by pilgrims (It. pellegrini) on their way to Ponte S. Angelo, the name of the street probably derives from that of an inn.
Via del Pellegrino retains its Renaissance appearance except for an XVIIIth century elaborate tabernacle built by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni who lived in Palazzo della Cancelleria; he was a nephew of Pope Alexander VIII and the last cardinale nepote i.e. the nephew of the pope who acted as a sort of Prime Minister; this practice was discontinued by Pope Innocent XII; the double-headed eagles are a heraldic symbol of the Ottoboni and St. Philip Neri is portrayed in the small medallion.

Renaissance graffito paintings in Via del Pellegrino 64-67: (left) scene of Roman history attributed to Daniele da Volterra; (right) a king, perhaps one of the Magi, probably "advertising" an inn

A recent restoration has made more visible the painted façades of two Renaissance houses not far from the end of the street where Casa di Pietro Paolo della Zecca also shows evidence of having been painted.

Arco degli Acetari

(left) Courtyard inside Arco degli Acetari; (right) Vicolo del Bollo (stamp)

An arch in Via del Pellegrino gives access to a courtyard surrounded by buildings, which, although in part modernized, retain the structure of ordinary medieval houses. The name of the site refers to acetari, sellers of mineral water (acqua acetosa).
In 1680 silversmiths were asked to relocate to Via del Pellegrino; the fineness of the gold and silver objects they sold was certified by an office which was located in Vicolo del Bollo, a narrow side street.

Palazzo Montoro

(left) Façade; (right) detail of the windows

Vicolo del Bollo leads to another narrow street which ends at S. Maria in Monserrato. It would seem the least suitable location for building a large palace, but perhaps its owners hoped to pull down the opposite buildings. The Montoro were named after their fiefdom near Narni; they lived in this neighbourhood from the XVIth century; their palace has an XVIIIth century stucco decoration which includes heraldic symbols of the Chigi, because the last of the Montoro married Francesco Chigi, a distant relative of Pope Alexander VII.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Palazzo della Cancelleria Apostolica
E' questo uno de' primi edifizj magnifici, che Roma avesse veduto dopo il corrotto gusto de' Goti. Fu principiato dal Card. Mezzarota Padovano, e poi terminato dal Card. Raffaele Riarjo con disegno di Bramante Lazzari l'anno 1485. avendovi impiegato i travertini caduti dal Colosseo, e di altre fabbriche antiche. Il portone però fu fatto dal Cardinale Alessandro Farnese con disegno di Domenico Fontana. Contiene varj appartamenti con un ampio cortile cinto di portici doppj con colonne di granito egizio, e si crede che siano quelle del suddetto portico di Pompeo. Negli appartamenti sonovi pitture di Giorgio Vasari, e di Francesco Salviati, e nella gran sala si vedono i cartoni d'una cupola di s. Pietro. Vi risiede il Card. Vicecancelliere, il quale con altri Prelati in ogni martedì e sabato fa la spedizione delle bolle Apostoliche, e gode la commenda e titolo della
Chiesa di s. Lorenzo e Damaso
Il medesimo Card. Riario rifece unitamente col palazzo la chiesa in onore de' ss. Lorenzo e Damaso, per conservare la memoria dell'antica, che era sulla strada del pellegrino, la quale fu atterrata per dare luogo al gran palazzo. Fu eretta l'anno 484. dal santo Pontefice in onore di s. Lorenzo martire, e si disse in Damaso per il suo fondatore. Era quella a tre navi ornata di colonne di granito, che poi furono collocate nel riferito cortile. Appresso alla chiesa fatto aveva il medesimo santo Pontefice una abitazione per le persone ecclesiastiche, e però si crede, che in essa dimorasse per qualche tempo s. Girolamo, chiamato a Roma da s. Damaso medesimo, ed in quella casa succedè poi il palazzo del Card. Titolare, ed ora del Cardinale Vicecancelliere: ma poi fatto di nuovo il palazzo, e la chiesa, il Card. Alessandro Farnese, essendo Vicecancelliere, la ornò di soffitto dorato, e di pitture a fresco nelle pareti. Quella con s. Lorenzo sulla graticola è di Gio. de' Vecchi, l'altra a destra di Giuseppe d'Arpino, e quelle incontro di Niccolò dalle Pomarance, il quadro però sull'altare maggiore è di Federigo Zuccheri. La cappella della ss. Vergine, che sta a destra ornata di marmi, stucchi dorati, e pitture, è disegno di Pietro da Cortona, il quale vi dipinse la volta. La cappella del santissimo Sagramento, che sta da piede della chiesa fu ornata dal Card. Pietro Ottoboni con marmi, pitture, e metalli dorati, e quella incontro dedicata a s. Nicolò di Bari, e a s. Filippo Neri è disegno di Niccolò Salvi; il quadro sull'altare è del Cav. Conca, e le pitture a fresco sulla volta e negli angoli sono di Corrado Giaquinto. E' di somma devozione l'immagine del ss. Crocifisso nella cappella, che segue, per la tradizione che più volte parlasse a santa Brigida, mentre vi faceva orazione. E' notabile finalmente, che sotto l'altare maggiore, oltre il corpo di s. Damaso Papa, vi fu riposto quello di s. Eutichio martire, e la metà de' corpi di s. Faustino e di s. Giovita, e altre reliquie. In questa chiesa fu istituita la prima confraternita per accompagnare il ss. Sagramento agl'infermi l'anno 1501. e poi l'anno 1508. fu approvata da Giulio II. concedendole molte indulgenze. Fra li varj sepolcri de' defonti si vede in questa, quello di Annibal Caro celebre poeta.
Mancherei troppo al mio dovere se non avvisassi al mio Lettore, che quì nel vicolo a sinistra detto de' Leutari, facendosi i fondamenti di una casa nel Pontificato di Paolo III. fu scoperta la statua di Pompeo il Grande, e se altresì non accennassi la bellezza dell'architettura, che si vede in un palazzino quì incontro detto la Farnesina, creduto benchè vanamente per casa del Buonarroti.

Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo Pio
Next step in Day 7 itinerary: Palazzo Farnese
Next step in your tour of Rione Parione: Campo de' Fiori
Next step in your tour of Rione Regola: Albergo della Vacca