All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in March 2010.
S. Bartolomeo all'Isola (Book 5) (Map C3) (Day 5) (View C9) (Rione Ripa)
In the foreground of this etching Giuseppe Vasi shows a gentleman in the act of copying an ancient inscription; in the description Vasi explains that the stone was inside the Franciscan monastery: by using a magnifying glass it is possible to read the first words: Semoni Sanco Deo Fidius. The reason for Vasi's interest in this inscription lies in the belief that an erroneous interpretation of its content led St. Justin Martyr to affirm that a temple was dedicated to Simon Magus on Isola Tiberina.
In 1867 the column in front of the church was hit by a carriage and it fell and broke into many pieces; two years later Pope Pius
IX replaced it with a small monument to Sts. John, Francis, Bartholomew and Paulinus of Nola which was meant to celebrate the beginning of the First Vatican Council.
According to the traditional account in 293 BC a temple to Aesculapius was built on Isola Tiberina on the site where a snake brought from the god's shrine at Epidaurus, hid itself; at that time the Romans were increasing their links with Greece and introducing new gods in their religion.
A church which made use of some structures of the temple was built in ca 1000 by Emperor Otto III to house an arm of St. Adalbert of Prague, his friend and adviser, who died while trying to convert the Baltic Prussians; the church was also dedicated to St. Bartholomew and other martyrs.
The bell tower was built at the beginning of the XIIth century and in the following century the church was embellished with mosaics and a Cosmati pavement.
In 1557 a major flood destroyed one side of the church and its façade with the mosaics; for some time the building was abandoned and only in 1583 it was partially restored (you may wish to see it in a 1588 Guide to Rome). In 1624 S. Bartolomeo all'Isola was almost entirely rebuilt (perhaps by Martino Longhi the Elder). The owners of the floating mills of Isola Tiberina (which can be seen in plate 91) dedicated a chapel of the renovated church to St. Paolinus of Nola, their patron saint. In the XVIIIth century the Cosmati pavement was removed, probably because it was damaged by other floods.
In 1513 Pope Leo X assigned S. Bartolomeo all'Isola to the Franciscan Order. The monastery included some medieval buildings, but its interior was redesigned in the XVIIth century. For a certain period of time the meetings of a brotherhood were held in the monastery. The brotherhood (Confraternita dei Devoti di Gesù al Calvario) took care of burying the bodies of the drowned; its members were known as Sacconi Rossi after the large red habits worn by its members. Every year on All Souls' Day they went in procession to the tip of the island (opposite Ponte Rotto) where they threw a wreath into the river in memory of the drowned whose bodies were never found.
The medieval tower shown above was part of a larger fortification which for a period of time belonged to the Pierleoni, who controlled the passage through the island (see their nearby houses). It was acquired by the Caetani, the family of Pope Boniface VIII. In 1638 the tower became part of the monastery; its side facing the river was embellished with fragments of capitals and reliefs.
According to tradition a medieval church was built on the house were St. Gregory the Great was born; as a matter of fact the ancient walls which have been unearthed under the current building were part of Teatro di Marcello. In 1555 when Pope Paul IV forced the Jews to live inside the Ghetto, S. Gregorio a Ponte Quattro Capi acquired importance because it was located immediately outside one of the two main gates of the Ghetto;
the Jews had to attend masses or to listen to sermons inside the church.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 5: Ponte Quattro Capi
Next step in Day 5 itinerary: Isola Tiberina
Next step in your tour of Rione Ripa: Isola Tiberina