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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 2009.

Chiesa e Monastero di San Cosimato (Book 8) (Map C3) (Day 6) (View D11) (Rione Trastevere)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 Monastero di S. Cosimato
 Chiesa di S. Cosimato
 Villa Sciarra

The Plate (No. 151)

The faithful will vainly look for a Cosimato in a directory of saints because Cosimato is just a corruption of Cosimo, the Italianized name of St. Kosmas who with his brother Damianos was a doctor in Aegea, medieval Laiazzo and today's Yumurtalik. In this way the monastery of S. Cosimato in Trastevere was distinguished from that dedicated to SS. Cosma e Damiano in the Roman Forum. As the 1748 map below shows the monastery was inside the walls of Rome, but at the very limit of the populated area.
The view is taken from the green dot in the map. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Entrance and ancient walls of the monastery; 2) Vigna (farm) belonging to the monastery. The map shows also 3) Church of S. Cosimato; 4) Main cloister; 5) Villa Sciarra.


The view in February 2009

Piazza S. Cosimato is today best known for its many restaurants than for the monastery, which is now a day hospital. The entrance is a XIIth century work and it is very similar to those of other medieval churches (S. Clemente, S. Maria in Cosmedin and S. Saba).

Monastero di S. Cosimato

The main cloister

The monastery was founded in the Xth century and it belonged to the Benedictine order, but in 1234 it became a nunnery as it was assigned to Recluse di S. Damiano, the name by which the first members of the order, founded by St. Clare, were known.
Between 1475 and 1485 Pope Sixtus IV, whose sister Franchetta was a nun at S. Cosimato, entirely renovated the nunnery and its church (you can see his coat of arms in the image used as background for this page).

Chiesa di S. Cosimato

(left) XVIIIth century fountain in the first courtyard; (centre) portal of the church; (right) sacred image showing a cross with a spear and a sponge

The small church of the monastery was modified during the XIXth century and its windows are no longer those shown in the plate; it retains the fine portal attributed to the school of Andrea Bregno. It is very rarely opened to the public.

(left) Detail of the portal; (right) interior of the church: the Virgin Mary between St. Francis and St. Clare by Antonio del Massaro (1450-1516) and XVIIIth century altar

Villa Sciarra

A framed view of Rome from Villa Sciarra

Pope Urban VIII protected the Janiculum with new walls and in 1653 his nephew Cardinal Antonio Barberini bought most of the land next to the walls between Porta Portese and Porta S. Pancrazio to build a summer residence. The cardinal and his heirs however preferred to use the villa they had near Porta S. Spirito and their estate in Trastevere was mainly used as a farm. With the extinction of the Barberini family and after endless legal battles, in 1811 the property was acquired by the Colonna di Sciarra, who gave the villa its current name and enlarged it by acquiring the land belonging to Monastero di S. Cosimato. In the 1880s Prince Maffeo Sciarra Colonna went bankrupt and the estate was split and a large part of it became a residential area.

(left): Coat of arms of Cardinal Barberini; (centre) a relief which can also be seen above the entrance of Palazzo Colonna di Sciarra; (right) the symbol of the Visconti family (and one of the symbols of Milan)

Thank goodness in 1902, George Wurts and Henriette Tower, an American couple, bought the part of the estate closest to the walls and restored it (the area had been largely damaged in 1849 during the fights between the French troops and the supporters of the Roman Republic).
From the New York Times of January 5, 1913, Sunday we learn something about their life in Villa Sciarra: George Wurts and his wife, who is a sister of Charlemagne Tower Jr., once Ambassador here, have returned to Rome to their apartment in the Palazzo Anticimattei and spend part of every day at their villa on the Janiculum ... where Mr Wurts devotes much of his time to his wonderful collection of birds and plants.

Details of fountains

George Wurts brought here the fountains and the statues which decorated an XVIIIth century villa near Milan. In 1928 Mrs Wurts donated in her will the Villa to the City of Rome, but she did this through a personal donation to Benito Mussolini, whose name (after World War II) was erased from the inscription celebrating the donation. The subjects and the style of the fountains and statues of Villa Sciarra are quite different from those which typically decorate the other Villas of Rome; they were placed in order to create some cosy corners, rather than being arranged in a structured layout.

Other decorations of Villa Sciarra

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Chiesa e Monastero de' ss. Cosimo e Damiano
I monaci Benedettini possedettero questa chiesa, e fu una delle 20. Badie privilegiate. Nell'anno 1243. fu conceduta alle religiose di s. Chiara, e poi dal Pontefice Sisto IV. fu riedificata insieme con il convento. L'immagine della ss. Vergine, che sta sull'altare maggiore era nell'antica basilica di s. Pietro. Sotto l'altare sono i corpi di s. Fortunata, e di s. Severa, e li bassirilievi, che vi si vedono, stavano prima nella chiesa di s. Maria del Popolo, ove ora la cappella Cibo.
In questi contorni, s crede essere stati gli orti di Giulio Cesare, lasciati per testamento al popolo Romano, ed ancora la Naumachia fatta da Ottaviano Augusto.

Next plate in Book 8: Monastero di S. Lorenzo in Panisperna
Next step in Day 6 itinerary: Basilica di S. Maria in Trastevere