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Page revised in March 2010.
Casino e Villa Corsini fuori di Porta S. Pancrazio (Book 10) (Day 6)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Casino dei Quattro Venti
Villa del Vascello
The Plate (No. 199)
In the previous etching Giuseppe Vasi showed the gardens of Palazzo Corsini, the residence of Cardinal Neri Corsini junior, nephew of Pope Clement XII; the pope in turn was the nephew of Cardinal Neri Corsini senior who in 1662 bought a farm off Porta S. Pancrazio and commissioned Matthia De Rossi the design of a small casino on a commanding position. In his plate Vasi chose to give more relevance to Villa del Vascello, another casino built at almost the same time as Villa Corsini and having the shape of a vessel.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Tavern; 2) Street leading to S. Pancrazio; 3) Entrance to Villa Corsini; 4) Street leading to Villa Pamphilj; 5) Casino del Vascello. The small map shows also 6) S. Pancrazio
In 1849 fierce fighting between French troops and defenders of the Roman Republic heavily damaged the two villas; the battle became the subject of a 1910 book by historian G. M. Trevelyan which in particular highlighted the role of Giuseppe Garibaldi.
The street which led to Villa Corsini is today extremely busy because it links the historical part of the city with its modern western suburbs.
Casino dei Quattro Venti
When the Corsini completed the design of the gardens behind their palace at Via della Lungara they lost interest in their villa off Porta S. Pancrazio and the land surrounding the casino was mainly used for farming; the casino, because of its isolated position was called dei Quattro Venti (of the Four Winds); its main characteristic was to be built on a terrace with a central tunnel which allowed carriages to reach the rear side of the property.
The ruined casino was bought by the Doria Pamphily, whose villa bordered on the Corsini one; in 1859 Andrea Busiri Vici designed a triumphal arch which reminded of the previous building.
The arch was decorated with four statues representing the winds and with a coat of arms of Pope Innocent X, to whom the Doria Pamphilj owed much of their wealth. A long inscription makes reference to war destructions (BELLI FURORE) and to Prince Filippo Andrea Doria Pamphilj (PHIL. AND. AB AURIA PAMPHILUS), a keen supporter of the Papal cause, who nevertheless, after the annexation of Rome, accepted becoming a senator of the Kingdom of Italy and the first Mayor of the city.
Some decorative elements were moved from Villa Pamphilj to the site of former Villa Corsini and viceversa.
Villa del Vascello
Plautilla Bricci (1616-90) is one of the earliest examples of women architects; her father Giovanni was a musician and a painter and her brother Basilio was a painter and an architect and these circumstances allowed Plautilla to receive what at that time was regarded as an unconventional education for a woman. She and her brother were commissioned the design of a villa by Monsignor Elpidio Benedetti, a close friend of Cardinal Jules Mazarin (the casino was decorated with a coat of arms of King Louis XIV of France). Because of its overall shape it became known as Villa del Vascello, rather than Villa Benedetti or Villa Giraud (the owners at the time of the etching by Vasi); the resemblance to a ship had a symbolic meaning, because the ship represents the Church.
Plautilla Bricci was influenced or even advised by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the use of fake rocks as an architectonic element.
The basilica was built in the VIIth century on the site of an oratory housing the tomb of St. Pancras, a very young martyr who was executed at the time of Emperor Diocletian. The area, outside the walls of the city, was a burial ground and catacombs have been found next to the church.
Unlike the other early Christian churches S. Pancrazio does not have a porch or a courtyard before the entrance; however it is located at a short distance from Via Vitellia, an ancient road, and it is likely that the area between the first entrance and the building had the function of a narthex, the part of a church which was screened off from the rest of the building and where catechumens attended ceremonies.
In the XIIIth century S. Pancrazio was embellished with ambos having a Cosmati decoration; unfortunately during the 1849 fights, they were greatly damaged and today they are remembered by a painting on the wall.
In the early XVIIth century the church was renovated by Cardinals Ludovico and Cosimo de Torres (the former was the uncle of the latter); they were both Bishops of Monreale in Sicily and they were both titular cardinals of S. Pancrazio; their heraldic symbol was a tower which can be seen at various locations in the church and its facilities (and also in the image used as background for this page). You may wish to see the church in a 1588 Guide to Rome.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 10: Villa e Casino Panfili detta del Bel Respiro
Next step in Day 6 itinerary: Villa e Casino Panfili detta del Bel Respiro