Links to this page can be found in Book 10.
In this additional etching to the view of Giardino Colonnese (or Colonna), Giuseppe Vasi showed the ruins of the Temple to Serapis, which was built by Emperor Caracalla, as they appeared before 1630. The image to the right is based on a plate in Le Antichitą della Cittą di Roma, a 1565 book by Bernardo Gamucci (you can see it in another window); that to the left on information Vasi found in Roma Vetus ac Recens by Father Alessandro Donati, a teacher at Collegio Romano, which was published in 1638. Overall the two views are very similar (and they confuse the reader).
The Colonna incorporated the ruins of the temple into their medieval fortification system. They built a tower on one side of the ancient walls which was known as Torre Mesa, perhaps mezza (half) because it was very lean. According to Gamucci Emperor Nero watched the 65 AD fire of Rome from this tower, rather than from a tower built by Maecenas on the Esquiline Hill. Vasi used another drawing by Gamucci for his view of Foro di Nerva.
The ruins of the temple and Torre Mesa were pulled down by Duke Filippo I Colonna in 1630 by mining them: it was then discovered that the ancient entablature was carved in a single block of marble (which split into two major pieces because of the fall). The size of these two pieces was such that Filippo Colonna left them in the gardens and Vasi showed them (anticaglia) in the right lower corner of this plate. They were so admired that he showed them also in the plate covering Palazzo Colonna.
In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) anticaglia; 2) the temple as per the drawing by Bernardo Gamucci. The small 1748 map shows: 1) Giardino Colonnese; 2) Scuderie del Quirinale; the red dot indicates the approximate location of the marble pieces.
June 2010: ancient walls in Giardino Colonnese (in the background Palazzo and Scuderie del Quirinale); (right) the ancient walls seen from Scuderie del Quirinale
The walls of the ancient temple which had not entirely collapsed were incorporated into a casino at the northern end of the gardens. In 1927 this building was pulled down to make room for Pontificia Universitą Gregoriana and some ancient walls came to light and were restored.
Walls seen from Giardino Colonnese
For very many years the opportunity of visiting Giardino Colonnese and seeing the anticaglia was restricted to friends and guests of the Colonna. Since 2015 the garden is open to the public on Saturday mornings (guided tours) in conjunction with visits to the Colonna gallery of paintings.
Templum Solis. Of this there was lately a
piece standing in the Garden of the Columna upon
monte cavallo. (..) It is now quite thrown
down; only there remain in the Garden vast marble
stones, the greater that ever I saw, and some of
them curiously carved which came from the top of
John Ray - Observations (..) made in a journey through part of (..) Italy in 1663
It is rather the quality of what remains, than the quantity, that impresses one with an idea of the grandeur and magnificence of ancient Rome. There is the fragment of a cornice, lying in the gardens of the Colonna Palace, which looks as if it had been brought from the land of Brobdingnag (Brobdingnag is a fictional land, which is occupied by giants, in Jonathan Swift's 1726 satirical novel Gulliver's Travels); - for no pillars of present existence could support an entablature of such gigantic proportions, as that of which this cornice must have formed a part.
Henry Matthews - Diary of an Invalid - 1817/1818
In general the IIIrd century AD is regarded as a period of decline for the Roman Empire, not only from a political and military viewpoint, but also in the artistic field. While this is true for the decoration of the buildings which tended to be repetitive, the decline did not impact on the technical capabilities associated with the construction of very large monuments, e.g. Caracalla's Baths and the walls built by Emperor Aurelian in a very short period of time.
Detail of the decoration of the smaller marble piece
According to Gamucci the temple columns were 21m/68ft tall, but his drawing of the frieze (it opens in another window) does not seem to be accurate, so his measurements might have been exaggerated. The image used as background for this page shows a detail of the frieze which is based on acanthus leaves.
Next plate in Book 10: Casino della Villa Peretti.