Piazza S. Marco was also called Piazza di Venezia, as St. Mark and Venice
were almost synonyms in the past, the former being the patron saint of the latter.
Today it is known exclusively as Piazza Venezia. This 1752 etching by Giuseppe Vasi shows the northern part of the square. Its section to the right of Palazzo Venezia was renamed Via del Plebiscito in the 1870s with reference to the October 1870 referendum by which the citizens of Rome agreed to join the Kingdom of Italy. A view of the southern part of the square is shown in Book 4 (Palazzo di S. Marco).
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) Palazzo di S. Marco or di Venezia; 2) Palazzo Altieri; 3) Palazzo Pamphilj; 4) Palazzo d'Aste. 2) and 4) are covered in other pages. The small map shows also 5) Palazzo Grazioli.
View in July 2009
This side of Piazza Venezia looks unchanged, but it is the only part of the square which was not impacted by the construction of Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II and by the opening of Via dei
The upper storey of Palazzo Venezia was modified by rearranging its windows in a symmetrical way.
(left) Northern side; (right) entrance on this side
The construction of Palazzo Venezia was started by Cardinal Pietro Barbo, nephew of Pope Eugenius IV after 1451 when he became the titular of Basilica di S. Marco; both the cardinal and his uncle were Venetians.
The palace was enlarged after Cardinal Pietro Barbo became Pope Paul II in 1464; the northern side of the building was completed by Cardinal Marco Barbo, a cousin of the Pope, so the windows and the entrance on this side show his coat of arms rather than that of the Pope. He had the titles of Patriarch of Aquileia, an ancient town in northern Italy, and of Cardinal of St. Mark (the basilica) and he was also the patron of the Knights of Rhodes for whom he built a small palace in Rome.
(left) Window built by Cardinal Marco Barbo; (right-above) coats of arms of Ambassador Antonio Grimani (1671) (left) and of the Republic of Venice and the cardinals of St. Mark; (right-below) a modern statue by Urbano Nono portraying St. Mark's Winged Lion (you may wish to see other Winged Lions in the Venetian Fortresses
In 1564 Pope Pius IV presented part of the palace to the Republic of Venice as a residence for its ambassadors. Cohabitation between the ambassadors and the cardinals of St. Mark was not without frictions; in 1814 the whole palace was acquired by the Austrian Empire, which had annexed the Republic of Venice; it became the residence of the Austrian ambassadors until WWI, when it was confiscated.
Museo di Palazzo Venezia: (left) Wooden coat of arms of Pope Paul II from the ceiling of a hall; (left) Tiberio Titi - Portrait of the children of Virginio Orsini, Duke of Bracciano - Coll. Frascara (1931)
In 1929 the palace became the office of Benito Mussolini, the then Prime Minister. Today it houses a museum of miscellanea and temporary exhibitions. Some of the works of art on display were gifts made to Mussolini for the embellishment of his office (he lived at Villa Torlonia). Other works of art come from palaces which were demolished e.g. Palazzo Altoviti.
Museo di Palazzo Venezia: (left) Sedan chair (XVIIIth century - Coll. Ruffo di Motta Bagnara); (centre) St. Michael defeating Satan attributed to Michael Pacher (XVth century - Coll. Tower & Wurts; George Wurts and Henriette Tower admired Mussolini and bequeathed him Villa Sciarra); (right) glazed terracotta from Urbino and Casteldurante
(left) Fašade; (right) fountain in one of the two courtyards
The southern side of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj was completed in 1743 by Paolo Amelj and it is one of the last additions to Baroque Rome. The palace has two other (more imposing) fašades: one next to S. Maria in Via Lata and another one opposite Collegio Romano. The Doria Pamphilj did not live on this side of the palace which housed flats for rent. This explains why the fašade is so crowded with windows and why there are not as many flying doves (the Pamphilj's heraldic symbol) as on the other fašades.
(left/centre) Details of the building; (right) a "madonnella"
(left) Fašade and (inset) the statue on the rear of the palace which is shown in the image used as background for this page; (right) the lone flag
This palace was designed by Camillo Arcucci in 1650 for the Gottifredi family. It was acquired in the XIXth century by the Grazioli who made major modifications to its interior and its rear fašade. The building was usually known as Palazzo della Gatta (cat) because of a small statue of a cat on its rear fašade.
The statue was found in the ruin of a nearby Temple to Isis and most likely it represented a monkey.
In 1995 the Grazioli rented part of the palace to Mr. Silvio Berlusconi, a politician who has been Presidente del Consiglio (Prime Minister) of the Italian Republic between 2001 and 2006 and again between 2008 and 2011. Since then newspapers and television stations have carefully avoided using the traditional name of the palace. Mr. Berlusconi preferred to live here, rather than in the modest apartment for the Prime Minister inside Palazzo Chigi. Sometimes political meetings are held in this palace; the Italian flag on the balcony is not an indication that the palace houses an institution of the Italian Republic, because public buildings (by law) display also the flag of the European Union.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
L'anno 1743. fu edificata questa gran parte del palazzo Panfili col disegno di Paolo Amelj dal penultimo Principe di questa antichissima famiglia Romana, ora estinta, il quale per la sola vastitÓ di appartamenti forma un gran palazzo per uso di varj Signori. Siegue dopo di questo, quello de' Sig. Gottifredo con nobilissima archittettura del Cav. Rainaldi.