In 1753 Giuseppe Vasi published his third book of etchings showing the monuments of Ancient and Modern Rome. It covered the seven basilicas and other ancient churches of Rome. It was dedicated to Pope Benedict XIV. Because nothing was published in the Papal State without proper authorization, the dedication to the Pope indicates that the book was not only in line with religious canons, but was appreciated by the high-ranking members of the clergy in charge of the review. Mons. Giovanni Gaetano Bottari summarized his review of the book as follows: Ho veduto che questa opera Ŕ per esser di lustro a questa Metropoli dell'Universo onde lo stimo degnissimo di darsi alla luce. (I have ascertained that this book will give lustre to Rome and I therefore strongly support its publication). His opinion was endorsed by two other colleagues.
This preamble indicates that the book was targeted to pilgrims and it explains why Vasi entitled this plate the "Prison of St. Peter", the assumed site where St. Peter was imprisoned, although in the view it is not actually visible, because S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami was built above it.
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) steps leading to Campidoglio; 2) S. Pietro in Carcere; 3) S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami; 4) Vico Mamertino, a (lost) street which led to Arco dei Pantani and followed the route of ancient Argiletum; 5) SS. Luca e Martina; 6) S. Adriano. The small map shows also: 7) the site of Foro di Cesare. The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Campitelli (left) and Rione Monti (right).
The view in March 2009 with Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II in the background
The large excavations in the Roman Forum, the construction of Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II and later on the opening of Via dei Fori Imperiali, isolated S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami and SS. Luca e Martina from the rest of the city, whereas S. Adriano was deconsecrated and included inside the Foro Romano archaeological area. The excavations unearthed Clivus Argentarius, a Roman street between SS. Luca e Martina and S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami.
Scalae Gemoniae, the steps leading to Campidoglio, were used in antiquity to display the bodies of inmates of the nearby prison who committed dishonourable crimes. Gemoniae was undoubtedly connected in the popular mind with Lat. gemo (I groan), but most likely the steps were named after a person named Gemonius who built them or lived nearby.
(left) Ancient wall of the prison; (right) relief on the balustrade of S. Giuseppe ai Falegnami showing St. Peter and St. Paul behind bars (also in the image used as background for this page)
We saw in a church the famous Tullia prison, of which Sallust gives so hideous a picture and where Paul and Silas were imprisoned. Catholics say Peter and Paul. They show a stone against which the head of the Prince of the Apostles was dashed. The mark remains very distinct. We saw the hole down which criminals were thrown, the stone to which the two apostles were chained, a well which sprang up by miracle to furnish them with water to baptize.
From James Boswell's letters on the Grand Tour related to his visit to Rome in 1765.
S. Pietro in Carcere or Carcere Mamertino is the name given during the Middle Ages to a prison which the ancient Romans called Tullianum. According to tradition St. Peter was imprisoned there during the reign of Emperor Nero. Roman prisons were not used to punish criminals, but instead served to hold persons in detention, awaiting either trial or execution. Some of the enemy commanders who were brought to Rome to be paraded during a triumphal procession (e.g. Jugurtha and Vercingetorix), spent their last days in this prison before being strangled.
(left) S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami; (right) symbols of the joiners' (carpenters') guild inside the church or on buildings belonging to the guild
In the IVth century the prison was turned into an oratory dedicated to St. Peter (and St. Paul); in the XVIth century it was assigned to the joiners' (It. falegnami) guild. The underground room which housed the oratory did not suit the needs of the guild. The construction of a church above the prison took a long time. The fašade was designed in 1602 by Giovan Battista Montano, a member of the guild, but its stucco decoration belongs to a later period. Montano is known also for its decoration of the organ of S. Giovanni in Laterano. The church was dedicated to St. Joseph, the patron saint of the guild and it was consecrated in 1663 (you may wish to see a directory of churches belonging to a guild).
The interior of the church was redesigned in the late XIXth century and it lost some of its original features, which instead can still be seen in a large oratory which was completed in 1627. Its walls were entirely covered by frescoes by Marco Tullio Montagna. They depict scenes from the life of St. Joseph together with Sibyls and Prophets.
(left) Detail of the ceiling of the church by Montano depicting the Nativity of Jesus; (right) ceiling of the oratory by Giovan Pietro Giani and Giovanni Salvatori
Being the church of the joiners, S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami was profusely adorned with wooden works of art. Some of them were designed by artists who were involved in the decoration of other churches, but in some instances they were made by members of the guild who wanted to directly contribute to the embellishment of their church.
(left) Organ on the rear fašade (you may wish to see a page on organs and cantorias); (right) decoration of the stalls in the Oratory by Tommaso Carminati and Claudio Duplissier
(left) SS. Luca e Martina; (right) details of the decoration showing bees, the heraldic symbol of Pope Urban VIII
In the VIIth century a church dedicated to St. Martina, a IIIrd century Roman martyr, was built above the remains of
the ancient Secretarium Senatus, most likely a criminal court of the Late Empire.
In 1588 the church was assigned to the painters' guild, which had recently changed its name from UniversitÓ dei Pittori to Accademia di S. Luca (St. Luke, according to tradition, painted the first icons portraying the Virgin Mary).
Lower church: bronze altar to St. Martina designed by Pietro da Cortona and executed by Giovanni Artusi
The appointment of Pietro da Cortona as Principe dell'Accademia in 1634 paved the way for the construction of a new church dedicated to St. Luke. Initially Pietro da Cortona had just in mind to build his own underground funerary chapel, but the discovery of the body of St. Martina led Pope Urban VIII to finance the construction of a new grand church dedicated to both saints (the lower one is dedicated to St. Martina and the upper one to St. Luke).
(left) Dome (see it in the moonlight); (right) interior of the dome: XVIIIth century stucco decoration
Although Pietro da Cortona is mainly remembered for his paintings (e.g. Ceiling of Sala del Trionfo at Palazzo Barberini), the church he designed and where he was buried is regarded as a masterpiece of baroque architecture. Towards the end of his life he was involved in the design of another large Roman dome, that of SS. Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso.
The coat of arms of the fašade was included by Filippo Juvarra in his selection of papal coats of arms.
(left) Main altar by Pietro da Cortona with copy of a painting attributed to Raphael portraying St. Luke as a painter; (right) Monument to Carlo Pio Balestra, a benefactor who bequeathed all his possessions to Accademia di S. Luca, by Tommaso Righi (1764)
Unlike most other Roman churches of the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries SS. Luca e Martina does not house many funerary monuments. Its Greek-cross design was not suited for opening a series of chapels and it did not have much space for monuments.
Monument to Pietro da Cortona erected by Accademia di S. Luca in the lower church; the bust is by Alessandro Algardi (see other busts by this sculptor)
Apart from Pietro da Cortona, not many other Principi chose to be buried in the church of the Academy. Carlo Maratta, who was elected Principe several times and for long periods was buried at S. Maria degli Angeli. Alessandro Algardi, Principe in 1639, was buried in a (lost) tomb at SS. Giovanni e Petronio, the church of the inhabitants of Bologna, his hometown, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Principe in 1621 and 1630 at S. Maria Maggiore under the steps of the main altar.
In the XVIIth century the process for making stucco decorations was improved by adding finely-grained marble. Because of its light weight stucco was particularly suited for ceilings and vaults. In some instances it was gilded and the decoration was completed with stucco statues projecting from the walls or the ceiling (as at il Ges¨).
At SS. Luca e Martina Pietro da Cortona made use of stucco to enhance the architectural features of the building, similar to what Francesco Borromini did at S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and at S. Ivo alla Sapienza.
Musei Capitolini: two of three reliefs found in 1515 near SS. Luca e Martina and belonging to an arch built by Emperor Commodus and dedicated to Emperor Marcus Aurelius, his father. Other reliefs from this arch were employed in the decoration of Arco di Costantino. The temple depicted in the two panels was dedicated to Jupiter and it stood on the Capitoline Hill. In reality the front of the temple had six columns
(left) S. Adriano as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome; (right) image of the interior of the church before 1930 in a visual reconstruction
Curia Julia, the hall where the Senators met, was built by Julius Caesar near Curia Hostilia, a previous building named after Tullus Hostilius, the third king of Rome. The hall was rebuilt by Emperor Diocletian after a fire. In 625 it was turned into a church dedicated to St. Hadrian of Nicomedia, a IVth century martyr; later on its floor was raised and a three nave church was built inside the ancient walls. In 1654-1656 the church was entirely redesigned by Martino Longhi il Giovane and in 1660 its bronze doors were relocated to S. Giovanni in Laterano.
Museo Nazionale Romano a Cripta di Balbo: frescoes from S. Adriano (early IXth century)
In 1930-1936 all the additions were removed and the entrance, which in the plate is shown at the level of the other churches, was brought back to its original lower location, similar to what occurred at nearby Tempio di Romolo. The decoration of the church was not regarded as being of value and the interior was entirely dismantled. Some very ancient frescoes were uncovered which went back to the heyday of the church and bring to mind those at nearby S. Maria Antiqua.
(left) Curia Julia today; (right) visual reconstruction of its assumed ancient interior
The actual result of the 1930s restoration is not that impressive and it does not help to visualize the aspect of the building in antiquity. We know that it was preceded by a portico with columns and that its lower part was faced with marbles, whereas the upper one was decorated with stucco. The entablature of the portico had reliefs and statues. You may wish to see an image of its marble floor in the Hall of Fame page of this website.
(left) Visual re-enactment of the killing of Julius Caesar during a meeting of the Senate based on a painting by Karl von Piloty (1865) (actually it occurred near Teatro di Pompeo); (right) visual reconstruction of the Statue of Victory which stood in the Senate until 382 when it was removed by order of Emperor Gratian
After the victory at Actium in 31 B. C, Augustus placed on an altar in the Curia Julia a statue of Victory found at Tarentum and probably the work of a Greek artist. This was to be the most famous of the Roman statues of Victory. At this Altar of Victory senators burned incense, offered prayers annually for the welfare of the empire, took their oaths and pledged on the accession of each new emperor. Thus the statue became one of the most vital links between the Roman state and Roman religion and also a tangible reminder of Rome's great past and her hopes for the future.
Rev. James J. Sheridan - The Altar of Victory - 1966
In 1885 fragments of a statue which were thought to belong to that of Victory were found on the Caelian Hill, but today they are regarded as parts of the statue of a female dancer.
Foro di Cesare with three reconstructed columns of Tempio di Venere Genitrice and in the background S. Lorenzo in Miranda/Tempio di Antonino e Faustina
In the 1930s the excavations of the area behind SS. Luca e Martina and S. Adriano led to unearthing a forum built by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. It borders on the Forum built by Trajan in 108-113 AD and approximately half of it was covered again by Via dei Fori Imperiali, but a passage beneath the street links the two fora. They are not part of the archaeological area of the Roman Forum, but they can be visited in guided tours or with a special ticket.
Foro di Cesare consisted of a very large rectangular square having an east-west orientation. A double portico stood on its northern and southern sides and an equestrian statue of Julius Caesar at its centre. The entrance was situated on the eastern side on Argiletum. The forum was completed by Emperor Augustus and it was enlarged and partially redesigned by Emperor Trajan.
The western side of the forum was occupied by Tempio di Venere Genitrice, a temple dedicated to Venus as ancestress of Gens Julia, the patrician family/clan of Caesar who claimed to derive from Iulo, another name for Ascanius, son of Aeneas (in turn son of Anchises and Venus) and the founder of Albalonga. The statue of Venus is lost, but we know of other statues similar to it, e.g. that of Vibia Sabina as Venus Genitrix at Ostia.
(left) The three reconstructed columns and the base of the temple; (right-above) decoration of the part of the lintel between the columns; (right-below) fragments of the ceiling
The temple was damaged by fire in 80 AD and it was rebuilt by Trajan. Its very rich decoration is therefore typical of the early IInd century AD. Temples to Venus Genitrix were erected also in provincial towns e.g. Cuicul in Algeria.
Exhibits at Mercati di Traiano: parts of a frieze of Tempio di Venere Genitrice (early IInd century)
Archaeological Museum of Naples - Farnese Collection: relief from Tempio di Venere Genitrice
Next plate in Book 3: S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane.
Next step in Day 1 itinerary: Parte di Campo Vaccino verso l'Arco di Tito.
You have completed your tour of Rione Monti!
Start your tour of Rione Campitelli: next step: SS. Venanzio e Ansovino.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
E' sentimento de' pi¨ accreditati Antiquarj, che sotto di questa chiesa sia il carcere Mamertino fatto da Anco Marzio IV. Re de' Romani, non essendovi stato per l'addietro altre carceri; e questo fu poi accresciuto da Servio Tullio Re VI onde fu ancora detto Tulliano. Or qui si venera il luogo in cui per nove mesi stettero prigioni i ss. Apostoli Pietro e Paolo, e si conserva ancora il miracoloso fonte, con cui il Principe degli Apostoli battezz˛ Processo e Martiniano custodi dello stesso carcere, con altri 47. gentili convertiti alla Fede, i quali furono poi tutti martirizzati; onde si tiene questo luogo con somma venerazione, essendovi il comodo di potervi scendere in qualsivoglia tempo.
Era custodito il detto santuario dalla vicina chiesa di s. Martina giÓ parrocchiale: ma poi ottenuto da una compagnia di Falegnami, questi nel 1596. vi edificarono sopra la chiesa, col disegno di Giacomo della Porta, e la dedicarono al loro protettore s. Giuseppe. Vi sono de' buoni quadri, ma merita particolare osservazione quello del Presepio, per essere la prima opera, che desse al pubblico Carlo Maratti. Incontro evvi la
Negli antichi tempi dicevasi questa chiesa in tribus Foris: cioŔ per il Foro Romano, che le stava incontro, per il Foro di Cesare, e per quello di Augusto, che le stavano dietro. Fu quivi un tempio eretto da Augusto a Marte, in cui volle che si congregasse il Senato quando dovesse trattar di guerra, e perci˛ fu detto secretario del Senato. Ma poi cessata l'Idolatria fu consagrato al sommo Iddio in onore di s. Martina. Alessandro IV. avendolo rinnovato, consagrollo l'anno 1256. assegnandoli due Cardinali, il Tusculano, e il Prenestino: ma poi nell'anno 1588. essendo conceduta da Sisto V. ad una confraternita di Pittori, e ritrovatosi nel Pontificato di Urbano VIII., il corpo della suddetta Santa martire, fu riedificata la chiesa col disegno di Pietro da Cortona, il quale fece a sue spese il nobilissimo sotterraneo, ove si custodisce il sagro corpo. Si vede nell'altare maggiore della chiesa il s. Luca Evangelista opera di Raffaello da Urbino, e la statua di s. Martina a giacere scolpita da Niccol˛ Menghini; il quadro di s. Lazzaro monaco nella cappella laterale fu dipinto da Lazzaro Baldi, e l'Assunzione della ss. Vergine con s. Sebastiano nell' altro Ŕ del Cav. Conca. Nelle stanze superiori, ove i Pittori, e Architetti tengono i loro congressi, si vedono de' quadri, modelli, e disegni molti, ed ancora i ritratti di moltissimi pittori. A destra di questa chiesa stava ne' tempi passati la statua di Marforio, di cui la strada ancora ne porta il nome. A sinistra vi Ŕ
Ove vediamo questa chiesa fu secondo alcuni, prima che nascesse Romolo, un altare dedicato a Saturno, che poi dal Re Tullio Ostilio fu cinto di colonne formandovi un tempio, in cui i Romani conservavano i loro tesori, credendoli sicuri, ed ancora vi tenevano l'archivio per registrarvi i nomi di tutti gli Ambasciatori, che venivano a Roma. Incontro a questo tempio fu posta da Augusto la colonna Migliaria, dalla quale si contavano le miglia, che vi correvano a tutte le cittÓ del dominio Romano, e perci˛ aveva in cima una palla quasi dimostrante il Mondo, di cui Roma era capo, e per essere indorata, la dissero il miglio d'oro. Di questa colonna Ŕ parte quel pezzo, che vedemmo sulla salita del Campidoglio. Fu dipoi il tempio cangiato in chiesa in onore di s. Adriano, e fin dall'anno 600 di nostra salute era diaconia. Sisto V avendola conceduta ai Frati della Mercede, fu rinnovata col disegno di Martin Lunghi il giovane. Nel secolo passato furono quivi trovati i corpi de' ss. Papia, Mauro, Domitilla, Nereo, ed Achilleo martiri, i quali furono trasportati in altre chiese: vi rimasero per˛ fra l'altre reliquie, quelle de' tre fanciulli di Babilonia. Era quivi la gran porta di metallo, che ora sta nella basilica Lateranense. E fra i quadri ve ne sono di Carlo Veneziano ed uno si crede del Guercino.