ROMAN ITINERARIES – ST. EUSTACE DISTRICT – ITINERARY 32
ST. EUSTACE DISTRICT – ITINERARY 32
To start the St. Eustace District Itinerary 32, take Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, a street born after 1881 and that crosses several different districts of Rome, built to connect the Termini Station to St. Peter’s Basilica, and then stop yourselves in St. Andrew of the Valley Square.
Piazza di Sant’Andrea della Valle – Piazza Vidoni – Via del Sudario – Via del Monte della Farina – Via dei Baullari – Via di Torre Argentina – Largo Arenula – Via di Sant’Anna – Via dei Chiodaroli – Via dei Chiavari – Largo del Pallaro – Via dei Giubbonari – Piazza Benedetto Cairoli – Via di Santa Maria del Pianto – Via di Torre Argentina
THE ST. ANDREW OF THE VALLEY’S SQUARE
The creation of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II coincided with a real devastation of the papal city, through the destruction of important buildings and above all because of the breaking of the existing balance between main and secondary roads.
The square, which today is particularly spacious, until the 19th Century was gathered and closed in on itself, dominated by the high church of the same name. The toponym “valley” alludes to the vast depression of the area, which extended from the Church of St. Andrew to that of St. Eustace: in this depression tended to form a large pond through the influx of water from the Quirinale and Pincio. In reality, experts do not agree on the origin of the name of the Della Valle family, who always had possessions in this square: according to some, the church and the square took the name of Cardinal Andrea Della Valle, while according to others the toponym derives from a family of Spanish origin, descending from Pedro de Lavalle, who moved to Italy in the 14th Century. Between the two hypotheses, it is not easy to understand which is the most reliable.
THE DELLA VALLE PALACE
The Della Valle Palace was built around 1520 by the sculptor and architect Lorenzo Lotti, known as Lorenzetto, on behalf of Andrea Della Valle, appointed cardinal in 1517 by Leo X. The harmonious but narrow building had an irregular, slightly curvilinear course, having to adapt itself to the ancient Via Papalis: for this reason the prospectus on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II is now slightly curved. In the first decades of its existence, the Della Valle Palace must have been of great attraction, with its roof garden and the myriad of ancient statues purchased by the owners who loved to surround themselves with beautiful things.
The palace has three distinct floors, with the windows on the second floor marked by the name of Cardinal Andrea Della Valle, which also stands out on the main door at number 101. Cross the hallway and enter the beautiful courtyard, decorated laterally by five arches supported by four Doric granite columns, in a harmonious perspective of 16th century style, highlighted by twelve medallions with variously colored marble backgrounds.
The cardinal apartment is located on the second floor and is frescoed in the vault and walls. Noteworthy is the antechamber with coffered ceiling and figures of Sybils; the hall with the coat of arms of the Della Valle family in the center of the coffered ceiling is frescoed with “figures of warriors and open windows on landscapes with ruins“. In some rooms, if open, you will notice a curious heraldic coat of arms, representing a black buffalo head with a ring at the nostrils and the motto ORDO: this happens because the Della Valle family extinguished in the Del Bufalo’s one.
The large Square of St. Andrew of the Valley has at its center, since 1957, the fountain created by Carlo Maderno and placed by him in 1614 in the Scossacavalli Square inside the Borgo District: however, this square was demolished in 1937 for the opening of Via della Conciliazione. The fountain has a mistylinear basin that contains in the center a shaft with eagles and dragons, heraldic elements of the coat of arms of Pope Paul V, member of the Borghese family, while the basin (gone lost in transport) was rebuilt in concrete.
THE CHURCH OF ST. ANDREW OF THE VALLEY
The ancient square, which was named Siena Square by the palace of the Piccolomini family from Siena that stood here, opened in front of the small Church of St. Sebastian, which was demolished by Pope Sixtus V: in its place rose the Church of St. Andrew, on land donated by the Piccolomini family to the religious order of the Theatines.
The project was drawn up in 1591 by the architects Giovan Francesco Grimaldi and Giacomo Della Porta, but the church was built thanks to the work of Carlo Maderno (who built the dome, one of the largest in Rome, in 1625) and Carlo Rainaldi (who created the façade). The façade, divided into two orders by a cornice, was to be surmounted by two angular angels, but only one was placed on the left pediment of it, with a wing attached to the wall, almost to support the church. The traditional story states that the sculptor Ercole Ferrata did not want to sculpt the second angel, since the first one was little appreciated by Pope Alexander VII. “If the Pope wants the other one too, he should do it by himself!” threatened the artist.
The lower order of the façade is divided by pairs of columns with Corinthian capitals between which the portal opens with the figures of “Hope” and “Prudence“, works of Giacomo Antonio Fancelli at the sides of the Peretti family coat of arms, since Cardinal Alessandro Peretti Montalto, nephew of Pope Sixtus V, financed most of the construction of the church. In the niches of the façade you can see the statues of St. Gaetano, St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Sebastian and St. Andrew Avellino, while on the tympanum there is the coat of arms of Pope Alexander VII.
THE INTERIOR DECORATIONS
Inside, the church is an exceptional museum for the period of the Counter-Reformation and the birth of Baroque. There are splendid sculptures by Domenico Guidi and Antonio Raggi, and admirable side chapels, such as the Lancellotti Chapel (the first on the right) made by Carlo Fontana, or the Barberini Chapel (the first on the left) on whose creation Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini also worked.
In the last span of the nave are the funeral monuments of Popes Pius II and Pius III, transferred in the 16th Century to this church from the ancient St. Peter’s Basilica. Two further side chapels overlook the large apse, frescoed by Mattia Preti with the triptych Crucifixion of St. Andrew, Martyrdom of St. Andrew and Burial of St. Andrew.
The most artistically relevant work is the pictorial decoration of the vault and the dome, made by two great artists of the 17th Century, Giovanni Lanfranco and Domenichino: these two painters had a heated rivalry, and it is said that so much so that Domenichino accused Lanfranco of having pushed him from a scaffolding, after which he fled to Naples. Giovanni Lanfranco painted the dome with the splendid and whirling Assumption of the Virgin, while Domenichino painted the pendentives of the dome with the Four Evangelists.
To admire additional works of these two incredible artists ot the Baroque age, you could decide to join the Borghese Gallery Tour by Rome Guides, where you’ll have the chance to compare their styles looking at the paintings placed in the same room.
THE ABBOT LUIGI
On the left side of the church, in the Vidoni Square, there is a togata Roman statue condemned to various “peregrinations” and to lose his head continuously: it is the so-called Abbot Luigi. We do not know who was this Luigi, whose name (especially in the dialectal form Giggi) is very common in Rome: according to some scholars, Abbot Luigi was a sacristan of the nearby Church of the Holy Shroud, ridiculous, clumsy and very similar to the statue.
This statue, since the Renaissance, is part of the Congregation of the Arguti, a small group that includes the so-called “talking statues” (Madama Lucrezia, Pasquino, Marforio, the Baboon and the Porter). In fact, as on the basis of Pasquino were placed the epigrams written by citizens against cardinals or political personalities, so was the statue of Abbot Louis: it was found in the foundations of the Vidoni Palace, and was initially walled in a niche in the outer wall of the palace itself. In 1888, however, at the behest of the new owner of the Vidoni Palace, Prince Bandini, eager to remove it from the continuous mutilation of vandals, it was placed inside the palace at the foot of the staircase. After having been moved to the courtyard of the Chigi Palace in the Colonna Square, in 1924 it was finally returned to its place of origin, at the insistent request of the Roman people.
In reality, Abbot Luigi is the object of a specific vandalism, which has been constantly repeated for years: the cutting of the head. This gesture, which has been repeated at least eight times since 1932, provides that the City of Rome, having other marble heads lying in its warehouses, replace the head of the statue with a new one, which after a few years is punctually stolen. For the Roman people, this statue that changes face from time to time perfectly symbolizes the typical ability of politicians, able to change face and skin like chameleons.
THE VIDONI PALACE
Vidoni Square took this name from Cardinal Pietro Vidoni, who lived in the Caffarelli Palace (later called Vidoni). The building, restored by Francesco Settimi in the 19th Century after the opening of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, should have been built by Lorenzo Lotti known as Lorenzetto: in the 16th Century courtyard with arches, you can admire the fountain with a Christian sarcophagus lid and cherubs, while inside eight rooms present paintings, frescoes and heraldic coats of arms.
Next to the Caffarelli-Vidoni Palace is the Lavaggi-Pacelli Palace, designed by Gaetano Koch in 1888, which houses the Tiziano Hotel.
THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SHROUD
Go along the last part of the block and enter Via del Sudario, which takes its name from the church that was built by the Piedmontese Company, gathered in Rome in 1537 inside the Confraternity of the Holy Shroud, the funeral cloth in which the body of Jesus was wrapped and which today is preserved in Turin. Rebuilt in 1684 by Carlo Rainaldi, the church was literally devastated by the French in 1798, who reduced it to a stable and warehouse. Once again restored in 1869 by Giacomo Monaldi, it passed under the patronage of the Royal House of Savoy.
The 17th Century façade by Carlo Rainaldi is in two orders, with the central door having a broken tympanum surmounted by a window with the Savoy coat of arms held by lions. The interior houses the figures of five blessed of the House of Savoy, the works of Gian Domenico Cerrini (XVII century) and Cesare Maccari (XIX century). Above the high altar there is a stucco work by Antonio Raggi reproducing a Glory of Angels with the Eternal Father, inside which there is a reproduction of the Holy Shroud in original size.
THE BURCARDO’S HOUSE
Via del Sudario is also a destination for visitors to access, at number 44, the Burcardo’s House (Italianisation of the surname Burckardt).
Johannes Burckardt, master of ceremonies of Pope Alexander VI, Bishop of Orte and writer of several treatises on religious ceremonial, became very famous thanks to the editorial staff of the Liber Notarum, the diary he wrote from 1484 to 1506, noting details about the life of the papal court and which became a valuable source of information for historians.
In Rome, Burckardt is known for another reason. He was born in Strasbourg, whose Latin name is Argentoratum: for this reason (as well as for the fact that he loved to be called episcopus argentinus), since the house he had built in 1503 incorporated a tower and was high and narrow, it was called the Argentine Tower.
The building is an example of Nordic Gothic, with very thin columns on the sides of the windows and the characteristic ornamentation of the portal that ideally transport us to the 15th and 16th Century buildings in the Rhineland and Alsace. Unfortunately, in 1730 Duke Giuseppe Cesarini Sforza started the construction of the Argentine Theater on a project by Girolamo Theodoli: a part of the Burcardo’s House was demolished to make room for the new building, while the rest of the building, including the tower, was used as a service area for the theater.
Currently the Burcardo’s House hosts the Library and the Theatre Museum of the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers, a collection of ancient puppets and the representation, through lively statues, of the masks of the Commedia dell’Arte. If you want to visit it, you should call directly the Museum: here the contacts.
Take now the long Via del Monte della Farina, whose toponym could perhaps be explained by the ancient presence of a mill nearby, and skirt on the right the Monastery of the Theatines, built in 1602 by Giuseppe Calcagni with the revision of Girolamo Rainaldi.
Then follows a large palace, rebuilt in 1893, on which you can read that there, where the stores were, there had been the Curia of Pompey in which Caius Julius Caesar was killed.
Cross Via dei Barbieri, whose name reminds us of the University of Barbers (dating back to 1443): at that time barbers did not limit themselves to cutting hair and beards, but if necessary they transformed themselves into phlebotomes, toothpickers and experts in wound dressings, so much so that the red and blue spiral sign, still today placed at the store of some barbers, indicates the venous and arterial circulation of blood. The barbers built a small church here, dedicated to the medical Saints Cosmas and Damian, but it was deconsecrated in 1870, before the Archconfraternity of Jesus Nazarene reconsecrated it. Inside the vault is decorated with cherub heads and shells and shows Saints Cosmas and Damian, while in the church there is also a copy of the Black Virgin, whose original is kept in Czestochowa in Poland.
Parallel to Via dei Barbieri there is Via di Sant’Anna, which of course takes its name from the Saint to whom a church was dedicated, demolished in 1887, where according to tradition a ring believed to belong to St. Anne, the mother of Our Lady and the patroness of pregnant women, was kept. Attached to the church there was a monastery, in which Vittoria Colonna, a dear friend of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s, retired for monastic life.
Taking Via del Monte della Farina again, now take Vicolo dei Chiodaroli, which owes its name to the nail makers, and arrive in the long Via dei Chiavari, the key makers.
As you walk along this street, you will smile at the thought of how many names of the streets of Rome are linked to craft stores, almost as if in the Rome of a few centuries ago there was nothing but work. Actually, in addition to drinking in taverns and outdoor games (first of all the pallacorda, a sort of ancestor of tennis), the Romans enjoyed the game of Lotto, a sort of lottery with a double organization, the official one managed by the government and the underground one managed by the “pallaro“. The “pallaro” was a man who collected the bets and, in one day and in a fixed place, he drew five numbered balls among the ninety closed in a container, declaring winners those who had those numbers. In 1780 this kind of illegal lottery was abolished, but still today there is Largo del Pallaro, the small square where this extraction was made.
Leave the Satyrs’ Square on the left (which, as you know, belongs to the Parione District) and take Via dei Giubbonari, which we talked about in the previous Itineraries and which took its name from the stores selling jackets or cloaks. Observe the numbers 107 and 109, with the two 18th Century doors decorated with volutes, masks and shells, and enter Benedict Cairoli Square, patriot and statesman (1825-1889), who lived here and participated in the Expedition of the One Thousand with Garibaldi.
THE CHURCH OF ST. CHARLES AT THE CATINARI
In the square stands the huge Church of St. Charles at the Catinari. The Barnabite Fathers, in choosing the best location for their church, opted for the small Church of St. Blaise of the Ring, located on Via del Monte della Farina and so called because the remains of the Saint were closed in a crystal with a ring shaped silver circle.
In the XVI Century only the Barnabites tried to expand, but they clashed with the same wish of the Theatine Fathers, who were going to build the Church of St. Andrew of the Valley. The quarrel finally managed to recompose itself in 1611 and the construction of the new church of the Barnabites, dedicated to St. Blaise and St. Charles Borromeo, was entrusted to the architect Rosato Rosati, who however was not able to complete it, because the nuns of the nearby convent of St. Anne did not want the apse to be built for fear of damage to their convent.
Also this second controversy was resolved in 1627, provided that the first chapel built in the church was dedicated to St. Anne; only after that, the architect Giovan Battista Soria could build the façade between 1636 and 1638. After a first restoration in the 18th Century, in the 19th Century the church was renovated by the architect Virginio Vespignani.
St. Charles at the Catinari is an important sacred building that perfectly represents the transition between the late Renaissance and the Baroque: the massive quadrilateral serves as a support for the great dome, the fourth in height and size in the sky of Rome. The façade consists of two orders, each one divided by eight pilasters with Corinthian capitals, and has above the central portal the coat of arms of Cardinal Leni consisting of three sticks, whose coat of arms is repeated in the upper tympanum.
THE INTERIOR DECORATIONS
The interior is in the shape of a slightly elongated Greek cross, with the apse and the tribune, and has on the side chapels and large pillars with Corinthian capitals supporting a rich trabeation: among them stands out the third chapel on the right, dedicated to St. Cecilia, entirely decorated at the end of the 17th Century by Antonio Gherardi.
The dome and the apse reproduce the furious competition (previously seen in the Church of St. Andrew of the Valley) between Domenichino who painted the Cardinal Virtues in the pendentives of the dome and Giovanni Lanfranco with his St. Charles ascending to heaven. The altarpiece of the high altar, depicting St. Charles Borromeo carrying in procession the Holy Nail of the Cross of Jesus during the plague of Milan is an elegant masterpiece by Pietro Berrettini from Cortona (1650).
The sacristy is also decorated with works of the highest value: among them, the bronze Crucifix by sculptor Alessandro Algardi, the Ecce Homo by Cavalier d’Arpino and the Death of St. Anne by Andrea Sacchi, all made between the 16th and 17th centuries.
THE ARGENTINE THEATER
Take Via Arenula and reach the so-called Sacred Area of Argentine Square to take a fleeting glance at the remains of the four temples of the Republican age right in front of the Theatre, which re-emerged from the underground around 1929: neglect them for the time being, as they are included within the Pigna District, the next one we will examine.
On the area where you are located extended a vast property of the Cesarini family, on part of which was erected in 1731, at the behest of Duke Giuseppe Sforza Cesarini, the Argentine Theater on a project by Girolamo Theodoli, with the help of master builder Paolo Cappelletti. The interior of the theater was made of wood, except for the walls and the masonry stairs, and it had the shape of a horseshoe to improve the acoustics: at the Louvre Museum there is still today a painting of the 18th Century by Giovanni Paolo Pannini that represents the interior of the theater during the performance of a play.
The neoclassical façade, with the two figures of Fame and on the pediment the dedication “To the arts of Tersicore, Melpomene and Talia” (Muses of dance, tragedy, comedy), was built in 1826 by Pietro Holl after the Cesarini family gave the theater in emphyteusis to Pietro Cartoni, who enriched it with a vestibule and a hall.
Ten years later, Pietro Camporese the Younger transformed some parts of the interior into masonry and Pietro Gagliardi created the curtain. When in 1843 the theater passed from the Cesarini family to the Torlonia, it was reinforced in 1861 by Nicola Carnevali, who also installed the gas lighting; Francesco Grandi enriched the ceiling with medallions with pagan gods, and Cesare Fracassini painted the new curtain with the scene of “Numa Pompilio and the Nymph Egeria“.
In 1869 the Municipality of Rome bought the theater from the Torlonia family and commissioned the architect Gioacchino Ersoch to transform and decorate it in 1887: the electric lighting was set up, while the curtain was changed with another one by Cesare Fracassini representing “Apollo granting the chariot to his son Phaethon“. In the 20th Century other works were carried out by Cesare Bazzani, Vittorio Grassi and Marcello Piacentini, who made serious changes to the structures.
Since the first inauguration in 1732, prose shows, concerts and operas have been performed in the theater. Among the major authors, whose operas have been performed, we remember Cimarosa, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, Bizet, Mascagni, Puccini, Wagner, Goldoni, D’Annunzio, Pirandello, Ibsen and Eduardo De Filippo.