Visit Rome following 8 XVIIIth century itineraries XVIIIth century Rome in the 10 Books of Giuseppe Vasi - Le Magnificenze di Roma Antica e Moderna The Grand View of Rome by G. Vasi The Environs of Rome: Frascati, Tivoli, Albano and other small towns near Rome A 1781 map of Rome by G. Vasi An 1852 map of Rome by P. Letarouilly Rome seen by a 1905 armchair traveller in the paintings by Alberto Pisa The 14 historical districts of Rome An abridged history of Rome How to spend a peaceful day in Rome Baroque sculptors and their works The coats of arms of the popes in the monuments of Rome Pages on a specific pope Pages complementing the itineraries and the views by Giuseppe Vasi Walks in the Roman countryside and in other towns of Latium following Ferdinand Gregorovius A Directory of links to the Churches of Rome A Directory of links to the Palaces and Villas of Rome A Directory of links to the Other Monuments of Rome A Directory of Baroque Architects with links to their works A Directory of links to Monuments of Ancient Rome A Directory of links to Monuments of Medieval Rome A Directory of links to Monuments of Renaissance A Directory of links to Monuments of the Late Renaissance A list of the most noteworthy Roman Families Directories of fountains, obelisks, museums, etc. Books and guides used for developing this web site An illustrated Glossary of Art Terms Venice and the Levant Roman recollections in Florence A list of Italian towns shown in this web site Venetian Fortresses in Greece Vienna seen by an Italian XVIIIth century traveller A list of foreign towns shown in this web site
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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 January 2010.

To the Italian visitors of my web site

Porto di Ripa Grande (Book 5) (Map C3) (Day 6) (View C11) (Rione Trastevere)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view
Ospizio di S. Michele
S. Maria del Buon Viaggio (and S. Maria della Torre)
Carcere Minorile e Femminile

The Plate (No. 97)

Porto di Ripa Grande

The decision by Romulus to found Rome near the Tiber was to a great extent due to the trade opportunities the river provided: boats of a relatively large size were able to reach the new town from the sea; at the peak of its development the population of Ancient Rome was in the region of 1,000,000; the supply chain was mainly based on goods from the provinces of the empire which reached the harbours of Ostia and Porto at the mouth of the Tiber. They were stocked in large warehouses and then loaded on boats which landed them at the horrea (warehouses) located on the left bank of the river to the south of the Aventine hill.
In the XVIIIth century Rome continued to rely on this trade route, but goods were unloaded on the right bank of the river; the importance of this harbour is testified to by its name Porto di Ripa Grande (great bank) compared to Porto di Ripetta (small bank), the name given to the harbour which received goods from Sabina and Umbria.
Vasi showed Ripa Grande also in plate 98. 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) Ospizio di S. Michele; 2) Main custom house; 3) Dogana del Passo, another custom house; 4) Granaries; 5) Via Portuense; 6) Ruins of Ponte Sublicio; 7) Old custom house. 5) and 6) are shown in detail in other pages.

Small ViewSmall View


The view today
The view in January 2010

In the late XIXth century the Tiber lost its role as a trade route as a consequence of the high walls built to prevent floods and development of the railroad. The custom houses were all demolished to make room for the lungotevere, the street along the Tiber: in 1914 a modern bridge was named Ponte Sublicio. The ruins of the ancient bridge by the same name were blown up to facilitate the flow of the river. The granaries were pulled down or converted into workshops.
Ospizio di S. Michele was enlarged towards the end of the XVIIIth century with the construction of a fifth block to the right of the existing ones; it hides the view of the bell tower of S. Grisogono which Vasi showed to the far right of the plate.

Ospizio di S. Michele

Ospizio di S. Michele
Fašade along the river

According to President de Brosses, a French traveller who visited Rome in 1739, beggars amounted to a quarter of the population; maybe his assessment was not based on accurate research, but certainly pauperism, the state of being poor and relying on charitable assistance for living, was a normal condition for a significant part of the population of Rome. The city attracted poor people from the countryside and the many institutions founded by the popes to tackle pauperism in a way caused its growth.
In 1686 Carlo Tommaso Odescalchi, a relative of Pope Innocent XI, felt that a partial solution could be found in teaching a job to the abandoned male children of the poor; he bought a piece of land near Porto di Ripa Grande and by 1689 a building was completed (probably designed by Mattia de' Rossi); it was located in the second from the left of the five identical blocks which make up today's Ospizio di S. Michele.

(left) Cortile dei Ragazzi; (right) coat of arms of Pope Innocent XII
(left) Cortile dei Ragazzi (courtyard of the boys); (right) coat of arms of Pope Innocent XII

In 1693 Pope Innocent XII bought the charitable institution and commissioned Carlo Fontana the enlargement of the existing building; Fontana added another storey to it and built two identical blocks at its sides; a fourth block was completed by 1714. The new complex housed in separate sections also old men and women and unmarried women. The boys mainly worked in a wool factory, but also a printing press was installed in the premises reserved to them. Fontana built also a large church inside one of the blocks; its bells can be seen from the outside (and are shown in the image used as background for this page).

(left-above) Bust of Pope Clement XI; (left-below) heraldic symbol of the pope; (right) one of the two main entrances
(left-above) Bust of Pope Clement XI; (left-below) heraldic symbol of the pope; (right) one of the two main entrances

Ospizio di S. Michele was the largest charitable institution of Rome until the second half of the XIXth century, when it was no longer thought to be a suitable location for an orphanage. It fell into abandonment in particular after WWII, during which it had been occupied by German and Allied troops. A thorough renovation of the internal setup of Ospizio di S. Michele started in 1973 and at its end, a very large section of it was assigned to Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro, the Italian body in charge of coordinating the restoration of works of art. The wool factory had very large halls for drying the thread; they now are used for handling the restoration of large detached frescoes.

S. Maria del Buon Viaggio

(left) Entrance to the church; (right-above) detail of the window; (right-below) inscription above the entrance
(left) Entrance to the church; (right-above) detail of the window; (right-below) inscription above the entrance

In medieval time a tower of the ancient walls of Rome along the river was turned into the bell tower of S. Maria della Torre, a small church which was used by the sailors who worked at Ripa Grande. It was pulled down by Carlo Fontana when he enlarged Ospizio di S. Michele; a new church for the sailors was built inside the hospice, but with a separate entrance. S. Maria del Buon Viaggio means St. Mary of the Safe Journey; Fontana preferred not to disrupt the design of the new building and for this reason the existence of the church is hardly noticeable; the church has been closed for very many years.

Carcere Minorile e Femminile

(left) entrance; (right) interior
Juvenile prison: (left) entrance; (right) interior

In 1701-04 Carlo Fontana was commissioned by Pope Clement XI the construction of a juvenile prison; the inmates were not necessarily offenders, they could just be boys having shown a rebellious character; the purpose of the institution was to promote their re-education; they worked in the large central hall. The building designed by Fontana is located on the rear of Ospizio di S. Michele and it was seen for a long period as a very advanced example of prison. Today it is occasionally used for exhibitions.

Prison for women: (left) fašade and in the background the Aventine hill; (right) inscription
Prison for women: (left) fašade and in the background S. Anselmo on the Aventine hill; (right) inscription indicating the two categories of women committed to this prison: "mulierum licentiae" (women of ill repute) and "criminibus vindicandis" (law offenders)

In 1734 Pope Clement XII commissioned Ferdinando Fuga the construction of a prison for women; it was located at the southern end of Ospizio di S. Michele opposite Porta Portense.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Ospizio di s. Michele
Sotto Innocenzo XI. ebbe principio questo grande ospizio l'anno 1686. affine di dare ricovero ai poveri fanciulli mendicanti per la CittÓ, e di levarli dall'ozio. Perci˛ vi sono delle botteghe, e maestri per tutte le arti specialmente de' lavori di lana, e di arazzi; evvi ancora lo studio delle lettere, della musica, e del disegno colla stamperia di caratteri, e di rami; e per quelli, che non hanno volontÓ di far bene, vi Ŕ la casa di correzione, con tutte le sorte di gastighi. Clemente XI. accrebbe molto la fabbrica col disegno di Mattia de' Rossi, e di Francesco Fontana, aggiungendovi l'ospizio de' vecchi, ed invalidi dell'uno, e dell'altro sesso, eretto, come diremo, nella giornata seguente, da Sisto V. presso ponte Sisto. E finalmente Clemente XII. vi fece le carceri per le donne insolenti, che meritano la galera, o altra pena per i loro misfatti. Presedono a questo grande ospizio due Cardinali con alcuni nobili Deputati, e una famiglia di religiosi delle scuole Pie vi abita per insegnare a quei fanciulli, non solo le lettere, ma ancora i buoni costumi, ed il santo timor di Dio.
Porta un tal nome quest'ospizio, da una cappella, che quivi era dedicata a s. Michele Arcangelo. Altra cappella fuvvi ancora dedicata alla ss. Vergine, che da' marinari dicevasi del buon Viaggio; prima per˛ dicevasi della Torre, per quella, che quý fatta aveva s. Leone IV. circa l'anno 848. per impedire le scorrerie de' saracini, che spesse volte venivano per fiume a danneggiare la CittÓ. In memoria di ci˛, e per comodo de' marinari fu fatta nel medesimo ospizio una cappella con tre altari, che corrisponde nel gran
Porto di Ripa Grande
Incontro agli antichi navali fu fatto il moderno sbarco delle navi, che vengono dal mare, per maggiore comodo dell'abitato di Roma, oggi disceso buona parte nel basso. Il Pontefice Innocenzo XII. dopo aver fatto ridurre la spiaggia comoda allo sbarco col disegno di Mattia de' Rossi, e di Carlo Fontana, fecevi ancora la Dogana da riporvi le merci che sogliono pagare il dazio, ed il comodo per i ministri.

Next plate in Book 5: Altra Veduta di Ripa Grande
Next step in Day 6 itinerary: Porta Portese