La Renella means the small beach; a larger beach stood on the opposite bank of the River Tiber; in this 1754 etching by Giuseppe Vasi we do not see people bathing in the river; most likely at that time the belief that the enlargement of the pores caused by water facilitated infections was still widespread.
Late XIXth century photograph showing the cabins inside which people bathed in summer
Hygienic views changed in the second half of the XVIIIth century and J. W. Goethe described in his diary (August 1st, 1787) how he took a refreshing bath at sunset in a safe and comfortable small cabin; these cabins were in use at la Renella until the 1880s.
The plate shows several monuments of Janiculum, the hill behind Trastevere, but because of the distance they were only outlined by Vasi; in 1765 however he showed some of them in great detail in his Grand View of Rome (i.e. S. Pietro in Montorio and Casino Giraud and Acqua Paola).
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) S. Pietro in Montorio; 2) Acqua Paola; 3) Casino Farnese sul Gianicolo; 4) Bosco Parrasio degli Arcadi; 5) S. Maria della Scala; 6) S. Maria in Trastevere. 3), 4) and 6) are shown in detail in other pages. The small map shows also 7) Casino Giraud.
(left) The view in June 2010 from Ponte Sisto; in the forefront Fontanone di Ponte Sisto; in the background (left to right) S. Pietro in Montorio, Casino Giraud and Acqua Paola; (right) view from the lungotevere showing the tip of S. Maria della Scala and in the background Casino Farnese sul Gianicolo
The construction of walls on the banks and the redesign of the river bed in the 1880s led to the disappearance of la Renella; these changes were aimed at preventing floods; they led also to relocating a fountain to the Trastevere end of Ponte Sisto. Because of modern buildings and trees along the lungotevere, Janiculum is best observed from Ponte Sisto, whereas the tip of S. Maria della Scala can be seen from the left bank of the river, near Vasi's observation point.
Mostra dell'Acqua Paola or il Fontanone
In 1587 Pope Sixtus V born Felice Peretti greatly improved the supply of water to Rome by completing Acqua Felice, an aqueduct named after him; a series of fountains distributed the water to the various rioni of the city, but conduits reaching Trastevere could not carry enough water and Borgo, the neighbourhood around S. Pietro, was too far away to be reached at all.
Pope Paul V, who was in the process of completing S. Pietro and whose nephew Scipione Borghese was titular cardinal of S. Grisogono (in Trastevere), decided to reactivate Aqua Traiana, an ancient aqueduct which carried water from springs near Lake Bracciano to Janiculum.
We saluted the gushing water of the Acqua Paola which, pouring in five streams through the doors and gates of a triumphal arch fills to the brim a proportionately large basin. (..) Surveying this sight, lovers of architecture praised the happy thought of giving to these waters an open, visible, triumphant entry. By pillars and arches, by entablatures and attics you are reminded of those sumptuous gates through which formerly war-conquerors were wont to enter. In the present case the peaceful nourisher entered with like strength and power, receiving as the reward of his laborious and long career the thanks and admiration of all beholders. A man from the north, who had shortly before arrived among us, expressed the opinion that it would have been better to have towered up savage rocks here as a natural association for the issue of these floods into the light of day. In reply, it was pointed out to him that this being not a natural, but an artificial stream, people were perfectly justified in celebrating its arrival in a corresponding manner.
J. W. Goethe - Italian Journey - December 1787 - translation by Charles Nisbet.
(left) Angels by Ippolito Buzio holding the coat of arms of Pope Paul V; (right) an eagle and a dragon, heraldic symbols of the Borghese
In 1612 a large fountain similar to a triumphal Roman arch was completed at the arrival point of the aqueduct; it was designed by Giovanni Fontana and Flaminio Ponzio and it was decorated with many references to the heraldic symbols of the Borghese. The large basin we see today was designed in 1690 by Carlo Fontana and it replaced five smaller basins. Some of the marbles and columns employed in the construction of the fountain came from a Temple to Minerva in the Forum of Nerva, but four granite columns came from the portico of old S. Pietro. In addition Pope Paul V built a triumphal arch where the aqueduct crossed Via Aurelia.
(left) Central part of the arch which frames a fountain with the heraldic symbols of the Borghese (but with the coat of arms of Pope Innocent XII - see enlargement in another window) and a 1690 inscription celebrating changes made by Pope Alexander VIII; (right) small pillars with the heraldic symbols of the Borghese
The aqueduct and the fountain were named Acqua Paola after the Pope, but the fountain is more usually known as il Fontanone (the large fountain).
You may wish to see Acqua Paola in an etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (it opens in another window).
Casino Giraud seen from the terrace of Acqua Paola
Casino Giraud was built at the beginning of the XVIIIth century for the Vaini family by Romano Carapecchia, an architect who left Rome in 1706 and continued his career in Malta. The Vaini had a fine family chapel at S. Onofrio. The building was acquired by the Giraud in 1765 and at that time its wings were shorter and ended with a balustrade and some statues (as shown by Vasi in his Grand View of Rome); in 1925 the villa was given its current aspect; after WWII it was bought by Spain. It houses the residence of the Spanish Ambassador to the Italian Republic, while the Embassy is located at Palazzo Borghese. The historical palace in Piazza di Spagna houses the Embassy to the Holy See.
Enlargement of the view enjoyed by Casino Giraud
Palazzo Giraud adjoins Cartiera Sampieri, a former paper factory which today houses Instituto Cervantes the cultural Spanish centre in Rome.
(left) Fašade and column erected in 1657; (right) detail of the lintel with the coat of arms of the Spanish Catholic monarchs after 1492: the presence of pomegranates at the lower end of the coat of arms and in the decoration is a reference to the conquest of Granada which occurred in that year
Montorio is a corruption of Mons Aureus (Golden Mountain), an ancient name of Janiculum; a monastery with a church dedicated to St. Peter in the assumed site of his martyrdom is recorded from the Xth century; in 1472 Pope Sixtus IV assigned it to Blessed Amedeo Menez da Sylva, a Spanish Franciscan who undertook the construction of a new complex with the financial help of Queen Isabel of Castile and Leon and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. The image used as background for this page shows the symbols of Castile (castles) and Leon (a lion) in a relief on the steps of the church.
You may wish to see an 1883 View of Rome from S. Pietro in Montorio.
A Via-Crucis with a staircase will conduct the pedestrian by a shorter way to the platform on the hill-top. (..) A succession of beggars infest this hill and stretch out their maimed limbs or kiss their hands to the passers-by.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Walks in Rome - 1875
The church was completed by the year 1500, but access to it was uneasy until 1605 when Spain paid for the construction of a wall which supported a small square in front of the building. The wall was needed to prevent a landslide; repairs to it were made in 1867. The church and the adjoining monastery still belong to Spain.
(left) Interior; (right) detail of the right side of the nave showing one of the niches/chapels
The decoration of the interior was mainly completed during the XVIth century, with minor later additions, the most important being Cappella Raimondi, a chapel designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini who added it to the left side of the building.
In 1523, Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, shortly before being elected Pope Clement VII, donated The Transfiguration by Raphael to S. Pietro in Montorio. According to Giorgio Vasari it was the last and the most celebrated, the most beautiful and the most divine work of the master. All Grand Tour travellers came to the church to see this masterpiece: Goethe summarized his thoughts as follows: Like Nature Raphael is always right, and most profoundly so when we understand him least (a reference to the differences between the upper and lower parts of the painting). The altarpiece was seized by the French and moved to Paris in 1798. It was returned in 1816 and placed in the Vatican.
In the XVth century oil painting spread from the Netherlands to Italy and in particular to Venice, where it was applied to canvas, rather than wood. Sebastiano del Piombo, a Venetian painter who befriended with Michelangelo in Rome, used oil directly on the wall as an alternative to fresco, a rather cumbersome process. While attempts by other painters to replace frescoes with new techniques (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci's 1498 The Last Supper - it opens in another window) did not succeed, this painting by del Piombo did not lose its colour.
(left) Cappella Del Monte; (centre) putti on the balustrade; (right) Monument to Cardinal Antonio Maria Ciocchi del Monte (d. 1533) with a statue of Religion
In 1550 Pope Julius III commissioned Giorgio Vasari to design his family chapel and Bartolomeo Ammannati to make its statues and reliefs. The Pope was of Tuscan origin and he chose Tuscan artists who worked also at his palace and villa. Cardinal Antonio Maria Ciocchi del Monte was the uncle of the Pope. He was made cardinal in 1511 and owing to his skills he effectively advised the Popes during a very turbulent period. He was asked to negotiate on their behalf with Emperor Charles V and King Henry VIII. The inscription below the sarcophagus (designed by Vasari) mentions his onesty, tact and piety and for once it was not mere flattery.
Former cloister of the monastery
Views of the building and of its dome
The Spanish monarchs commissioned the construction of a separate chapel dedicated to St. Peter; however because the building designed by Donato Bramante is so evocative of a tholos, a small ancient round temple (e.g. those at Delphi and at Villa Adriana), it is usually called Tempietto del Bramante, rather than Cappella di S. Pietro.
The tip of the dome was modified in the XVIIth century (you may wish to see it in a 1588 Guide to Rome).
(left) XVIth century statue of St. Peter and (inset) relief showing his martyrdom; (right) decoration of the entrance to the crypt and 1536 inscription by Pope Paul III granting indulgences
A few grains of the sacred sand from the hole in the centre of the chapel are given to visitors by the monks as a relic.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Walks in Rome - 1875
(left) S. Maria della Scala, the pharmacy and in the background Porta Settimiana; (centre) fašade; (right) 1633 statue by Francesco di Cusart
S. Maria della Scala is one of the many churches of Rome which were built as a shrine for an image of the Virgin Mary which performed miracles; in 1592 miracles occurred to people who prayed for help at a "madonnella" under the external steps (It. scala) of a house in Trastevere. Pope Clement VIII commissioned Francesco da Volterra to design a church to house the painting, but the architect died at an early stage of the construction, so there is uncertainty about who completed the church.
The adjoining monastery was assigned to the Discalced Carmelites; the friars grew some medicinal herbs in the cloister and at the end of the XVIIth century they opened a pharmacy; theriaca, one of the drugs they made, was known for its powerful effects; assumedly it was based on a recipe by Andromachus, doctor of Emperor Nero; it was a compound made up of some sixty ingredients, the key one being viper flesh. It was sold in a simplified formula without viper flesh until 1940.
(left) Interior; (right) canopy by Carlo Rainaldi
The monastery was the headquarters of the Italian Discalced Carmelites who were active in all non-Spanish countries. In 1650 149 monasteries reporting to S. Maria della Scala were recorded. The Order promoted an expensive embellishment of the church so that it could stand comparison with those of other orders (e.g. il Ges¨, S. Andrea della Valle and S. Maria in Vallicella).
(left) Altar housing the holy image; (right) gravestone of Leonora Baroni (1611-670)
A gravestone catches the eye for its gruesome reminder of death. It is worth being paid attention because Leonora Baroni was a famous singer of her time. John Milton wrote Ad Leonoram Romae Canentem (To Leonora Who Sings in Rome), a Latin sonnet dedicated to her. The first four lines say: To every one, so let the nations believe, there is allotted from the ethereal ranks his own winged angel. What wonder if to thee there should be a greater glory? Thy very voice God as present in thee (translation by David Masson).
S. Maria della Scala has an elaborate organ.
S. Maria della Scala seen from S. Pietro in Montorio
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Circa l'anno 1592. fu eretta quella chiesa dal Card. Como, per collocarvi un' immagine miracolosa della ss. Vergine, che stava quivi sotto una scala, dal che la chiesa prese il nome. Dipoi l'anno 1596. venendo dalla Spagna il Procuratore Generale de' Carmelitani riformati da s. Teresa, e portando seco un religioso, che aveva molto talento e grazia nel predicare, Clemente VIII. conoscendo, che il Trastevere aveva bisogno di ajuto spirituale, li concedŔ questa chiesa, la quale poi fu ornata di nobili cappelle con marmi, stucchi dorati, e pitture diverse. Il s. Gio. Batista nella prima cappella a destra Ŕ di Gherardo Fiammingo; il s. Giacinto nella seconda, dell'Antivedoto Grammatica, ed il s. Giuseppe nella terza, di Giuseppe Ghezzi. La s. Teresa nell'altare della crociata ornato di preziosi marmi, e metalli dorati Ŕ del Mancini. Il tabernacolo nell'altare maggiore Ŕ disegno del Cav. Rainaldi, ed il quadro nel coro col fanciullo Ges¨ Ŕ di Giuseppe d'Arpino. Il deposito nella cappella che segue, in cui sta la sagra immagine della ss. Vergine, Ŕ disegno dell'Algardi, e la statua di s. Gio. della Croce con altre sculture nella cappella appresso sono sono di Pietro Papaleo Siciliano; le pitture per˛ sono di Filippo Zucchi. Il Transito nella contigua Ŕ di Carlo Veneziano, ed il s. Simone Stok nell'ultima Ŕ del Roncalli; li quadri per˛, che sono intorno alla chiesa, furono dipinti dal P. Luca Fiammingo religioso di quest'Ordine, e la statua della ss. Vergine a sedere sopra la porta Ŕ di Silvio Valloni.
Anche questa sarÓ forse una di quelle erette da' Cristiani in tempo di Costantino Magno, per conservare
la memoria del martirio, che quivi sofferse il Principe degli Apostoli. Ebbe da principio il titolo di s. Maria
in castro Aureo; dipoi la dissero in monte Aureo per l'arene di tal colore, che erano su questo monte;
ora per˛ per l'eminente sito, in cui siede la diciamo in Montorio. Fu questa una delle 20. Abazie di Roma;
dopo vi stettero li monaci Celestini; ma nell'anno 1472. fu conceduta ai frati riformati di s. Francesco. Il Re
Cattolico Ferdinando IV. ed Elisabetta sua moglie rifecero la chiesa; dipoi Filippo III. similmente Re di
Spagna nel 1605. fecevi la piazza colla fontana, e cinse di grossi muri una parte del monte, acciocchŔ non
slamasse, ed apportasse nocumento alla chiesa e al convento; e poi da varj benefattori sono state fatte
delle cappelle ornate di marmi e di pitture superbe. La flagellazione alla colonna nella prima cappella
a destra Ŕ fatta da fra Sebastiano del Piombo, col disegno per˛ del Buonarroti, e li due laterali
nella cappella della Madonna sono del Morandi; i tre quadri nella terza cappella sono di Michelangelo
Cerruti, ed il s. Paolo con Ananýa nella quarta Ŕ di Giorgio Vasari, il quale in una figura dipinse se
stesso; le statue nelle nicchie, ed il resto delle sculture sono di Bartolommeo Ammannato, i putti
per˛ si credono del Buonarroti. Nell'altare maggiore si vede il celebre, ed ultimo quadro, che
dipinse Raffaelle da Urbino, dono prezioso del Card. de' Medici, e nel coro sono due quadri di
Paolo Guidotti. Il s. Gio. Batista con altre pitture, nella cappella, che segue, sono di Francesco
Salviati, e le statue sono sculture di Daniele da Volterra. Il Cristo morto con altri fatti della passione
nell'altra cappella si credono di Francesco Stellaert Fiammingo, e sono molto stimati; le pitture
nella contigua sono della scuola del Baglioni, ed il s. Francesco di Assisi con altre figure in quella,
che segue, riattata dal Bernini, sono di Francesco Baratta, il quale fece le sculture ne' due depositi.
Le Stimate di s. Francesco nell'ultima furono dipinte da Gio. de' Vecchi, col disegno per˛ del
Buonarroti, e le sculture presso la porta sono di Gio. Ant. Dosio.