The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Palazzo Negroni and S. Lucia della Tinta
Mausoleo di Augusto and Museo dell'Ara Pacis
Strada e Albergo dell'Orso
Palazzo Primoli and Museo Napoleonico
In 1759 Giuseppe Vasi published his ninth book of etchings which showed the colleges, the hospitals and other charitable institutions of XVIIIth century Rome. The plates of the book are often the only ones which depict some of them, because they were not housed in palaces having a monumental aspect or an artistic relevance. This is particularly true for Collegio Clementino which in 1936-1938 was demolished at the same time as the buildings surrounding nearby Mausoleo di Augusto. The college was named after Pope Clement VIII who founded it in 1595. It was not very important, but Vasi included it in his book because Pope Benedict XIV studied there. Most likely Vasi developed his plan for the book before the death of the Pope in 1758.
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Main entrance to Collegio Clementino; 2) Strada dell'Orso (bear); 3) S. Lucia della Tinta; 4) Palazzo Negroni. The map shows also 5) Mausoleo di Augusto; 6) Palazzo Primoli. The dotted line in the map delineates the border between Rione Ponte (left) and Rione Campo Marzio (right).
(left) The view in April 2009; (right) the fountain from Piazza del Popolo
The old building has been replaced by a new one in a totally different style. In 1940 a fountain was erected in the square. It was removed from Piazza del Popolo in 1823 and relocated opposite S. Pietro in Montorio. Later on it was removed again and kept in a municipal warehouse, where some of its components were lost. It shows the eagles and the dragons of Pope Paul V Borghese, but the original fountain had only the dragons of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni. The eagles were added (as shown in the image used as background for this page) by Giangiacomo Borghese, Governor of Rome in 1939-1943. The corner of Palazzo Negroni is the only remaining evidence of what Vasi depicted in the plate.
(left) Palazzo Gonzaga Negroni: façade in Via della Scrofa, opposite Palazzo Cardelli; (right) S. Lucia della Tinta (at the upper right corner the lantern of S. Antonio dei Portoghesi). The photo was taken from the "lungotevere", the late XIXth century streets which run along the River Tiber
The palace has a long list of landlords. The most important one was Cardinal Scipione Gonzaga who lived there in 1567-1593. He was fond of poetry and he hosted Torquato Tasso in his home. Later on the building was acquired by Cardinal Giovan Francesco Negroni who bought also Villa Peretti.
S. Lucia della Tinta was spared by the many changes made in the area and in particular by the construction of walls to prevent the River Tiber from flooding in the 1880s. The church is recorded in medieval chronicles but it was largely redesigned in 1715. It is called della Tinta (dye) because many dyers lived nearby. It was recently repainted and you may wish to see it with its old colour.
Ancient writers have left detailed accounts of the last hours of the founder of the Roman Empire. On the morning of the nineteenth of August, anno Domini 14, feeling the approach of death, Augustus inquired of the attendant whether the outside world was concerned at his precarious condition; then he asked for a mirror, and composed his body for the supreme event, as he had long before prepared his mind and soul. Of his friends and the officers of the household he took leave in a cheerful spirit; and as soon as he was left alone with Livia he passed away in her arms, saying, "Livia, may you live happily, as we have lived together from the day of our marriage."
The funeral was organized with the grandest simplicity. The body was placed in the Forum, in front of the Temple of Julius Caesar, from the rostra of which Tiberius read a panegyric. Another oration was delivered at the opposite end of the Forum by Drusus, the adopted son of Tiberius. Then the senators themselves placed the bier on their shoulders, leaving the city by the Porta Triumphalis. The procession formed by the Senate, the high priesthood, the knights, the army, and the whole population skirted the Circus Flaminius and the Septa Julia, and by the Via Flaminia reached the ustrinum, or sacred enclosure for cremation. (..) Livia and a few officers watched the place for five days and nights, and finally collected the ashes in a precious urn, which they placed in the innermost crypt of the mausoleum which Augustus had built in the Campus Martius forty-two years before.
Rodolfo Lanciani - Pagan and Christian Rome - 1892
24th February 1645. The Mausoleum Augusti, betwixt the
Tyber and the Via Flaminia, now much ruined, which had
formerly contended for its sumptuous architecture. It was
intended as a cemetery for the Roman Emperors, had
twelve ports, and was covered with a cupola of white
marble, environed with stately trees and innumerable
statues, all of it now converted into a garden.
John Evelyn's Diary and Correspondence - 1644-1645
The best, and indeed the only ancient account of the former monument, denominated by way of eminence the Mausoleum, is given by Strabo, who represents it as a pendent garden, raised on lofty arches of white stone, planted with evergreen shrubs, and terminating in a point crowned with the statue of Augustus. In the vault beneath, lay the remains of the Emperor and his family; at the entrance stood two Egyptian obelisks; around arose an extensive grove cut into walks and alleys. Of this monument, the two inner walls, which supported the whole mass with the vast vaults under which reposed the imperial ashes still remains; a work of great size solidity, and elevation. Hence it is seen at a considerable distance and continues still a grand and most striking object. The platform on the top was for a considerable time, employed as a garden and covered, as originally, with shrubs and flowers.
John Chetwode Eustace - A Classical Tour through Italy in 1802
At the time of the drawing by Dupérac the building housed a garden owned by the Soderini, a Florentine family who lived at Palazzo Altemps, where they displayed their collection of antiques.
Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna: Roman sarcophagus from the Soderini Collection; it depicts the four horses of a racing chariot being rewarded with bags of money; the inscription is unrelated: "Respice et crede: hoc est, sic est, aliut fieri non licet" (look and believe: this is it, it is how it is, it cannot be otherwise)
To-day was beast-baiting in the mausoleum of Augustus.
This large building, empty inside, open above and quite
round, is now turned into an amphitheatre, an arena for
bull-baiting. It will hold from four to five thousand persons.
The spectacle itself was not very edifying for me.
J. W. Goethe - Italian Journey - July 16, 1787 - Translation by Charles Nisbeth.
It is used principally for fireworks, equestrian exhibitions and occasional scenic representations
Rev. Jeremiah Donovan - Rome Ancient and Modern - 1843
It is used in summer as an open-air theatre, where very amusing little plays are very well acted.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Walks in Rome - 1875
The Mausoleum of Augustus and its precious contents have not escaped the spoliation and desecration which seem to be the rule both in past and modern times. The building is used now as a circus. Its basement is concealed by ignoble houses. Lanciani in 1892
Concerts. The chief concert-rooms in Rome are the Comunale Anfiteatro Corea (Mausoleum of Augustus, p. 227) Via de' Pontefici 57. (..) In the Via de' Pontefici (..) is the entrance (No. 57; closed at present) to the Mausoleum of Augustus (..) a huge circular edifice which contained the mortuary chambers on a square travertine basement, now wholly beneath the level of the ground.
1909 Baedeker Guidebook of Central Italy
Eventually the open-air theatre was covered with a dome and in 1908 it was turned into a concert hall (Augusteo), which was renowned for its acoustics. You may wish to see two concert programmes (it opens in another window), one of which by Accademia Musicale di S. Cecilia. On May 13, 1936 it hosted its final concert: Bernardino Molinari conducted music by Rossini, Martucci, Paganini-Molinari, Respighi, Wagner and Verdi.
The pedestal of Agrippina the elder, daughter of Agrippa, wife of Germanicus, and mother of Caligula (..) was hollowed out during the Middle Ages, turned into standard measures for solids, and as such placed at the disposal of the public in the portico of the city hall. (..) As soon as Caligula succeeded Tiberius in the government of the empire, he sailed to Pandataria (Ventotene), collected the ashes of his mother and relatives, and ultimately placed them in the mausoleum. The cippus is manifestly the work of Caligula, because mention is made on it of his accession to the throne. Lanciani
Had the inscription been written a few years later they would have added mother-in-law of Emperor Claudius and grandmother of Emperor Nero. Poor Agrippina Maior did not live enough to see the successes of her descendants. She was imprisoned, exiled to a small island and most likely starved to death by Tiberius who was envious of her popularity. You may wish to see some portraits of these members of the Augustan family which were found near Toulouse.
Marble pedestal for the cinerary urn of Octavia (It. Ottavia), Augustus' sister
Among the ancient monuments, the Augusteum remained the most unknown, surrounded as it is by filthy houses, transformed by modern use, even if it had become a few years ago, after the destruction of the past centuries, very noble and dignified. It is my honour, assisted by my dear friend Anton Maria Colini, to have brought to the attention of the Governors of Rome and to have started the exploration of the Crypt, now happily accomplished. Thus the secret of the monument was revealed and, after many centuries of abandonment, it is possible to restore the large sepulchral cell, tracing the original memories of the tombs of Marcellus, Octavia, Germanicus, and Nerva.
Giulio Quirinio Giglioli's speech at the 1931 Congress of Roman Studies - Translation by Gaius Stern
In 1926 Giglioli and Colini undertook archaeological excavations beneath the concert hall and were able to reach the funerary cell and identify the main architectural features of the mausoleum. They also found a hollowed marble pedestal dedicated to Octavia; the hollow was meant for safely supporting the funerary urn and the discovery explained why the pedestal of Agrippina had been turned into a standard measure.
Base (above) and top (below) of the circular building inside the mausoleum
The wise facts have shown that much of the ruins still exist: the drum is about 5 meters high, now buried, and even more of the central core. Having excavated and isolated the ruins, it will be a solemn testimony of Roman times and surrounded by a small garden, it will constitute a note of poetry in the centre of the old city. It will then be necessary to think about the arrangement of the interior, depending on whether it shall remain a concert hall, which must be decorated if necessary, or it will become a museum hall. Giglioli
Today the mausoleum is at the centre of a new large square which is called Piazza Augusto Imperatore. In the past it was known as Piazza degli Otto Cantoni (No 15 in Vasi's 1781 Map of Rome).
(above-left) Inscription indicating the site of the cinerary urns of Octavia and Marcellus, her son and son-in-law (Gener) of Augustus; (above) dedicatory inscription to Tiberius in the year of his death ("tribunicia potestas XXXIIX" i.e. 37 AD); (below) original wall of the mausoleum in "opus reticulatum"
Augustus was not the first member of the family to occupy the mausoleum. He was preceded by Marcellus (28 B.C.); by Marcus Agrippa, in 14 B.C.; by Octavia, the sister of Augustus, in the year 13; by Drusus the elder, in the year 9; and by Caius and Lucius, nephews of Augustus. Lanciani
But even though the Crypt has been fixed, still much is to be done. The Duce, in his speech on the Capitol on 31 Dec. 1925, placed the isolation of the Augusteum among the work to be done. Various projects were advanced, then other equally grandiose works (the isolation of the Capitol, the excavation of the Imperial Forums and temples in Largo Argentina) were completed; but the Augusteum's turn must come. (..) After hearing the report by Prof. Giglioli, the Congress applauds the idea of celebrating the second millennial of the birth of Emperor Augustus and makes his own the proposal of the speaker to carry out the following works for this occasion: 1st - Isolation and definitive arrangement of the Mausoleum of Augustus; 2nd - Final excavation, recomposition and worthy placement in Rome of the Ara Pacis. Giglioli's speech and summary of the meeting.
In 1938 the celebrations of Augustus' Bimillenary led the Fascist Government to the decision of freeing the remaining walls of the mausoleum from all later additions, including the concert hall and of pulling down all the nearby houses to make room for a series of monumental buildings. The final project design by architect Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo was aimed at creating a new Forum, but notwithstanding the closeness of the area to Via del Corso the new location failed to attract businesses and shops.
Inside the inner circular building which contains the lower part of a circular pillar with two sepulchral rooms
Of this monument we have a description by Strabo, and ruins which substantiate the description in its main lines. It was composed of a circular basement of white marble, two hundred and twenty-five feet in diameter, which supported a cone of earth, planted with cypresses and evergreens. On the top of the mound the bronze statue of the emperor towered above the trees. Lanciani
The crypt was made of an internal cylindrical body from the centre of which rose another cylindrical pillar bearing the bronze statue of Augustus on the top. The crypt had three rectangular niches where some tombs of the imperial family were situated. The cylindrical pillar contained two small square chambers one upon the other, probably for Augustus (above) and his closest relatives (below). The pillar was some 40 metres high; it stood out over the nearby hills, thanks also to a bronze statue of Augustus located on top of it. Some art historians suggest it was similar to, but larger than, Augusto di Prima Porta.
Fragments of the decoration
The gates of the Mausoleum of Augustus were opened for the last time in A.D. 98, for the reception of the ashes of Nerva. We hear no more of it until the year 410, when the Goths ransacked the imperial vaults. No harm, however, seems to have been done to the building itself at that time. (..) It was subsequently converted into a stronghold, and occupied by the Colonnas. Its ultimate destruction, in 1167, marks one of the great occurrences in the fight of mediaeval Rome against Tuscolo. (..) The Colonnas were accused of high treason, namely, of having led the advance-guard of the Romans into an ambush. Consequently they were banished from the city, and their castle on the Campus Martius was destroyed. Thus perished the Mausoleum of Augustus. (..) It was explored archaeologically for the first time in 1527, when the obelisk now in the Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore was found on the south side, near the church of S. Rocco. On July 14, 1519, Baldassare Peruzzi discovered and copied some fragments of the original inscriptions in situ; but the discovery made in 1777 casts all that preceded it into the shade. In the spring of that year, while the corner house between the Corso and the Via degli Otto Cantoni was being built, the ustrinum, or sacred enclosure for the cremation of the members of the imperial family, came to light. Lanciani
His tomb was entered from the south, the entrance being flanked by monuments of great interest, such as two obelisks; the copies of the decrees of the Senate in honor of the personages buried within; and, above all, the Res gestae divi Augusti, a sort of political will, autobiography, and apology, the importance of which surpasses that of any other document relating to the history of the Roman Empire. This was written by Augustus towards the end of his life. He ordered his executors to have it engraved on bronze pillars on each side of the entrance to his mausoleum. That his will was duly executed by Livia, Tiberius, Drusus, and Germanicus, his heirs and trustees, is proved by the frequent allusions to the document made by Suetonius. Lanciani
The use of the mausoleum was discontinued after the death of Nero, with the only exception of Nerva. The emperors of the Flavian Dynasty were buried in a (lost) temple they built on the Quirinale Hill. The ashes of Emperor Trajan were placed in the pedestal of Colonna Traiana. Eventually Emperor Hadrian built a mausoleum similar to that of Augustus for himself and the future emperors. All these funerary monuments, when they were built, were outside the pomerium (the official limit) of the City of Rome in compliance with a Vth century BC law.
In 2007 new archaeological excavations were undertaken in the mausoleum and the surrounding square, and since 2016 the area has been undergoing a major conservative restoration.
(above) Museo dell'Ara Pacis by Richard Meier (who has designed also Chiesa di Dio Padre Misericordioso); (centre) detail of a procession; (below) first words of "Res Gestae Divi Augusti" aka "Index Rerum Gestarum"
Ara Pacis Augustae, the altar erected by the Senate to celebrate Augustus, can now be seen in a new museum which is located opposite the Mausoleum and replaces that designed by Morpurgo. On one side of the building there is a long inscription: the spiritual testament of Augustus, a summary of his achievements which was placed also in temples dedicated to him, e.g. at Ancyra (today's Ankara).
(left) Albergo dell'Orso; (right) the relief which has given the name to the street
The plate shows Strada dell'Orso, a street named after a fragment of a sarcophagus, which was supposed to portray a bear (it is actually a lion). The area was near Porto di Ripetta and it was known for its cheap inns and brothels. One of the surviving medieval buildings which housed an inn was excessively restored in 1937.
(left) Museo di Roma in Trastevere adjoining S. Egidio: Albergo dell'Orso in the 1880s in a painting by Ettore Roesler Franz; (right) copy of another relief from a sarcophagus near Albergo dell'Orso (see similar reliefs in a sarcophagus at Musei Vaticani)
In the XVIth century it was an excellent inn (Albergo dell'Orso) and it was mentioned by Michel de Montaigne in his Voyage en Italie (1580-1581), but in the XVIIIth century it catered mainly to coachmen.
(left) Medieval apse of S. Lucia della Tinta; (centre) reliefs on nearby buildings; (right) modern fountain "dell'Orso"; it was supplied by Acqua Vergine
In the 1781 Map by Giuseppe Vasi Strada dell'Orso was a much longer street as it included also Via dei Coronari. They were part of Via Recta, a street opened by Pope Sixtus IV. The changes which occurred in the late XIXth century caused by the construction of Ponte Umberto I and Palazzo di Giustizia separated the two streets.
(left) Old entrance; (right) XXth century section
Palazzo Primoli has two faces. It was built in the XVIth century and its main entrance was in Piazza dell'Orso. In 1886 the area was modified by the construction of the walls along the river. A few years later, the owner of the palace, Count Giuseppe Primoli enlarged it and built a new façade in a XXth century Renaissance style. It faces Ponte Umberto I and Palazzo di Giustizia on the other side of the river.
Count Giuseppe Primoli was a grandson of Zénaïde Bonaparte, a niece of Emperor Napoleon and he decorated his palace in the style of the First French Empire, although some rooms in the rear part of the building retain their old ceilings and frescoes. In 1927 he donated his collection of paintings, statues and other memorabilia of the Bonaparte to the City of Rome to form what is now Museo Napoleonico.
Many members of the Bonaparte family lived in Rome after the fall of the First French Empire. Letizia Ramolino Bonaparte, the Emperor's mother lived at Palazzo d'Aste, Louis Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon and former King of Holland at Palazzo Mancini, Lucien Bonaparte, another brother, was made Prince of Canino by Pope Pius VII, Julie Bonaparte, a relative of Count Primoli, married Marquis Alessandro del Gallo di Roccagiovine and lived in a palace in Piazza Farnese and another Bonaparte was made cardinal in 1868.
The present Prince of Canino, well-known for his successful devotion to science, is the son of Lucien Bonaparte. He married his cousin, the daughter of Joseph Bonaparte, and has a numerous family. He has been a good deal mixed up with the political changes in Rome since the accession of Pius IX., and is reputed to have shown much more activity than wisdom in public affairs.
George Stillman Hillard - Six Months in Italy in 1847-1848
Next plate in Book 9: Collegio Nazzareno.
Next step in Day 4 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Niccolò de' Perfetti.
Next step in your tour of Rione Campo Marzio: Chiesa di S. Carlo al Corso.
Start your tour of Rione Ponte: Torre Scapucci.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Poco dopo entrando nel vicolo detto de' Pontefici per alcune immagini, che sono poste nel prospetto di un casamento, si trova a destra il palazzino oggi del March. Correa, e nel cortile si vede un misero avanzo, del celebre mausoleo di Augusto, eretto nel sesto suo consolato per sepoltura di se, de' suoi, ed ancora di tutti gl'imperatori suoi successori. Era di figura circolare con 12. porte, conforme ai 12. segni celesti, e tutto ricoperto di bianche pietre lavorate a guisa di rete, ed era diviso a tre piani alto 250. cubiti; nella sua sommità era posta la statua di Augusto fatta di metallo, e sotto eranvi delle stanze con finestrelle da riporvi le ceneri, come oggi si vedono. Da piedi fino alla cima era tutto ricoperto di alberi di perpetua verdura, ed era cinto di tre ordini di mura con una porta e due obelischi, e dietro vi era un boschetto con deliziose strade da spasseggiare, coperte di pioppi. Ora non vi è rimasto altro, che il masso di mezzo, ridotto ad uso di giardino pensile; per lo quale tutta la contrada dicevasi ne' secoli scorsi in Augusta, e furono quivi disotterrati li due obelischi egizi, che ora si vedono, uno eretto presso la tribuna di s. Maria Maggiore, e l'altro a giacere incontro al palazzo Barberini.
Porta un tal nome questo collegio, perchè eretto da Clemente VIII. l'anno 1595. per benefizio de' giovani Schiavoni, come dicemmo, ivi questa contrada abitanti: ma dipoi essendo questi da Urbano VIII. trasportati nella città di Loreto, quivi si ricevono giovani nobili di qualunque nazione, e sono instruiti in tutte le scienze, ed arti cavalleresche da' religiosi Somaschi. Nella strada a sinistra di questo collegio, vi è la piccola chiesa di s. Gregorio fondata l'anno 1527. da una confraternita di Muratori; e nella strada a destra evvi la
Dall'antico tempio di Dite, e Proserpina prese corrottamente il suo nome questa piccola, ed
antichissima chiesa, dedicata a s. Lucia matrona romana, la quale quivi insieme con s. Giminiano
ricevette il martirio. Fu insigne collegiata, ma mancata questa fu governata dal solo Paroco per molto
tempo, e dopo varj riattamenti finalmente fu rimodernata, e decorata di una piccola collegiata di
Canonici dal Principe Borghese.