The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Arco dei Pantani
S. Maria Annunziata and Madonna del Buon Consiglio
Casa dei Cavalieri di Rodi and S. Giovanni Battista
Palazzo del Marchese del Grillo
Giuseppe Vasi included this 1758 plate in the book covering the nunneries of Rome, but he depicted only the bell tower of S. Maria Annunziata, the church of a Dominican nunnery that gives the title to the plate. The main objective of the view was to show Palazzo del Marchese del Grillo and the impressive wall of peperino blocks
which surrounded the northern side of Foro di Nerva (more correctly Foro di Augusto). By doing this he increased the chances of selling many copies of the plate which could be purchased as an individual item.
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Ruins of Foro di Nerva; 2) Bell tower of the nunnery; 3) Arco dei Pantani; 4) Palazzo del Marchese del Grillo.
The view in January 2009
Vasi did not
hesitate to enlarge the small street flanking the walls to better show Palazzo del Grillo.
In 1926, in the frame of extensive excavations at Foro di Augusto, the nunnery, the church and the bell tower were pulled down and the passage through Arco dei Pantani was closed.
The house with the sacred image in the lower right corner of the plate was modified in the XIXth century.
The end wall of Foro di Augusto seen from the adjoining Foro di Nerva aka Foro Transitorio
(left) Arco dei Pantani; (right) capitals of Tempio di Marte Ultore seen from Via Baccina, a street which links Piazza alli Monti to Arco dei Pantani and which runs parallel to the ancient "Argiletum"
In antiquity this arch was the northern entrance to Foro di Augusto. Vasi calls it Arco dei Pantani (swamps) because the area used to be flooded owing to the lack of maintenance of the draining system which was developed in the early stages of the expansion of Ancient Rome. The columns belong to a temple built by Emperor Augustus to fulfil a vow he made during his war against Caesar's murderers. It was dedicated to Mars the Avenger. You may wish to see the arch in a 1905 painting by Alberto Pisa and in a 1909 watercolour by Yoshio Markino.
(left-above) XVIIth century relief above the entrance to the church; (right-above) coat of arms of Pope Sixtus IV which was
in Via Alessandrina; (below) property tablet on a nearby building which belonged to the nunnery
In 1566 Pope Pius V assigned a large building which incorporated ancient Roman structures to an institution run by Dominican nuns which was aimed at assisting Jewish women who converted to the Christian faith. Because the number of conversions was very low the scope of the institution was enlarged to cover in general all young women in need of help (whom received a small dowry as shown in the property tablet). The building retains several coats of arms which celebrate changes made during the XVth century when it belonged entirely to the Knights of Rhodes.
(left) Window with the coat of arms of Pope Paul II; (centre) sacred image in the location shown in the plate;
(right) sacred image inside Cappella della Madonna del Buon Consiglio (alla salita del Grillo), a small church by the same name is not far away
The plate shows in the right lower corner an elaborate madonnella. The painting is still there, but the baroque frame is lost. The inscription was added in 1797 and it granted 200 days of indulgence to those who devoutly prayed. It is one of several sacred images which wept or moved the eyes when Napoleon invaded the Papal State (see another one at Palazzo Mattei Paganica). In the XIXth century a second sacred image (a copy of that at S. Maria del Buon Consiglio at Genazzano) was placed inside a small chapel on the right side of the street leading to Palazzo del Grillo.
(left) Casa dei Cavalieri di Rodi; (right) entrance inside an ancient Roman wall
In 1466 Pope Paul II assigned a sort of patronage over the Order of the Knights of Rhodes to Cardinal Marco Barbo, one of his relatives. The Cardinal promoted an extensive modernization of a property of the Order at Foro di Augusto (see the side of the building overlooking the ancient ruins). The windows are very similar to those of Palazzo Venezia which was being completed by Cardinal Barbo. At the end of the XVIth century the Order chose to relocate to another property on the Aventine hill.
In 1946 the part of the building which was not pulled down because of the excavations was assigned again to the Order (Knights of Malta after the 1522 loss of Rhodes). In addition to these two sites the Order owns a historical palace in Via Condotti.
Interior of the church
One of the halls of the building was turned into a small church (S. Giovanni Battista al Foro di Augusto). Its travertine arches were part of an ancient open courtyard which was closed in the late XVth century to utilize its space as a hospital.
(left) Main entrance; (right) arch linking the palace with the tower
The plate shows two towers which both belonged to the Conti family: the more distant one is now known as Torre delle Milizie, the nearer one in 1675 was sold to the Del Grillo family and it was included in a large complex of buildings. The Conti had a third tower near Foro di Nerva. A few years later the Del Grillo bought the fiefdoms of Trevignano and Anguillara from the Orsini and Monterotondo from the Barberini.
(left) Side entrance; (right) a window
There is uncertainty about the architect who designed the palace; the attribution to Carlo Rainaldi of the design of the two portals is doubtful. The very varied decoration of the windows and of the cornice was completed at a later period (another detail can be seen in the image used as background for this page).
The del Grillo (cricket) are best known for a member of the family who behaved in a very extravagant way and enjoyed playing pranks.
Details of the decoration; you may wish to see other laughing masks in the palaces of Rome
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Dicevasi anticamente quest'Arco transitorio, e le maravigliose colonne di marmo striate si credono
del famoso foro, e basilica di Nerva Imperatore; non già da lui eretti ; poichè non altro, che un
anno visse Imperatore; ma dal Senato al di lui nome furono dedicati, per conservare la memoria
della sua bontà. Sulle ruine di questi fu eretta la chiesa, da prima in onore di s. Basilio, perchè
vi stettero i Monaci di quel Santo, e poi i Cavalieri Templari, ora però vi è sotto il monastero per le
Neofite, che vogliono vivere sotto la regola di s. Domenico; e la chiesa fu dedicata alla
ss. Vergine Annunziata.