The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
S. Carlo al Corso (SS. Ambrogio e Carlo)
S. Giacomo in Augusta or degli Incurabili
Casa del Canova
Gesù e Maria
Casa di Goethe
This 1756 etching by Giuseppe Vasi shows the northern section of Via del Corso which ends at
Piazza del Popolo; until the mid of the XVIIth century it had a rather rural appearance and the hospital of S. Giacomo degli Incurabili was the only large building along the street; in 1665 Pope Alexander VII demolished Arco di Portogallo,
an ancient Roman arch across Via del Corso which was regarded as the actual entrance to the urban part of Rome; this led to the development of the northern section of Via del Corso with the enlargement of SS. Ambrogio e Carlo and of Ges¨ e Maria and with the construction of many new buildings,
the flats of which were rented to the foreigners who visited Rome (the eastern side of Via del Corso was part of the
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Deanery of S. Carlo al Corso; 2) Spedale de' Milanesi; 3) S. Giacomo degli Incurabili; 4) SS. Ges¨ e Maria. The map shows also 5) SS. Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso; 6) Casa del Canova; 7) Palazzo Rondinini; 8) Casa di Goethe; 9) Mausoleo di Augusto which is covered in another page.
We established ourselves at No. 43, Via degli Otto Cantoni, Corso. This situation is bad. The Corso is the Bond-street of Rome; - but it is also the Billingsgate. There are two fish-stalls under my window, the people belonging to which commence their vociferations as soon as it is light. (..) But the worst objection to our lodgings is their height. We are on the quarto piano; - a hundred and four steps from the ground - though this objection relates only to convenience; for it is by no means mauvais ton in Rome, to live in the upper story, which does not at all answer to our garret. Here, - your approach to heaven does not in the least detract from your gentility.
Henry Matthews - Diary of an Invalid - 1817/1818
In the 1930s the area around Mausoleo di Augusto was entirely redesigned and all the houses surrounding the ancient mausoleum were pulled down; this development had an impact on Via del Corso with the construction of two huge (white and brown) buildings between SS. Ambrogio e Carlo and S. Giacomo degli Incurabili which replaced the house mentioned by Matthews.
Via del Corso continues to attract foreigners; not so much for its hotels and restaurants, but because it is part of a shopping district centred on Via Condotti.
(left) Fašade; (right) dome and apse
In 1471 Pope Sixtus IV assigned a small medieval church to the Lombards who lived in Rome;
this church was rebuilt in 1513-1520 and it was dedicated to St. Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, a bishop of that city who was very
influential in Emperor Theodosius' decision to declare the Christian faith the sole religion of the
In 1610, on the occasion of the canonization of St. Charles Borromeo, the brotherhood of the Lombards decided to build a larger church and to dedicate it also to St. Charles Borromeo, who had been Archbishop of Milan for twenty years. As a matter of fact the church is commonly known as S. Carlo al Corso, to distinguish it from S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and S. Carlo ai Catinari. You may wish to see Karlskirche, the imposing church which was dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo in Vienna in 1715-1739.
The construction of the new church lasted until 1684 when the fašade was completed; several architects were involved in the design of the building; among them Pietro da Cortona who designed the dome and part of the decoration of the interior; you may wish to compare this dome with that of SS. Luca e Martina, also by Cortona. The heavy fašade was designed by Cardinal Luigi Omodei who financed the completion of the church, as he did not like the project developed by Carlo Rainaldi.
(left) Interior; (right) stucco reliefs portraying saints from Lombardy by Jacopo and Cosimo Fancelli based on sketches by Cortona. Cosimo Fancelli worked for Cortona at the decoration of Cappella Chigi in S. Maria della Pace, of the ceiling of S. Maria in Vallicella and of the underground chapels of S. Maria in Via Lata
In SS. Ambrogio e Carlo, Pietro da Cortona, who was highly regarded as a painter, played a managerial role very similar to that of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, i.e. he coordinated the activities of painters, sculptors and decorators.
(left) Ceiling designed by Pietro da Cortona which surrounds "Fall of the Rebel Angels", a painting by Giacinto Brandi; (right) altar to St. Charles Borromeo in the crypt housing his heart; painting by Giacinto Brandi; above it the crown of the Borromeo and "Humilitas", their family motto (it is shown in the image used as background for this page)
Today Giacinto Brandi is rarely mentioned by art historians. Rudolf Wittkower, in Art and Architecture in Italy - 1600-1750 - Penguin Books 1958, dedicated only a footnote to him to say that his contribution to good painting was negligible. Yet his works can be found in many Roman churches and in 1668 he was elected Principe dell'Accademia di S. Luca, i.e. chairman of the guild of the Roman painters, sculptors and architects. In this website you can see his paintings at Chiesa dell'Angelo Custode, S. Silvestro in Capite and at Collegiata dell'Assunta in Valmontone.
The interior was decorated in 1678-1682 with a series of stucco statues by Francesco Cavallini;
when working with stucco, sculptors tended to emphasize the torsion of bodies and other aspects of the subjects they portrayed; it is possible
that the stucco statues were expected to be replaced by more composed marble works.
The statue of Judith was added in the 1760s and it shows a change in taste which anticipates Neoclassicist patterns, although the gruesome subject is consistent with the baroque tendency to explicitly portray death scenes.
You may wish to see a directory of national churches in Rome.
(left) Fašade; (right) detail with the coat of arms of Cardinal Antonio Maria Salviati
Spedale di S. Giacomo was the third large Roman hospital to be founded after those of S. Spirito in Sassia and S. Giovanni in Laterano;
it was built in 1339 by Cardinal Pietro Colonna to provide assistance to the pilgrims who entered Rome at Porta
del Popolo. It was known as S. Giacomo in Augusta because the neighbourhood was named after nearby Mausoleo di Augusto; in 1515 Pope Leo X officially named it Ospedale degli Incurabili
because it focused on assisting those affected by mal francese, a venereal disease which spread into Italy towards the end of the XVth century and for which no cure was found
(later on it was called syphilis). The hospital has a mortuary chapel, S.
Maria in Porta Paradisi, which was designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and has inscriptions making reference to the disease.
In 1583 Cardinal Antonio Maria Salviati promoted the reconstruction of the hospital and of its church along Via del Corso; the new buildings were designed by Francesco Capriani da Volterra and after his death in 1599 by Carlo Maderno, who in particular completed the fašade and added two small bell towers which are not visible from the street (you may wish to see them from il Pincio). The hospital was almost entirely rebuilt in the XIXth century and only its rear entrance in Via di Ripetta was not modified.
The Church of St. Jacomo degli Incurabili is a neat round Church belonging to the Hospital
here, where they that are afflicted with incureable Diseases, are entertain'd and well tended.
Richard Lassels' The Voyage of Italy, or a Compleat Journey through Italy in ca 1668
You may wish to see a 1714 elaborate marble altarpiece by Pierre Le Gros, the most interesting work of art inside the church.
(left) Side opposite S. Giacomo degli Incurabili; (centre/right) reliefs on the walls (some of them are copies)
Via di S. Giacomo was the name of the street which linked Via del Corso with Via di Ripetta along the southern side of the hospital;
it was renamed Via Antonio Canova because the great sculptor had his studio in a building opposite the hospital.
Canova was the most celebrated sculptor of the
Neoclassic period; his fame was such that he was not affected by the political changes which took place
during his life. He was praised by the Roman noble families, by the popes, by the Austrian emperors and by the Kings of England, as well as by Napoleon (see the statue of his sister Paolina), their fiercest enemy.
Canova played important roles as an archaeologist (he started the excavations of Via Appia Antica) and as a diplomat (he recovered several masterpieces which Napoleon had confiscated and brought to Paris). Pope Pius VII rewarded him with the title of Marquis of Ischia di Castro. His studio was very large, a sort of small factory, where the plaster statues he modelled were copied on marble blocks by his assistants, who used a sophisticated system of pantographs. At the peak of his fame, Canova gave just the final touch to the statues "manufactured" in his studio. The walls of the building are decorated with small reliefs and statues he found in Via Appia Antica.
(left) Fašade; (right) interior
At the beginning of the XVIIth century a small church was built almost opposite S. Giacomo degli Incurabili; with the development of this section of Via del Corso, Giorgio Bolognetti and Camillo del Corno, two rich prelates, made major donations for the enlargement and embellishment of the church; in return they were allowed to build the funerary monuments for themselves and their relatives in the nave, rather than in a side chapel; for this reason Ges¨ e Maria is also known as il Cappellone, the big chapel; Carlo Rainaldi designed the new building which has a rather simple fašade, but a very decorated interior which was inaugurated in 1680.
Other funerary monuments of this church can be seen in pages dealing with Representation of Death in Baroque Rome (del Corno family) and Baroque Statues in the act of praying (Bolognetti family).
The Bolognetti had palaces opposite Chiesa del Ges¨, opposite Palazzo Venezia and at Vicovaro.
(left) Fašade; (centre) detail of the courtyard with a relief portraying Medusa and Roman inscriptions; (right) staircase leading to the main halls
The Rondinini (aka Rondanini) were a family of Lombard descent; their Roman branch established bonds with many important
families and became part of the Roman aristocracy; in 1744 Marquis Giuseppe Rondinini bought a small palace which had belonged
to Cavalier d'Arpino,
a famous painter of the early XVIIth century.
Giuseppe Rondinini had gathered an important collection of antiquities and he decided to enlarge his new property with the objective of properly displaying his collection (similar to what Cardinal Alessandro Albani was doing in his villa at the same time). The new palace was designed by Alessandro Dori and the walls of the courtyard were decorated with inscriptions and small reliefs, while the finest pieces were placed in the rooms where Giuseppe Rondinini lived and entertained his guests.
(left) Marble inlay with the Rondinini heraldic symbols: swallows (It. rondini) and a golden sieve; (right) clock in the courtyard which indicated the "Italian hour"
In 1786 J. W. Goethe lived in the house opposite Palazzo Rondinini, which he visited on more than one occasion; he was particularly impressed by an over-lifesize mask of a Medusa in which the fearful rigidity of death is admirably portrayed. I own a good cast of it, but nothing is left of the magic of the original. The yellowish stone, which is almost
the colour of flesh, has a noble, translucent quality.
J. W. Goethe - Italian Journey - Translation by W. H. Auden and E. Mayer - Collins 1962.
This piece of the collection, which is very similar to the Gorgons which decorated the Temple to Apollo at Didyma, is now in Munich, while PietÓ Rondanini, the last (unfinished) known work by Michelangelo, which also belonged to Giuseppe Rondinini, is now in Milan (Sforza Castle). You can see them in another window. Giuseppe Rondinini chose to be buried in a rather gruesome monument at S. Onofrio.
Musei Vaticani - from the Rondinini collection: Ist century AD relief depicting Menander, a IVth century BC Greek writer of comic plays holding a theatrical mask and to the right a Muse (see the same subject in a mosaic at Thuburbo Majus and a similar one at Sousse)
(left) Casa di Goethe seen from Palazzo Rondinini; (right) a nearby building which has retained its XVIIIth century appearance
I am called the Baron gegen Rondanini uber (the baron who lives opposite the Palazzo Rondanini). Goethe
In April 1788 Goethe rented an apartment on the second floor of the house where he had stayed since his arrival on November 1, 1786; he was very happy about his new accommodation: The upper rooms were like the lower ones, except that they enjoyed a delightful view of our garden and of neighbouring gardens in all directions, for our house stood on a corner. From my windows I looked down on many gardens of different sizes, separated by walls of equal height, and displaying an infinite variety of trees and flowers. From this paradise architectural forms of a noble simplicity emerged everywhere - garden pavilions, balconies, terraces and on the higher houses in the background, loggias.
Casa di Goethe is a German cultural institution which has arranged a permanent exhibition of documents and prints related to Goethe's stay in Rome in the very rooms where he lived. Temporary exhibitions and other cultural events are promoted from time to time.
You have completed Book 7! Move to Book 8: Immacolata Concezione di Campo Marzio.
Next step in Day 1 itinerary: Chiesa della SS. Trinità.
Next step in your tour of Rione Campo Marzio: Piazza del Popolo.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Per un Legato del Card. Giacomo Colonna fu eretta quivi la chiesa collo spedale per li
poveri infermi circa l'anno 1338. e se ne vede ancora la porta nel cantone del vicolo
laterale con architettura molto rozza, e collo stemma di Casa Colonna. Si disse da
principio in Augusta per il celebre mausoleo di Augusto, che l'era vicino; ora dicesi
degl' Incurabili, per li morbi di tale specie, che in questo spedale si curano.
Il Card. Antonio Salviati l'anno 1600. essendone protettore, ingrandý lo spedale,
e rifece la chiesa con disegno di Francesco da Volterra, terminata poi da Carlo Maderno,
in figura ovale con cupola, e due campanili. Sono in ella delle pitture, e sculture
riguardevoli; il quadro nella prima cappella a destra Ŕ del Roncalli;
il grande bassorilievo in marmo nella seconda, e gli Angioli con altri ornati di
stucco sono opere di Mons¨ le Gros, e li due quadri laterali sono di Giuseppe
Passeri; il battesimo del Signore nella terza Ŕ del Passignani; la
Cena con gli Apostoli nell'altare maggiore, e le pitture nella volta di Gio. Batista Novara,
il quale dipinse ancora il Dio Padre nella cupola. La NativitÓ del Signore nella cappella,
che siegue, Ŕ di Anteveduto Grammatica; la statua di s. Giacomo nell'altra Ŕ scultura in
marmo del Buzio, ed il quadro nell'ultima Ŕ del Zucchi.