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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 November 2010.

Palazzo Massimi detto delle Colonne (Book 4) (Day 4) (View C7) (Rione Parione)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view
Palazzo Massimi alle Colonne
Palazzo di Pirro
Palazzo Istoriato
S. Pantaleo
Palazzo Santobono then Braschi
Farnesina ai Baullari
Palazzi di Girolamo e Ceccolo Pichi

The Plate (No. 76)

This 1754 etching by Giuseppe Vasi shows a section of Strada Papale, actually a series of streets from Ponte S. Angelo to il Ges¨ which were crossed by the solemn procession which accompanied the newly-elected pope from S. Pietro to S. Giovanni in Laterano. Strangely enough, notwithstanding the importance of the street, Vasi showed few carriages and people around, as if he wanted to call the attention of the viewer to the unique Renaissance design of Palazzo Massimi alle Colonne.
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) Palazzo Santobono; 2) S. Pantaleo; 3) Palazzo di Pirro (also belonging to the Massimi); 4) Papal Street leading to Palazzo Valle. The small map shows also 5) Palazzo Istoriato; 6) Palazzo di Girolamo Pichi; 7) Farnesina ai Baullari; 8) Palazzo di Ceccolo Pichi. The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Parione (left section) and Rione Sant'Eustachio (right section).


(left) The view in August 2009; (right) detail showing that the dome depicted in the etching is that of S. Pietro

After the 1870 annexation of Rome to the Kingdom of Italy town planners felt the need to enlarge this section of Strada Papale which was renamed Corso Vittorio (Emanuele II); they did so by pulling down the buildings on the southern (left) side of the street, while those on the northern side where not impacted by the change, although Palazzo Massimi ended by being too close to the usually congested traffic of Corso Vittorio; it can be properly seen only from the other side of the street.
Palazzo Santobono and S. Pantaleo are not visible in the image, nor were they visible at the time of the etching.

Palazzo Massimi alle Colonne


The palace was designed by Baldassarre Peruzzi in 1536 on the site of a previous building which was damaged during the 1527 Sack of Rome; the fašade is curved, because the palace makes use of the foundations of an ancient odeon, a small Roman theatre adjoining Stadio di Domiziano. Peruzzi developed some very innovative solutions, which in some aspects show his admiration for the monuments of Ancient Rome (i.e. the Doric columns of the portico) and in other details (i.e. the small windows, which you can see in the image used as background for this page) anticipate the future Baroque predilection for curved lines. The fašade of the palace was cleaned in 2002.

Statues and ceiling of the entrance hall: (left) ancient copy of the Doryphoros by Polykleitos; (centre) coat of arms of the Massimo; (right) Renaissance statue imitating the ancient ones

Today the family name is Massimo rather than Massimi; Prince Stefano Massimo is half British, as his mother was British actress Dawn Addams. The Massimo claimed to descend from Fabius Maximus Cunctator, a Roman commander during the Second Punic War; in turn the Fabii claimed to descend from Hercules, so the Massimo decorated the ceiling of their entrance hall with an infant Hercules strangling the snakes Hera sent to kill him.

Detail of the ceiling portraying infant Hercules (on a lion's skin) killing two snakes

Every year on March 16 the palace is open to the public in memory of a miracle by St. Philip Neri, who brought back to life a young member of the family for a short time.

Palazzo di Pirro

Palazzo di Pirro (yellow building) and another house of the Massimo (pink building)

Palazzo di Pirro is one of several adjoining buildings belonging to the Massimo; it was named after a gigantic statue of Mars, which once stood in its courtyard. The statue was thought to represent Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus who in 282-275 BC fought against the Romans. It is now at Musei Capitolini (you may wish to see it - external link).
Palazzo di Pirro was designed at the same time as Palazzo alle Colonne by Giovanni Mangone, a pupil of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.

Palazzo Istoriato

(left) Fašade and a reconstructed column thought to have belonged to the odeon; (right) a detail of the graffito painting portraying Judith putting the head of Holofernes into a bag

Palazzo Istoriato (decorated with figures) was not affected by the Sack of Rome; it was painted in 1523 by a pupil of Daniele da Volterra on the occasion of the marriage of a member of the Massimo family; the scenes depict episodes of the Old and of the New Testament.

S. Pantaleo

(left) Fašade; (right-above) detail of its decoration; (right-below) detail of the ceiling by Filippo Gherardi

The church was entirely rebuilt in 1680 by Giovanni Antonio De Rossi, but the fašade was added in 1805 by Giuseppe Valadier at the expense of the Torlonia family; the interior has a fine illusionistic ceiling (more on this topic) by Filippo Gherardi.
St. Pantaleon was a fourth century martyr who was the physician to Emperor Galerius.

Detail of the ceiling

Palazzo Braschi

(left) Fašade; (right) heraldic symbol of Pope Pius VI

In 1790 Pope Pius VI Braschi bought Palazzo Santobono for his family; the palace was built in the XVth century by the Orsini; in the following century Antonio da Sangallo designed a beautiful loggia on the side towards Piazza Navona; at a later time it was acquired by the Caracciolo di Santobono, a Neapolitan family.
The Braschi had the building entirely redesigned by Cosimo Morelli in a neo-Renaissance style which was imitated in many of the late XIXth century buildings along Corso Vittorio. The street to the right of Palazzo Braschi leads to Piazza Navona, while that to the left leads to Piazza di Pasquino. In 1871 the palace was bought by the Italian State; today it houses the (Historical) Museum of Rome.

(left) Courtyard; (right) view towards Piazza Navona

Farnesina ai Baullari

(left) Eastern fašade (original) and in the inset detail of the decoration; (right) detail of the loggia

Farnesina ai Baullari means (small) Farnese palace at the Baullari (trunk makers) street, but the reference to the Farnese is wrong as the building belonged to Monsignor Thomas le Roy, a Breton prelate, who added the fleurs-de-lis of the French royal family to his heraldic symbols (in 1532 the Duchy of Brittany was absorbed into the Kingdom of France). The presence of these flowers in the decoration of the palace led to assuming it belonged to the Farnese, whose heraldic symbols were the fleurs-de-lis too (you may wish to see them in nearby Palazzo Farnese); it was built in 1522 and there is still uncertainty about the architects who designed it: for some time it was attributed to Michelangelo, but today it is thought to be a work either by Antonio da Sangallo or by Baldassarre Peruzzi.
The palace was impacted by the opening of Corso Vittorio and a new fašade was built on that side, while the original main entrance is in the rear alley. The small but very elegant loggia is original too, while the steps leading to the building are a modern addition required by the new level of the street.

Palazzi di Girolamo e di Ceccolo Pichi

Palazzo di Girolamo Pichi: (left) modern fašade; (right) window with the heraldic symbol of the Pichi (also in the inset)

The etching by Vasi shows to the left a large palace which was modified and reduced in size by the opening of Corso Vittorio: by walking in a rear alley one can see its remaining original parts which were built towards the end of the XVth century. Picchio in Italian means woodpecker and this explains why woodpeckers decorate the old windows and a portal (now inside the modern part of the building).

(above) Lintel of the portal; (below) lintel of the window

Ceccolo Pichi, father of Girolamo, had a less imposing house in the square behind the palace of his son. The building was modified in the XIXth century, but the portal retains a fine Renaissance relief.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Chiesa di s. Pantaleo
Fra questa giÓ antica parrocchiale fondata nel 1316. da Onorio III. e vi stavano alcuni Preti Inglesi; essendo poi nel 1621. conceduta al B. Giuseppe Calasanzio fondatore de' Chierici regolari delle Scuole pie, eresse nel vicino casamento il suo collegio, e poi rinnov˛ la chiesa col disegno di Antonio de' Rossi; fra le pitture evvi il Santo martire dipinto dal Cav. Calabrese, e quelle intorno all'immagine della ss. Vergine sono della scuola del P. Pozzi Gesuita.
Palazzo Massimi
Dopo la detta chiesa siegue il palazzo dell' antichissima famiglia Massimi, eretto col disegno di Baldassare Peruzzi Senese, ed Ŕ degno di osservazione particolare, per il portico in linea curva ornato di colonne, e nicchioni ben adattate, che pare opera antica, e fa nobile prospetto nella strada papale, ed ancora per li tre cortili distribuiti con carattere grandioso, sebbene in poco sito, ornati di colonne, statue; bassirilievi antichi, e fontane, e vi si vedono alcuni capitelli di singolare bellezza non messi in opera. Ed Ŕ finalmente sopra ogni altro notabile, che nelle case contigue verso la chiesa di s. Andrea della Valle, possedute giÓ da Pietro Massimi l'anno 1455. sotto Niccol˛ V. fu per la prima volta eretta la stampa de' caratteri ritrovata da Corrado Suveynheyn, e Arnoldo Pannatriz entrambi Tedeschi, e i primi libri, che vi si stampassero, furono il s. Agostino della CittÓ di Dio, e Lattanzio Firmiano: con che daremo fine a questa quarta giornata, che non Ŕ stata di poca fatica a me, ed al mio Lettore.
Nel prospetto posteriore di questo palazzo si vedemo delle pitture di chiaro, e scuro, le quali sono opere di Daniele da Volterra.
...Mancherei troppo al mio dovere ... se altresý non accennassi la bellezza dell'architettura, che si vede in un palazzino quý incontro detto la Farnesina, creduto benchŔ vanamente per casa del Buonarroti.

Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo Marescotti

You have completed Day 4 itinerary! Move to Day 5.
Next step in your tour of Rione Parione: Palazzo della Cancelleria