All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com.
Page revised in January 2023.
All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Page revised in January 2023.
Links to this page can be found in Book 4, Map B3, Day 1, View C7, Rione Pigna, Rione Campitelli and Rione Trevi.
The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Palazzo S. Marco (Palazzo Venezia) and Cappella della Beata Vergine
Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II
Palazzo Bolognetti Torlonia (Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali)
Giuseppe Vasi dedicated two etchings to Palazzo S. Marco (better known as Palazzo Venezia), but in both he did not show the building in its entirety; in the view covering Piazza S. Marco (1752) he showed the wing of the palace to the right of the entrance, in this one (1754) that to its left, which is the older one.
The focus of the view is on Palazzetto Venezia and on the tower built by Pope Paul III Farnese on the Capitoline Hill; the bell tower of Palazzo Senatorio can be seen behind Palazzetto Venezia.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 (b/w) map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Palazzo Bolognetti; 2) Torre sul Campidoglio; 3) Strada di Macel de' Corvi; 4) Palazzetto Venezia; 5) Cappella della Beata Vergine. 3) and 4) are shown in other pages. The small map shows also 6) Palazzo Venezia; the dotted line in the map delineates the borders between Rione Pigna (top left quarter), Rione Trevi (top right quarter), Rione Campitelli (lower left quarter) and Rione Monti (lower right quarter). The coloured map shows the same area in 1925.
The view in August 2010
Changes have been quite dramatic; the size of the square is four times what it used to be and it incorporates the area of Palazzetto Venezia which
was pulled down in 1911; it was rebuilt near Basilica di S.
Marco which is situated behind Palazzo Venezia; Cappella della Beata Vergine, the chapel mentioned in the plate, was reassembled inside Palazzo Venezia.
In 1900 Palazzo Bolognetti Torlonia was pulled down and it was replaced by Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali which was built in a rear position.
The entire northern side of the Capitoline Hill was redesigned to make room for a gigantic monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the first King of Italy; Pope Paul III's tower and a major part of Convento di S. Maria in Aracoeli were pulled down.
The view in August 2010 from Via dei Fori Imperiali
(the palace with the covered balcony is Palazzo d'Aste)
In 1932 the opening of Via dei Fori Imperiali led to the demolition of the remaining buildings on the eastern side of Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II.
Fašade; the original fašade had five windows to the left of the central balcony; the first window on the left (below the tower) is modern; it was added when Palazzetto Venezia was pulled down
The construction of Palazzo Venezia was started by Cardinal Pietro Barbo, nephew of Pope Eugenius IV; he was titular cardinal of Basilica di S. Marco and at that time many cardinals used to live near the church they patronized.
In 1464 Cardinal Barbo became Pope Paul II and he decided to continue to live in the palace; he then
started its enlargement to upgrade it to a standard suitable for a pope; the square in front of the building was embellished with two large basins
of Egyptian granite from Terme di Caracalla (they were relocated to Piazza Farnese
in the XVIth century).
At the time of Pope Paul II carnival was celebrated with various events including horse races at Monte Testaccio; the Pope moved the races to Via Lata and he set their arrival point in front of his palace. This decision had a great influence on the development of the area, which was rather peripheral; Via Lata became known as Via del Corso (It. corsa means race) and many important families built their palaces along the street to watch the races and the other events of the Roman carnival (read Charles Dickens description of the Roman carnival a few years before the races were abolished).
(left) Entrance; (centre) balcony; (right) small inscription celebrating Niccol˛ Duodo, Venetian ambassador in 1713-1720, who restored the building and turned the central window into a balcony
Palazzo Venezia continued to be a papal residence until 1564 when Pope Pius IV presented a part of the palace to the Republic of Venice, because Pope Paul II was of Venetian origin;
one section of the building became the residence of the Venetian ambassadors, the other one that of the titular cardinals of the adjoining basilica.
With the 1797 fall of the Republic of Venice, Palazzo Venezia became a property of the Austrian Empire and the residence of its ambassadors; in 1916 during WWI it was confiscated and in 1929 it became the office of Benito Mussolini, the then Prime Minister; he used to make his speeches from the small balcony above the entrance, the last one on May 5, 1943.
Pope Paul II built the palace of St. Mark with the spoils of the temple of Claudius on the Caelian, of the Coliseum, of a temple near S. Maria in Cosmedin, of the tombs of the Via Flaminia, of the Septa Julia, and of an unknown travertine building (the Gaianum ?) in the vineyard of the banker Tommaso Spinelli.
Rodolfo Lanciani - The destruction of ancient Rome - 1899
The design of the travertine portico and gallery of the courtyard is identical to that of the fašade of the Basilica; it is based on that of Colosseo, with the use of the Doric and Ionic orders and it was influenced by the works and architecture treatises by Leon Battista Alberti.
"The Marriage of the Sea", a fountain in the courtyard by Carlo Monaldi
In the XVIth century the marriage of the sea was the carefully orchestrated apogee of the Venetian state liturgy. (..) When the party reached the mouth of the lagoon, the place where a break in the Lido opened Venice to the Adriatic, the actual marriage ceremony took place. (..) The doge dropped his gold ring overboard saying "We espouse thee, O sea, as a sign of true and perpetual dominion".
Edward Muir - Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice - 1981.
In 1730 a fountain depicting a personification of Venice standing on two shells, similar to Bernini's Fontana del Tritone, and dropping a ring into the sea was made by Carlo Monaldi, a sculptor who worked also at the decoration of the Basilica.
Cappella della Beata Vergine (aka Cappella della Madonna delle Grazie): (left) altar; (right) gilded ceiling with a round relief portraying St. Mark
Cappella della Beata Vergine was reassembled inside Palazzo Venezia. Its altar was designed by Giovan Battista Contini and its fine ceiling was paid for by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, nephew of Pope Alexander VIII, who belonged to a Venetian family. They are dated late XVIIth/early XVIIIth century.
(above-left) Coat of arms and inscription stating that in 1455 Cardinal Pietro Barbo started the construction of the palace; (above-right) detail of a window with the name of the pope (another coat of arms of Cardinal Barbo is shown in the image used as background for this page); (below-left) papal coat of arms above the entrance; (below-right) Venetian winged lion with a paw above an Ottoman crescent moon
Today the palace houses temporary exhibitions and a permanent museum of small objects.
Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (Altare della Patria) (photo taken on June 19, 2010 at 6:30 pm)
After the 1870 annexation of Rome to the Kingdom of Italy, the new government decided that la Terza Roma (*) should be developed in the area surrounding Stazione Termini, the Central Railway Station; Via Nazionale, a new street which started near
S. Maria degli Angeli was opened to link that area with the rest of the city. In 1882 the commission in charge of selecting a project for a monument to King Victor Emmanuel II, decided to build it at the beginning of Via Nazionale.
This location would not have interfered with the urban layout of the centre of Rome,
but the decision was reversed and it was decided to show a visible sign of the new historical phase in the very heart of Papal Rome: Piazza Venezia.
(*) Terza Roma (Third Rome) was the name given to Rome in many poems and inscriptions celebrating il Risorgimento (the historical process which led to the Unification of Italy); the assumption behind this appellation is that Ancient Rome was the first and Renaissance Rome the second (in world history Second Rome and Third Rome are used with reference to Constantinople and Moscow).
Museo di Roma a Palazzo Braschi: inauguration of the Monument on June 4, 1911
National undertakings in Rome are peculiarly
difficult and onerous, because they must be commensurate with the scale of antiquity. In a city surviving
amid the colossal ruins of the past it would be grotesque to build anything of the modest modern dimensions such as would satisfy the eye in other capitals.
William Dean Howells - Roman Holidays and Others - 1908
The monument was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi; the construction started in 1885 and the monument was inaugurated in 1911 on the 50th anniversary of the Italian Kingdom; a lobbying activity by Giuseppe Zanardelli, a politician from Brescia, led to the use of botticino, a very white marble which was mined in Zanardelli's constituency; because of this choice and of its excessive size the monument is generally regarded as an eyesore in the Roman context; it stands out in all views of Rome with the exception of that from its top terrace.
Western side; see a view of its eastern side and of S. Maria in Aracoeli
At the time of its inauguration the decoration of the Monument was not yet completed. The bronze chariots were placed at its top only in 1930. In that same year the opening of Via del Mare, a new road linking the centre of Rome with the southern neighbourhoods and eventually with Lido di Ostia, led to the demolition of several blocks of buildings to the west of the Monument.
(left) Pensiero (Thought) by Giulio Monteverde and behind it Forza (Strength) by Augusto Rivalta; (centre) Azione (Action) by Francesco Jerace; (right) Diritto (Law) by Ettore Ximenes
Although the Monument was dedicated to King Victor Emmanuel II, its decoration is not a straightforward celebration of the monarchy. During the XIXth century many Italians were convinced that the unity of the country could only be achieved by the foundation of a Republic. In 1858 Giuseppe Mazzini, the leader of the Republican "party", founded (in London) Pensiero e Azione (Thought and Action), a journal which fostered the unity of Italy by promoting the education of the people and by inciting them to take their destiny in their own hands. Eventually many supporters of Mazzini accepted political positions in the Kingdom of Italy. The fact that two large bronze groups "depicted" Thought and Action was a tribute to Mazzini's ideals.
(left) Bronze statue of the King by Emilio Chiaradia (you may wish to see that of German Emperor William I at Koblenz at the junction between the rivers Mosel and Rhine); (right) marble statue by Angelo Zanelli. It portrays a personification of Rome holding Palladion, a lost wooden image of Athena Pallas
King Victor Emmanuel II was buried inside the Pantheon and when the monument to him was completed it was decided not to transfer his body there; in 1921 the monument became the Tomb of the WWI Unknown Soldier (Tomba del Milite Ignoto) and because of this it acquired a new significance; the most important public ceremonies include laying a laurel wreath at the tomb; in official statements the building is now called Altare della Patria.
May 15, 2006: the first act of Mr. Giorgio Napolitano, as newly appointed President of the Italian Republic, was to lay a
laurel wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali and to its right S. Maria di Loreto; (inset) Venetian winged lion from Padua (this site has also a section on the Venetian winged lions in Greece)
The palace was designed in 1680 by Carlo Fontana for the Bolognetti, Princes of Vicovaro; in 1807 it was bought by the Torlonia who lavishly redecorated its interior.
In 1843 Rev. Jeremiah Donovan wrote in Rome Ancient and Modern: The palazzo Torlonia is undergoing such incessant changes, and is, at present, so difficult of access that our description cannot correspond in all particulars with its state of transition.
Palazzo Torlonia was pulled down in 1900. Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali was completed in 1907; it is similar to Palazzo Venezia in size and shape; it was designed by Eugenio Geiringer from Trieste.
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna: (left) Hercules and Lichas by Antonio Canova; (right) detail showing the shirt of Nessus and the terrified face of Lichas
The circle of Signore Torlonia, the banker, (Duke of Bracciano) is so truly European, and so made up of persons from all quarters of the globe, that it would be a libel to call it a Roman house. His hospitality is without bounds, and his attention to British subjects deserves their warmest gratitude. The Duchess di Bracciano holds weekly assemblies, which resemble an English rout. Signore Torlonia is the only Roman gentleman who purchases the works of modern artists. In his superb palace in the Piazza di Venezia, the walls and ceilings are covered with the exquisite designs of Palaggi of Milan, and Camucci; and the grand saloon contains that powerful effort of Canova's genius, which refutes the insidious praise that he should work only for the Graces, his Hercules and Lichas. Signore Torlonia is the founder of his own fortunes; his title is a purchase.
Lady Morgan - Italy - Description and Travel - 1821
(Deianira sent) the shirt, imbued with Nessus's blood, to restore her husband's waning love. Unwittingly, she entrusted what became her future grief, to the servant, Lichas, he not knowing what he had been entrusted with: and the unfortunate woman, ordered him, with persuasive words, to give the present to her husband. Hercules, the hero, took it, without a thought, and put on the shirt of Nessus, soaked in the poison of the Lernean Hydra. (..) Picture him there, in the mountains, in his anger, often groaning, often shouting out, often attempting, again and again, to rid himself of the last of the garment, overturning trees, or stretching his arms out to his native skies. Then he caught sight of the terrified Lichas, cowering in a hollow of the cliff, and pain concentrated all his fury. "Was it not you, Lichas," he said, "who gave me this fatal gift? Are you not the agent of my death?" The man trembled, grew pale with fear, and, timidly, made excuses. While he was speaking, and trying to clasp the hero's knees, Hercules seized him, and, swinging him round three or four times, hurled him, more violently than a catapult bolt, into the Euboean waters. (..) So he, the ancient tradition says, flung by strong arms through the void, bloodless with fright, and devoid of moisture, turned to hard flint. Now, in the Euboean Gulf, a low rock rises out of the depths, and keeps the semblance of a human shape. This sailors are afraid to set foot on, as though it could sense them, and they call it, Lichas.
Ovid - Metamorphoses Book IX - prose translation by A. S. Kline
Museo di Roma a Palazzo Braschi: 1835-1845 decoration of Palazzo Torlonia: the so-called "Alcova Torlonia"
The present duke has shown considerable taste in the recent arrangements and decorations.
Octavian Blewitt - A Handbook for Travellers in Central Italy - Murray 1850
The Torlonia moved some of the works of art which decorated their palace at Piazza Venezia to other properties they had in Rome (e.g. Villa Albani, Villa Torlonia, Palazzo Giraud and Palazzo Nunez Torlonia), but the collection of statues, including that by Canova, was bought by the Italian State. The stucco/fresco decoration testifies to the economical effort made by the Torlonia to improve their social status by having a palace which could compete with those of the noblest Roman families (e.g. nearby Palazzo Colonna).
Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo Panfilio (North side).
Next step in Day 1 itinerary: Palazzo Panfilio (North side).
Next step in your tour of Rione Pigna: Chiesa di S. Marco.
You have completed your tour of Rione Trevi!
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Da' Signori Biganzini fu edificato questo palazzo col disegno del Cav. Antonio Canavari vari Romano; ma poi essendo stato comprato dal Conte Bolognetti, lo ha ultimamente cresciuto il doppio, per˛ dalla parte posteriore verso la piazza de' ss. Apostoli, col disegno di Niccol˛ Giansemoni.
Palazzo di Venezia
La spaziosa piazza in cui termina la strada del Corso, prese il nome dal grandissimo palazzo, che in essa si vede della serenissima Repubblica di Venezia. Fu questo eretto da Paolo II. col disegno mezzo gotico di Giuliano da Majano, e prima che fosse fatto quello sul Quirinale, vi abitarono i Papi in tempo di estate, ed ancora Carlo VIII. Re di Francia quando venne a Roma. Pio IV. Per˛ lo concedŔ a quella Repubblica per residenza de' Suoi Ambasciatori, i quali vi hanno fatto de' riattamenti, specialmente nelle logge del giardino pensile.