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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 December 2010.

Chiesa di S. Maria del Rosario (Book 7) (Day 8) (View C2)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view (Cappella del SS. Crocifisso)
 S. Maria del Rosario
 Villa Mellini
 S. Lazzaro in Borgo
 Casale Strozzi
 Villa Massimo alla Balduina
 S. Francesco d'Assisi
 Fontanile di Pio IX

The Plate (No. 129 - ii)

In his book covering the friaries of Rome, Giuseppe Vasi did not show S. Maria sopra Minerva, the most important Dominican convent, but he preferred to focus on S. Sabina, a convent and church associated with St. Dominic's stay in Rome and on the far away friary of S. Maria del Rosario sul Monte Mario which was assigned to the Dominicans at the beginning of the XVIIIth century. Vasi probably liked the new design of the building by Filippo Raguzzini.
The view is taken from the green dot in the XIXth century map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) S. Maria del Rosario; 2) Cappella del SS. Crocifisso and Villa Mellini. The small map shows also 3) S. Lazzaro in Borgo; 4) Casale Strozzi; 5) Villa Massimo alla Balduina; 6) S. Francesco d'Assisi; 7) Fontanile di Pio IX.


(above) View of Monte Mario from the Vatican in February 2010; (below) S. Maria del Rosario seen from Villa Mellini in December 2010

Monte Mario is the hill which stands to the north of Prati di Castello, the meadows outside Porta Castello where the Romans had their picnics in the XVIIIth century. The hill has been regarded as part of the historical landscape of Rome and (exception made for a luxury hotel in the 1950s) it has been developed only on the side which is not visible from the city.
In 1838 Pope Gregory XVI built new steps to facilitate the access to S. Maria del Rosario; Cappella del SS. Crocifisso was damaged in 1849 during the Defence of Rome and in 1883 it was eventually pulled down to enlarge the street leading to Villa Mellini, which was turned into an astronomical observatory.

S. Maria del Rosario

(left) Fašade of the church and of the friary; (right) dome and bell tower

The church was built in the XVIth century as a parish church, but Pope Clement XI assigned it to the Dominicans and his successor Pope Benedict XIII, a Dominican himself, commissioned the enlargement and redesign of the complex.
During the French annexation of Rome the friary was closed; after the return of the popes it was assigned to Dominican nuns who still live in the building and attend mass behind a screen, as their order requires strict seclusion.

(left) Madonna di S. Luca, an VIIIth century icon (this name designates sacred images which the Greeks call "acheiropoieta", not made by human hand; according to tradition St. Luke was the first icon painter); (right) one of the small chapels which is decorated with the symbol of the Dominicans (a dog holding a stick)

Villa Mellini

Villa Mellini seen from S. Maria del Rosario

According to Vasi the hill was named after Mario Mellini (or Millini), who built his villa on its top; the building was greatly modified in the XIXth century when it was turned into an astronomical observatory; it currently houses a small museum.

(left) View towards S. Pietro and Prati, a modern quarter which has replaced the meadows; (right) view from the rear of the casino towards Ponte Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia Aosta and Ponte Milvio

"Hinc septem dominos videre montes. Et totam licet aestimare Romam" (from this point you can see the seven hills and appreciate Rome in its entirety) this sentence by which Latin poet Martial (Book 4 - Epigram 64) described the view from a friend's farm is generally interpreted as being referred to the Janiculum and Vasi included it in his 1765 Grand View of Rome; other authors however believe Martial was referring to Monte Mario; as a matter of fact Villa Mellini commands an excellent view over the City of Rome; it is however a view from a long distance and the monuments of Ancient Rome are barely visible.
Read Henry James's account of his visit to Villa Mellini in 1873 (the pine he refers to was uprooted by wind in 1910).

S. Lazzaro in Borgo

(left) Fašade; (right) portal

S. Lazzaro in Borgo is a tiny XIIth century church at the foot of Monte Mario which was part of a small hospital for pilgrims who were thought to be affected by leprosy; for this reason it was dedicated to Lazarus the Beggar, who was venerated as patron saint of lepers; according to Vasi the hospital was closed in the XVIIIth century when S. Gallicano was opened.

Casale Strozzi

Casale Strozzi by Giacomo Del Duca

The modern road which reaches S. Maria del Rosario separates two farms which belonged to the Roman branch of the Florentine Strozzi family. One of the farms has an elegant design which is attributed to Giacomo Del Duca; it was probably utilized as a summer residence because some of its rooms were decorated with frescoes.

Villa Massimo alla Balduina

(left) Fašade; (right) entrance and well

Abito alla Balduina "I live at Balduina" is not only an indication of where you live, but a sort of status symbol which says that you are very wealthy (or that you pretend to be). It is very expensive to buy or rent a flat in this modern quarter of Rome, which is located behind Monte Mario on the site of some old villas, chiefly of Villa Massimo. The pines which here and there embellish the most expensive houses belong to the old villa.
Its casino still exists at No 296 of Via della Balduina, behind a modern church. The two wings have lost their late XVIIth century decoration, but the central part retains it.

Via della Balduina

S. Francesco d'Assisi

(left) Fašade; (right) interior

Travellers from Florence to Rome followed Via Cassia; when they arrived near the city they had the option to continue along Via Cassia to Ponte Milvio and enter Rome at Porta del Popolo or to directly reach the Vatican through Via Trionfale which was so named because it was used by Roman commanders returning to Rome after a victorious campaign.
St. Francis of Assisi, on his way to the Vatican, at a turn of Via Trionfale first saw the city and he knelt and prayed. A small church dedicated to him was built on that site by Pope Benedict XIII; it served the inhabitants of Borgo Clementino, a small burg the development of which was promoted by Pope Clement XI.

Modern relief portraying St. Francis of Assisi when he first saw Rome

Fontanile di Pio IX

(left) Fontanile; (right) coat of arms of Pope Pius IX and 1866 inscription

The Papal State between 1860 and 1870 was limited to Latium, the region around Rome; Pope Pius IX was confronted with severe budget constraints and he therefore he celebrated with his coat of arms and emphatic inscriptions even the most modest improvements he made to public facilities, such as a series of sheltered basins for washing clothes for the inhabitants of Borgo Clementino.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Chiesa di s. Lazzaro
Circa l'anno 1187. fu questa piccola chiesa eretta da un povero di nazione Francese con uno spedale per i poveri lebbrosi, e fu dedicata a s. Lazzaro mendico, e similmente al fratello di s. Maria Maddalena penitente; ma essendo ora stato eretto lo spedale di s. Gallicano in Trastevere per li rognosi, con quelli furono uniti i lebbrosi, rimanendo quivi la cura delle anime, dipendente dalla basilica Vaticana, proseguendo poi il cammino per il clivo del monte, che anticamente dicevasi di Cinna, si trova nell'alto la
Chiesa del ss. Crocifisso a monte Mario
Fu questa piccola chiesa, o cappella eretta circa l'anno 1470. in onore della ss. Croce da Pietro Mellini, quivi presso una sua possessione, e vi si conserva il corpo di s. Moderato martire. Si vede poi dall'altra parte della strada, e sull'alto del monte la
Chiesa e Conv. di s. Maria del Rosario
Da Gio. Vittorio de Rossi fu eretta questa chiesa, a cui Ŕ unito il convento de' frati Domenicani, che fu rinnovato da Benedetto XIII. il quale vi andava spesso a dimorarvi, trattenendosi religiosamente e senza Corte, appunto come uno di quei frati. Nell'altra punta del monte evvi la
Villa e casino Mellini
Non giÓ da Mario Console, ma da Mario della famiglia Mellini Romana, prese il moderno nome questo monte, mentre avendo nel Pontificato di Sisto IV. eretta questa villa nel pi¨ alto e delizioso luogo del monte, che malo dicevasi, egli cambiolli il nome in monte Mario. Dalla parte di esso verso ponente, e verso il fine delle vigne, evvi la chiesa di s Francesco di Assisi edificata dall'abate Neri con il convento, ove oggi abitano i frati Girolamini di s. Onofrio, i quali amministrano la cura delle anime di quella contrada.

Next plate in Book 7: Chiesa e Convento di S. Pasquale

Next step in Day 8 itinerary: Villa Madama