The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Chiesa dei Cappuccini (S. Maria della Concezione)
S. Nicola da Tolentino
SS. Ildefonso e Tommaso da Villanova (and S. Francesca Romana)
Palazzi Ferri Orsini e Perucchi
The Capuchins (Order of Friars Minor Capuchin) are an offshoot of the Franciscan Order which was founded in the XVIth century with the aim of restoring the original way of life preached by St. Francis; after a difficult start the new order was recognized as autonomous in the early XVIIth century; the dress worn by its members was characterized by a hood (It. cappuccio - see the image used as background for this page) and Cappuccino became a way to name the members of the order; in the early XXth century an espresso coffee with hot milk was called cappuccino with reference to the brown colour of the Capuchins' habit.
The Capuchins used to build their monasteries at the margins of towns and possibly on elevated ground (see their churches at Frascati and Genzano). In the XVIIth century Piazza Barberini (from where this view was taken) was the limit of the populated area of Rome and this explains why in 1626 this area was chosen by Cardinal Antonio Barberini, brother of Pope Urban VIII, to build the main church and monastery of the Capuchins in Rome. In 1756 when Giuseppe Vasi drew this etching, things had not dramatically changed and the plate shows stone pines behind the monastery; they belonged to Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi.
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Chiesa dei PP. Cappuccini; 2) S. Isidoro; 3) Street leading to the churches of S. Basilio and S. Nicola da Tolentino. The map shows also 4) S. Basilio; 5) S. Nicola da Tolentino; 6) SS. Ildefonso e Tommaso da Villanova; 7) Palazzo Ferri Orsini; 8) S. Francesca Romana; 9) Palazzo Perucchi. The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Colonna and Rione Trevi (lower right quarter).
The view in December 2009
In 1883 the Boncompagni Ludovisi partitioned and sold most of their villa; there was however an obstacle to its urban development: the lack of a road leading to the new quarter because the existing ones (Via di S. Basilio and Via di Porta Pinciana) were too narrow and steep; for this reason Via Veneto, a large winding alley with the vague appearance of a Parisian boulevard, was opened between Piazza Barberini and Porta Pinciana; in 1890 the monastery and the bell tower were pulled down and the access to the church was modified.
In 1917 Fontana delle Api was placed at the beginning of Via Veneto (lower right corner in the image above). Via Veneto was renamed Via Vittorio Veneto after the battle which occurred near that town in November 1918 and which marked the end of WWI on the Italian front; the previous name however is still commonly used. In the late 1950s it used to be the centre of Roman nightlife.
A scene of "La Dolce Vita" (1960) showing Marcello Mastroianni and Anouk Aimée in Via Veneto
(left) Façade; (right-above) stoup with the Barberini bee; (right-below) inscription indicating the entrance to the ossuary
The land where the church and the monastery were built was donated by the Pope; the design of the complex was supervised by Fra Michele da Bergamo, a member of the order; in line with the ideals of the Capuchins the façade is very simple and without decorations.
Cardinal Antonio Barberini who financed the construction is remembered by stoups with his heraldic symbols. He ordered the relocation of the corpses of the friars from S. Croce e Bonaventura dei Lucchesi, the previous seat of the order, to the new monastery . The bones were placed in an ossuary on the right side of the church; in line with the XVIIth century emphasis on the temporariness of life on earth (Memento Mori - remember that you will die) the bones were arranged in order to form the decoration of five crypts. These "chapels" greatly impressed foreign travellers:
Under this church is a charnel-house divided, like some of the ancient hypogea, into recesses. Each recess is faced with the marrow-bones and shoulder-blades of disinterred Capuchines, and adorned with lamps, festoons, rosoni, crosses, etc. formed of the same reverend materials. A few skeletons are drest in their tunics, and set in various attitudes, each in a niche built up with reeky shanks and yellow chapless skulls.
Joseph Forsyth - Remarks on antiquities, arts, and letters, during an excursion in Italy in 1802-1803
Read also the accounts of their visits by Mark Twain in 1867 and William Dean Howell in 1908. You may wish to see a popular postcard of the late XIXth century - it opens in another window - or visit Chiesetta dei Morti at Urbania or the Golden Room of Ursulakirche at Cologne.
(left) Ananias Heals St. Paul's Blindness by Pietro da Cortona who painted the ceiling of Sala del Trionfo at Palazzo Barberini; (right) Monument to Alexander Sobieski by Camillo Rusconi, the eagle under the sarcophagus brings to mind another monument by Rusconi
The interior of the church is bare and the decoration of the chapels very limited. Cardinal Barberini however thought that commissioning the most famous painters of the time the altarpieces was not in contrast with the aims of the order. One of the most famous paintings by Guido Reni and one of his last works is on the altar of the first chapel to the right.
The church does not have imposing funerary monuments and also the gravestones are very simple; an exception was made for Polish Prince Alexander Sobieski, who joined the order shortly before his death in 1714. He lived with his mother in a nearby palace.
(left) Christ Derided by Gherardo delle Notti (Gerard von Honthorst), a Flemish painter who was influenced by Caravaggio; (right) A Miracle by St. Anthony by Andrea Sacchi who painted The Triumph of Divine Wisdom at Palazzo Barberini
(left) Façade; (centre) St. Patrick; (right) St. Isidore
S. Isidoro was built at the same time as Chiesa dei Cappuccini; its founders were a group of Spanish Franciscans and this explains why the church was dedicated to St. Isidore the Farmer (Isidoro Agricolae), a Spanish saint who was canonized in 1622. During the early stage of the construction the Spanish Franciscans encountered financial and political difficulties so that the completion of the church was entrusted with Luke Wadding, an Irish Franciscan. The original dedication remained, but some chapels and statues celebrated St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland; thus the church is listed under Ireland in a directory of national churches in Rome. The façade was designed by Carlo Francesco Bizzaccheri in 1704 and its stucco statues and decorations are by Andrea Bertoni.
Cappella da Silva
Rodrigo Lopez da Sylva was a Portuguese nobleman who lived in Via della Mercede, most likely a tenant of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. In 1662 he asked his neighbour or landlord to design a funerary chapel at S. Isidoro for him and his relatives. Cappella da Silva can be added to more famous chapels by Bernini who was not directly involved in its execution; perhaps some of the reliefs were made by his son Pietro. The chapel was completed in the XVIIIth century. The painting on the main altar is a work by Carlo Maratta.
(left-above) Detail of a capital; (left-below) coat of arms of Boncompagni Ludovisi (left) and Chigi (right) at Cappella della S. Croce; (centre) St. Bridget in a frame decorated with verses in Gaelic in the portico; (right) Monument to Antonio Borani, Dean of the Cathedral of Milan (d. 1625), by Francesco De Rossi, a monument portraying the dead in a medallion; the woman writing the inscription has lost her pen unlike the Fame in the icon of this website
(left to right) Façade; bell tower; relief with the symbol of St. Basil (the church was recently repainted in the new light colours of Rome)
The church was part of a monastery and it was built in 1682. The monastery retains a sort of coat of arms of St. Basil of Caesarea (today's Kayseri), who lived in the IVth century and was considered the father of the Greek church, thus he was called Magnus (the Great). Monasteries having rules based on the life and teachings of St. Basil were founded in parts of southern Italy where Greek influence was significant; near Rome a very important monastery was founded at Grottaferrata. The column surrounded by flames is a symbol of unscathed faith. The inscription Talis est Magnus Basilius means that the saint's faith resisted all temptations. You may wish to read it in Greek at SS. Sergio e Bacco.
(left) Façade; (right-above) detail of a niche with the heraldic symbols of the Pamphilj; (right-below) "Glory of St. Nicholas" 1664 relief by Francesco De Rossi above the entrance to the monastery
The Greek name Nikolaos in Tuscany and in Venice was usually translated as Niccolò while elsewhere in Italy Nicola was more common; today the former name is regarded as somewhat archaic. St. Nicholas of Tolentino was an Augustinian friar and the church dedicated to him by his order was founded at the beginning of the XVIIth century. The construction lagged behind until 1649 when Camillo Pamphilj, nephew of Pope Innocent X, and his wife Olimpia Aldobrandini decided to finance the completion of the church and of the adjoining monastery; they did so to comply with a vow made by them when Olimpia fell gravely ill during her pregnancy and was assisted by an Augustinian friar.
(left) Interior; (right) main altar with statues by Domenico Guidi and Ercole Ferrata
The façade and the interior were designed by Alessandro Algardi, but the actual construction was overseen by Giovanni Maria Baratta, from a family of sculptors. The two worked together also at Casino dell'Algardi, in the Pamphilj villa outside Porta S. Pancrazio.
The main altar was decorated by Algardi with very fine coats of arms. The statues were based on drawings by Algardi, but were executed by sculptors of his workshop. Domenico Guidi eventually set up his own workshop after the death of Algardi in 1656 while Ferrata became a member of Bernini's inner circle.
Algardi has exemplified in its construction all the architectural defects, that characterised the century in which he lived. Rev. Jeremiah Donovan - Rome Ancient and Modern - 1844. Donovan's very negative opinion about the church led other authors of guides to Rome to simply ignore S. Nicola da Tolentino. The Via S. Niccolo in Tolentino leads by the handsome Church of that name, from the Piazza Barberini to the railway station. Augustus J.C. Hare - Walks in Rome - 1875. A pity because the church is worth a visit.
Ceiling by a team of Berninian artists
The ceiling was decorated after the death of Algardi. The use of white and gilded stuccoes for the decoration of ceilings became very common in the second half of the XVIIth century. Its most impressive example is the ceiling of il Gesù by Antonio Raggi and Leonardo Retti.
Frescoes by Pietro Paolo Ubaldini, an assistant to Pietro da Cortona: (left) Obedience in Cappella Lante Della Rovere; (right) Glory of St. Cecilia with musician angels in Cappella Buratti, a very popular subject
In 1883 the church and the monastery were assigned to the Pontifical Armenian College and Cappella del S. Sepolcro, a chapel of S. Maria Egiziaca, a church of the Armenians which was inside an ancient temple, was relocated to S. Nicola da Tolentino. S. Biagio della Pagnotta is another church assigned to the Armenians.
(left) Façade; (right) ceiling
Another Augustinian church was founded at the same time as S. Nicola da Tolentino at a short distance from it; the church was dedicated to two Spanish saints and it belonged to the Augustinian Recollects, an order founded in Spain in the XVIth century which advocated a more severe lifestyle and a greater adherence to the teachings of St. Augustine (you may wish to read about their charitable deeds in Morocco). The façade was designed in 1725 by Francesco Ferrari. The decoration shows a skilled use of stucco and the ceiling is very similar to that designed by Francesco Borromini in Cappella dei Re Magi.
(left) Interior; (right) stucco statues by Antonio Cometti portraying St. Ferdinand III, King of Castile and Leon (d. 1252) and St. Louis IX, King of France (1214-270)
The church was deconsecrated for a short period during the annexation of Rome to the French Empire at the beginning of the XIXth century.
Almost opposite SS. Ildefonso e Tommaso da Villanova stood another small church dedicated to S. Francesca Romana; it belonged to the Trinitarians who built it in 1614 after they left S. Tommaso in Formis; it was demolished in the XXth century and replaced by Teatro Sistina, a large theatre for musicals. You may wish to see Madonna del Riscatto (it opens in another window), a fine painting by Francesco Cozza which was on its main altar.
(left) Palazzo Ferri Orsini; (centre) entrance to Palazzo Perucchi; (right) courtyard of Palazzo Perucchi
Because the area near Chiesa dei Cappuccini was considered a remote location, some minor noble families chose it because the land was not expensive and they built small palaces, which in the late XIXth century were enlarged and modified. However Palazzo Ferri Orsini (late XVIth century) and Palazzo Perucchi (late XVIIth century) have retained their original portals.
Next plate in Book 7: Chiesa di S. Marcello.
Next step in Day 2 itinerary: Porta Salara.
Next step in your tour of Rione Colonna: Villa e Casino Ludovisi.
Next step in your tour of Rione Campo Marzio: Casa dei Borgognoni.
Next step in your tour of Rione Trevi: Palazzo Galloppi.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Dal Card. s. Onofrio cappuccino , e fratello di Urbano VIII. fu eretto questo convento e chiesa con disegno di Felice Cafoni . Nella prima cappella a destra evvi il celebre quadro di s. Michele Arcangelo opera di Guido Reni ; nella seconda il s. Francesco del Muziano, nella terza la Trasfigurazione di Mario Balaffi , nella quarta 1' Orazione all' Orto di Baccio Ciarpi , ed il s. Antonio nell' ultima di Andrea Sacchi . Nell'altare maggiore evvi la ss. Concezione dipinta dal Cav. Lanfranco, e sotto l' altare si custodisce il corpo del dottissimo filosofo s. Giustino martire . A lato del medesimo cappellone si vede un quadro con s. Francesco dipinto dal Domenichino ; nella prima cappella dall' altra parte evvi la ss. Vergine con un santo Vescovo del suddetto Andrea Sacchi ; la natività del Signore nell altra è del Lanfrancho suddetto ; siegue il Cristo morto , del Camassei ; poi il s. Felice , di Alessandro Veronese , e nell' ultima la Conversione di s.Paolo, di Pietro da Cortona . Sopra la porta si vede in cartone la copia della celebre navicella di s. Pietro dipinta dal Giotto già messa in mosaico nel portico della basilica Vaticana . Quindi voltando a sinistra del convento , si vede a destra la chiesa di san Basilio coll'ospizio de' Monaci, e poco dopo entrando in un vicoletto, evvi la
Fu questa edificata dal Principe Panfili l'anno 1614. con disegno di Gio: Batista Baratta allievo dell'Algardi, ed è ornata di marmi, stucchi dorati, pitture, e bassirilievi. La santissima Nunziata nella prima cappella a destra è del Pughelli, e i laterali di Gio: Ventura Borghesi; le pitture nella terza sono di Pietro Paolo Baldini. Il s. Gio: Batista nell'altare della crociata è del Baciccio, e li stucchi sono di Ercole Ferrata, il quale fece marmo il Dio Padre, ed il s. Niccolò nell'altare maggiore; la ss. Vergine però fu fatta da Domenico Guidi, e gli Angioli sono del Baratta, il tutto col disegno dell'Algardi. La cupola fu dipinta dal Coli unitamente col Giraldi amendue Lucchesi, e li angoli dal Baldini, il quale dipinse ancora tutta la cappelletta della parte destra. La s. Agnese nella crociata è copia del Guercino, e li stucchi sono del Ferrata. La nobilitata cappella, che siegue, è magnifico disegno di Pietro da Cortona, il quale dipinse la piccola volta, che fu l’ultima sua opera a fresco, è perchè neppure potè compirla, la terminò Ciro Ferri suo allievo. Il bassorilievo nell'altare è di Cosimo Fancelli, la statua di s. Gio. Batista del Raggi, e quella di san Giuseppe di Ercole Ferrata, e i bassirilievi sotto l'organo sono del Baratta. Nel convento vi sono i frati riformati di s. Agostino.
Circa l'anno 1622. fu eretta questa chiesa da' frati riformati di s. Francesco di nazione Spagnola, col disegno di Carlo Bizzoccheri: ma dipoi vi fu stabilito un collegio di frati Osservanti di nazione Ibernese. Nella chiesa sonovi de' quadri di molta considerazione; lo Sposalizio della ss. Vergine co' laterali nella prima cappella a destra sono prime opere di Carlo Maratti; le pitture nella seconda sono di Pietro Paolo Baldini, la ss. Concezione col Bambino nella cappelletta è bellissima opera del mentovato Carlo Maratta, e le sculture sono del figlio del Cav. Bernino. Il s. Isidoro nell'altare maggiore è di Andrea Sacchi; il s. Agostino, e s. Francesco nella cappelletta laterale sono di uno Spagnolo; il s. Antonio di Padova con i laterali di Gio: Domenico Perugino, le lunette però sono di Egidio Alè Liegese; ed il ss. Crocifisso con i laterali nell'ultima cappella sono del lodato Carlo Maratta. Or facendo ritorno alla strada felice, si vede a sinistra la
Da' frati Eremitani Spagnoli fu edificata questa l'anno 1619. e dipoi riedificata con disegno di Luigi Paglia Siciliano, nella quale evvi la natività del Signore scolpita in bassorilievo da Francesco cognomiato il Siciliano. Poco dopo a destra è la piccola chiesa di S. Francesca Romana rinnovata l’anno 1614. da frati Trinitarj Spagnoli, nella quale fra gli altri quadri evvi la ss. Vergine con gli Angioli del ricatto dipinta da Francesco Cozza.