All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com.
Page revised in October 2021.
All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Page revised in October 2021.
Links to this page can be found in Book 4, Map B3, Day 3, View C7 and Rione Trevi.
The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Palazzo Della Rovere
Palazzo Muti Papazzurri Balestra and Santuario della Madonna dell'Archetto
Palazzo Muti Papazzurri alla Pilotta
In this 1754 etching covering Palazzo Colonna quite strangely Giuseppe Vasi did not show Macchina della Chinea. This was a temporary structure for launching fireworks which was erected every year on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, in front of the palace (you may wish to see that of the year 1767 in an etching by Vasi - it opens in another window). The firework display was part of the celebrations during which the Colonna, acting as ambassadors of the King of Naples, recognized papal supremacy over that kingdom by presenting the Pope with a chinea, a white horse, carrying 7,000 silver ducats.
In the right lower corner of the plate Vasi shows some large marble fragments of an ancient temple which were instead situated in the gardens behind the palace (in 1761 he made a small etching showing the ruins of that temple).
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) Roman ruins in the gardens of the palace; 2) Recent additions to Palazzo Colonna; 3) SS. Apostoli; 4) Palazzo Muti. The small map shows also 5) Palazzo Della Rovere; 6) Santuario della Madonna dell'Archetto; 7) Palazzo Muti Papazzurri alla Pilotta.
The view in May 2010
In the late XIXth century the opening of Via Nazionale, a new street between Piazza Venezia and Stazione Termini led to modifying some of the buildings on the left side of the square, but those shown in this plate were not affected: the only changes relate to the opening of shops on the ground floor of Palazzo Colonna and to the completion of the fašade of SS. Apostoli.
(left) XVIIIth century additions to Palazzo Colonna; (right) entrance to the courtyard
It is estimated that the Colonna have lived in this neighbourhood for about a thousand years; in the XIth century they already possessed several fiefdoms south of Rome, e.g. Colonna, Palestrina and Genazzano; their first buildings in Rome had very much the aspect of a fortress, with walls and towers, one of which can still be seen along the new street.
The plate shows some XVIIIth century additions (Appartamenti nuovi) by Nicola Michetti, a Roman architect who worked for several years in St. Petersburg. These buildings replaced a section of the walls which protected the actual palace of the Colonna which is inside a large courtyard.
(left) Sala del Trono: copy of a lost fresco portraying Pope Martin V (Oddone Colonna) by Pisanello; (centre) portraits of Cardinals Girolamo I (1604-1666) (above) and
Ascanio Colonna (1560-1608) (below); (right) uniform of the First Prince Assistant to the Pontifical Throne, a hereditary title of the Colonna (the uniform
is no longer used after the 1968 Reform of the Papal Household by Pope Paul VI)
These Princes, the Colonna's, by virtue of their Office of Constable, assist at some of the publick Ceremonies, at the right hand of the Pope.
Edward Wright - Some Observations made in France, Italy etc. in the years 1720, 1721 and 1722, .
In addition to Pope Martin V the Colonna exerted their influence on the Roman Church through some twenty cardinals: the first one was appointed in 1193 and the last one in 1766.
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini: (left) Bronzino: portrait of Stefano IV Colonna (1546); (right) Siciolante da Sermoneta: portrait of Francesco II Colonna, son of Stefano IV (1561)
The family had a number of military leaders from Sciarra, who took Pope Boniface VIII prisoner in 1303 to Marcantonio II, the commander of a small papal fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Many members of the Colonna family were appointed Gran Connestabile (Chief Constable) i.e. Commander of the Army of the Kingdom of Naples, when it was a Spanish possession (see a large inscription on a Colonna palace along Via Flaminia).
(left) XVth century coat of arms; (right) XVIIIth century coats of arms
The heraldic symbol of the Colonna was quite obviously a column to which a crown was added in the XVIth century. The column was often flanked by mermaids with two tails, another heraldic symbol of the family. After the participation of Marcantonio II Colonna to the Battle of Lepanto the coat of arms was usually placed between military symbols or statues of Ottoman prisoners.
After the annexation of Rome to the Italian Kingdom in 1871 the Colonna sided with Pope Pius IX in refusing to acknowledge the new political situation. Eventually they accepted appointments to the Senate of the Italian Kingdom and were involved in politics. Prospero Colonna was Mayor of Rome in 1899-1904 and 1914-1919 and his son Piero was Governor of Rome in 1936-1939.
Prince Aspreno II Colonna most likely resented the 1968 Reform of the Papal Household which deprived him and his heirs of most of their role in Papal ceremonies. In that same year he erected a cipollino column in the "new" courtyard of his palace. On its basement he wrote one of the Colonna mottoes: "Semper Immota" (Always Motionless) as if to distance himself and his family from the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) which were endorsed by Pope Paul VI (see a similar Colonna motto in their former palace at Tagliacozzo).
Sala Grande in the foreground and Sala della Colonna Bellica at its end
The redesign and decoration of the interior of the palace began in the early XVIIth century at the initiative of Filippo I, Duke of Paliano, and it was completed in 1703. During this period the Colonna were faced with the growth of other families on the Roman scene: the Borghese (Pope Paul V), the Ludovisi (Pope Gregory XV), the Barberini (Pope Urban VIII), the Pamphilj (Pope Innocent X), the Chigi (Pope Alexander VII) and others to whom they had to sell palaces (e.g. Palazzo Chigi Odescalchi) and fiefdoms (e.g. Montefortino). The financial effort they made to decorate the palace where they lived was meant to keep up their standing vis-a-vis the new rich.
Sala Grande seen from Sala della Colonna Bellica
They lead you to it artfully enough, thro' a narrow blind Corridore, (..) when you find
your self immediately in one of the most glorious Galleries in
the World. (..) The Frames of the Windows are of Marble, and between
them are pilasters of Giallo Antico, a sort of yellowish Marble,
highly esteem'd; the Order is, Composite: The Capitals are
of white Marble. Military Trophies of stucco gilt run up each
side of these Pilasters. The Cornice, which goes round the Top,
is all gilt likewise. At proper Distances are Panels for Pictures, fill'd with those of the best Masters.
The Floor is, of all I ever saw, the finest in all respects. The
Choice of the several sorts of Marble, which make the pavement
is judicious and happy; the several Colours set off one another
perfectly well: There is just so much variety of sorts as to divert the Eye, not to confound and distract it. Wright
In the Palazzo di Colonna Connestabile, there is a saloon, or gallery, which, for the proportions, lights, furniture, and ornaments, is the most noble, elegant, and agreeable apartment I ever saw.
Tobias Smollett - Travels through France and Italy - 1766
The saloon called the Galleria is itself too brilliant a picture for the pictures which it contains. A gallery should not draw off the attention from its contents by striking architecture or glittering surfaces. This, however, is supported by polished columns of the richest giall'antico. Its storied ceiling displays the battle of Lepanto, which raised a Colonna to the honour of a Roman triumph.
Joseph Forsyth - Remarks on antiquities, arts, and letters, during an excursion in Italy in 1802-1803
The heart of the palace is a series of three halls which are separated by two pairs of gigantic columns of giallo antico (ancient yellow), a precious marble which was quarried at Simitthus in today's Tunisia. The columns are at the same time an architectonic element and a symbol of the family. The construction of these halls which were designed by Antonio del Grande began in 1654 at the initiative of Cardinal Gerolamo I Colonna who had greatly enriched the family gallery of paintings.
You may wish to see a still from Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck which was shot in Sala Grande in 1953 - it opens in another window.
Ceiling of Sala Grande with paintings depicting events of the life of Marcantonio II Colonna
The Cieling is vaulted, and painted in Fresco: the Subject
is the History and Exploits of several of that noble Family,
particularly the Victory of MarcAntonio Colonna over the
Turks in the Levant. Wright
The Colonna had something that the new rich families did not have: a great military past. For this reason the decoration of the three halls (and of a niche in the gardens which is a sort of prosecution of them) was dedicated to Marcantonio II (whose glorious return from the Battle of Lepanto is celebrated every year at Marino). The choice fell on Marcantonio, because, unlike other Colonna commanders, he fought for the Pope, rather than against him (as had occurred in 1556 during Guerra di Campagna).
The Battle of Lepanto by Giovanni Coli and Filippo Gherardi (the latter painted also the ceiling of S. Pantaleo)
The ceiling central painting shows Don John of Austria, the commander of the Christian fleet in a XVIth century armour while his soldiers are portrayed as ancient Roman legionaries. He is about to board the galley of Alý, the Kapudan Pacha (Grand Admiral) of the Ottoman fleet, the turning point of the battle. The Christian flag was raised on the mast of the Ottoman galley and the head of the Admiral was placed on a long pike to cause dismay in the enemy ranks. You may wish to see a page on Lepanto and the actual location of the battle.
Fancy Turkish costumes in some details of the ceiling frescoes
When the frescoes were painted (1675-1678) the Ottoman threat of invading western Europe had not yet faded away, but the depiction of the exotic costumes which the Ottomans were assumed to wear was very much in fashion. In some details they were portrayed wearing aigrettes, jewels holding three egret feathers, which are known as sorguš and were conferred for bravery or as a privilege of royalty.
Antiquities: (left) Colonna Bellica (it was made in the XVIth century to recall Colonna Traiana); (centre) Venus Anadyomene (wringing out her hair after being born deep down in the sea); (right) Ceres
Here is likewise a wreath'd Pillar of Rosso-Antico with little Figures and Foliage. Wright
At one point the Colonna had 97 fiefdoms in the Papal State and the Kingdom of Naples. All ancient statues found in these territories were automatically a property of the Colonna and many of them were found at Marino. In the decoration of their palace however the Colonna made use of a limited number of statues. In line with the custom of the time their missing parts were replaced.
Sala Grande: XVIIth century console table with busts of Emperors Antoninus Pius (left) and Septimius Severus (right)
Lovely Marble Tables, with antique Statues, Busts, and
other valuable and rich Furniture, are plac'd in the most agreeable manner all along on each side. Wright
Semper Immota, the motto of the Colonna can in a way be applied to their palace. Notwithstanding the changes in taste which have occurred since the time Sala Grande was decorated, they have kept it as it was.
Sala degli Scrigni: Jewel Cabinet (XVIIth century)
There are many statues of Ottoman prisoners or slaves supporting console tables in the palace. In a way they represent the some 150,000 peasants who lived in the Colonna fiefdoms at the end of the XVIIIth century.
Looking around on this beautiful land (of Genazzano), it seems as if it ought to be an El Dorado for the happy natives; yet, if you live among them, you will see, too often, hunger-stricken human beings coming out of this paradise to meet you. These abundant fruits (you may buy twenty figs or twenty walnuts for one bajocco, and in good years a flask of wine may be had for the same small coin) - these fruits do not nourish the peasant; he would starve if it were not for the meal of the Indian corn, which is his sole nutriment. The evil of these inequalities is to be explained by the agrarian condition under which the peasant exists. From remote ages the occupier of the land has had to give a fourth of his produce to his feudal lord - Prince Colonna.
Ferdinand Gregorovius - The Roman Campagna - 1858 - translation by Dorothea Roberts.
In 1855 the inhabitants of Rocca di Papa revolted against the Colonna and declared the Repubblica di Rocca di Papa which lasted only six days and ended with 17 peasants being jailed for many years.
Other halls, some of which were redecorated in the XIXth century
within are noble, and the Rooms well proportion'd: State and
Grandeur they seem chiefly to aim at, to which they are content that Convenience shall sometimes give way. In the greatest
Palaces, the Suite of Rooms one within another, with the Vista thro' the Marble Door-cases, is very magnificent. Wright
While other branches of the Colonna (e.g. the Sciarra) have lost their historical properties the Colonna of Paliano live in the palace, but on Saturday mornings they allow access to the three monumental halls and to other rooms which house a very interesting gallery of paintings (you may wish to see the website of Galleria Colonna - it opens in another window).
(left) Fašade; (right) central window with a head of angel as architectural element, a feature often used by Francesco Borromini
SS. Apostoli is a very old church, but its current aspect is the result of changes made between the XVth and the XIXth centuries; a portico and a loggia were built during the pontificate of Pope Sixtus IV by his nephew Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere who lived in the palace to the left of the church; the loggia was closed in the XVIth century (you may wish to see it in a 1588 Guide to Rome), but the windows were redesigned in 1675 by Carlo Rainaldi, who added the balustrade with the statues of Jesus and the Apostles (you may wish to see three of them in a page covering Statues Close to Heaven). The upper part of the fašade was designed by Giuseppe Valadier in 1827.
Portico: ancient Roman relief (perhaps from Basilica Ulpia) which Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere placed above the entrance to the church; see a similar fine relief at Narbonne and an eagle on a wreath in Sarcofago di Portonaccio
The portico houses a famous relief showing a wing-spanned eagle holding an oak wreath in its claws. Its design influenced many Renaissance artists and later on it appeared on medals and coins and also the ribbon was replicated in many coats of arms (e.g. that of Rome in Piazza del Campidoglio by Michelangelo).
Museo Nazionale Romano: ancient kantharos from SS. Apostoli and detail of its decoration
(In the early Roman churches) the atrium was entered from the vestibule, and
consisted of a square, open court, surrounded by
a portico, and having a fountain or well in its
centre, in which the Faithful washed their hands
before entering the church, a ceremony emblematic
of that purity of soul, which the Christian should
bring with him into the special presence of the God
of all Holiness. Of the cantharus or vase, which
served for this ablution, two specimens still remain
in Rome, one in the court of S. Cecilia, the other
in that of the SS. Apostoli. (..) To the cantharus has succeeded the more modern
Rev. Jeremiah Donovan - Rome Ancient and Modern - 1842
The famous calix marmoreus, which formerly stood near the church of SS. Apostoli, was mentioned in the Bull of John III. (A. D. 570), by which the boundary line of that parish was determined.
Rodolfo Lanciani - Pagan and Christian Rome - 1893
The ancient kantharos was most likely part of a fountain which decorated the Temple to Serapis on the Quirinale Hill, behind Palazzo Colonna.
Portico: (above-left) medieval decorations of the interior; (above-right) statues of lions which supported columns, a typical feature of medieval churches (see those at S. Lorenzo in Lucina); (below)
monument to Gabriele Garra, a relative of Pope Sixtus IV
At the beginning of the XVIIIth century the interior of SS. Apostoli was almost entirely rebuilt because the ancient walls were about to collapse. Some of the gravestones and fragments of the medieval decoration were moved to the portico.
Portico: (left) Monument to Lorenzo Oddone Colonna or other member of the Colonna family attributed to Luigi Capponi;
(right) monument to Giovanni Volpato by Antonio Canova
Relations between the Colonna and Pope Sixtus IV (whose coat of arms in the portico you can see in the image used as background for this page)
were often strained; this may explain why a funerary monument to a member of the Colonna family was not accompanied by any
inscription: Lorenzo Oddone Colonna was beheaded in 1484 in Castel Sant'Angelo for having challenged papal authority.
Antonio Canova owed his first important commission (the Monument to Pope Clement XIV inside SS. Apostoli) to the help of Giovanni Volpato, an engraver known for his set of prints reproducing the decoration of Raphael's Loggia in the Vatican (see one of them - it opens in another window). In 1807 Canova expressed his gratitude to the man who had first noticed his talent with a very neoclassical monument.
(left) Interior; (right) Monument to Cardinal Pietro Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV (d. 1474 - school of Andrea Bregno)
The new interior was designed by Francesco Fontana with the help of his father Carlo, the leading Roman architect after the death of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It is very richly decorated because the Colonna and the Odescalchi had their funerary chapels inside SS. Apostoli. You may wish to see a detail of the Colonna chapel, the Monument to Maria Lucrezia Rospigliosi Salviati and the coat of arms of Pope Clement XI.
Pinacoteca Vaticana (Musei Vaticani): frescoes by Melozzo da Forlý from the apse of SS. Apostoli
The Cupola of the Church of Sancti Apostoli in the Piazza by that Name was painted by Melozzo da Forli in which was a Heaven, and God the Father surrounded by Angels, and the Apostles underneath. In refitting this Church This Work was demolish'd, but so that much of it was sav'd. That part where is the God, and Angels, is plac'd at the top of the Stairs going up to the Apartments of Monte Cavallo and the Heads of several of the Apostles are in the Vatican in the Rooms beyond those of Raffaele (of which Pictures my
Father has the Drawing).
Jonathan and Jonathan Richardson - Account of Some of the Statues, etc. in Italy - 1722
The Fontana managed to leave some fine Renaissance funerary monuments inside the church, but they had to rebuild the apse which was decorated with a beautiful fresco by Melozzo da Forlý. Fragments of it were saved and moved to the Vatican. They have acquired a fame which perhaps they would not have reached, had they remained at SS. Apostoli (you may wish to see other angels by Melozzo at Loreto).
Pinacoteca Vaticana: other frescoes by Melozzo da Forlý from the apse of SS. Apostoli
(left) Palazzo Della Rovere; (right) courtyard; (insets) inscription and coat of arms of Giuliano della Rovere, (Iul. Card. S. P. Ad Vinc.)
titular cardinal of S. Pietro in Vincoli
Pope Sixtus IV greatly relied on the advice of his nephew Pietro Riario who was titular cardinal of SS. Apostoli; Pietro Riario started the
construction of a palace to the left of the church; after his sudden death at the age of 29, the palace was completed by his cousin Cardinal Giuliano
della Rovere, who was titular cardinal of S. Pietro in Vincoli; he became Pope Julius II in 1503 and he established
good relations with the Colonna: one of his nieces married a Colonna and the Pope donated the palace to that family.
In the late XVIth century the palace was acquired by the Franciscans and today it houses the headquarters of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual.
You may wish to see a detail of a fresco by Melozzo da Forlý portraying (left to right) Giuliano della Rovere, Pietro Riario and Sixtus IV (it opens in another window).
(left) Palazzo Muti Papazzurri Balestra; (right) coat of arms of Cardinal Henri Benedict Stuart at Cappella della Madonna della Cupa in S.
Maria in Trastevere showing both the cardinal's hat and the royal crown
The Muti Papazzurri already lived near SS. Apostoli in the early XIVth century; in the XVIIth century their house facing the square was redesigned, apparently by Giovanni Battista Muti, a member of the family who was also a painter. The Muti Papazurri owned the fiefdom of Filacciano, north of Rome.
I have not yet seen his majesty of Great-Britain, &c. though I have the two boys in the gardens of the Villa Borgese, where they go ashooting almost every day; it was at a distance, indeed, for we did not choose to meet them, as you may imagine. This letter (like all those the English send, or receive) will pass through the hands of that family, before it comes to those it was intended for. They do it more honour than it deserves; and all they will learn from thence will be, that I desire you to give my duty to my father, and wherever else it is due, and that I am, etc. (..) The Pretender I have had frequent opportunities of seeing at church, at the corso, and other places; but more particularly, and that for a whole night, at a great ball given by Count Patrizii (..) at which he and his two sons were present. They are good fine boys, especially the younger, who has the more spirit of the two, and both danced incessantly all night long. For him, he is a thin ill-made man, extremely tall and awkward, of a most unpromising countenance, a good deal resembling King James the Second, and has extremely the air and look of an idiot, particularly when he laughs or prays. The first he does not often, the latter continually. He lives private enough with his little court about him, consisting of Lord Dunbar, who manages every thing, and two or three of the Preston Scotch lords, who would be very glad to make their peace at home.
Thomas Gray - Letters from France and Italy in 1739-1741
In 1719 the palace was rented by the Papal State to provide an appropriate residence to James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, after the failed 1715 uprising in Scotland. The Stuarts lived in Palazzo Muti until 1807 when Henry Benedict, Cardinal of York, the last of the family passed away. James Francis Edward Stuart and his two sons are buried in a monument by Antonio Canova in S. Pietro.
(left) Entrance to Palazzo Muti Papazzurri Balestra; (centre) ancient capital in its courtyard; (right) Santuario della Madonna dell'Archetto
In 1796, when the French invaded the Papal State, an image of the Virgin Mary by Domenico Maria Muratori (it opens in another window) under an arch in a very narrow lane behind Palazzo Muti moved her eyes (similar to what occurred to other images, e.g. that at Palazzo Mattei Paganica). The event was confirmed by a papal commission and the image became known as Madonna dell'Archetto. In 1851 a tiny chapel was built to properly protect the sacred image.
(left) Palazzo Muti Papazzurri alla Pilotta in a 1699 etching by Alessandro Specchi; (right) the building today
Palazzo Muti Papazzurri, located in nearby Piazza della Pilotta, was designed by Mattia de' Rossi in 1660, most likely on the occasion of the marriage between Pompeo Muti Papazzurri and Maria Isabella Massimo. Unfortunately the light and elegant building designed by this scholar of Bernini was largely modified in 1909 and even the frames of the windows were replaced by very dull ones.
Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo Odescalchi.
Next step in Day 3 itinerary: Giardino Colonna.
Next step in your tour of Rione Trevi: Piazza della Colonna Traiana.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Fra i palazzi, che corrispondono sulla piazza de'XII. ss.Apostoli, tiene il primo luogo quello del gran Contestabile Colonna, non solo per la vasta estensione della fabbrica, contenendo molti appartamenti magnifici, e nobili, ma ancora per li preziosi ornamenti, che lo rendono ammirabile, e particolarmente per la maravigliosa galleria vecchia, e per la nuova, che attualmente si sta incrostando di marmi. Egli Ŕ antichissimo, poichŔ da Martino V. fu principiato, e terminato da Sisto IV. il quale vi dette splendido alloggio ad Andrea Peleologo Imperatore de' Greci . Vi abit˛ Giulio II. e poi s. Carlo Borromeo. Gli appartamenti terreni sono ornati di pitture del Tempesta, del Pussino , e d'altri e ancora di statue, busti, e bassirilievi antichi. Gli appartamenti superiori , non sono solo ricchi di quadri e mobili preziosi; ma essendo ultimamente stati rimodernati, e notabilmente accresciuti dal Cardinale Girolamo Colonna Camarlingoo di santa Chiesa, e zio del Contestabile, si vedono in essi delle magnificenze oltre I' espettazione: perci˛ rimetto il mio gentilissimo Lettore al custode, il quale con piena gentilezza gli darÓ conto dý tutto.
Chiesa de' XII. ss. Apostoli
A destra del palazzo Colonna Ŕ questa chiesa, della quale si legge, essere stata eretta da Costantino Magno appesso un suo palazzo. Essendo ristaurata pi¨ volte da' Pontefici, e da' Cardinali titolari, fu da Pio II. conceduta ai Frati Conventuali di s. Francesco, e per˛ il Card. Beffarione vi fabbric˛ il convento, e poi nel Pontificato di Clem. XI. fu riedificata la chiesa col disegno di Franc.Fontana, rimanendovi per˛ della vecchia il portico e prospetto colle statue fatte dal Card. Brancato religioso del medesýmo Ordine . Nella prima cappella a destra evvi un gran quadro colla ss. Concezione, ed un Santo in atto di scrivere dipinto da Ignazio Sterna, nella seconda la ss. Concezione dipinta da Corrado Giaquinto , nella terza il s. Antonio di Padova Ŕ di Benedetto Luti , ed il quadro nell'altare maggiore Ŕ di Domenico Muratori. Il s. Francesco nell'altra cappella a sinistra Ŕ di Giuseppe Chiari, e li due depositi sono, di Gio. Grossi quello a destra, e 1'altro a sinistra di Bartolommeo Ludovisi. Le pitture a fresco nella tribuna, e nella volta sono ultime opere di Baciccio Genovese, ed il disegno della porta interna Ŕ di D.Filippo Javarra Messinese. Nel piccolo chiostro del convento si vede un gran vaso di marmo, che stava in adornamento dell'antico portico fatto da Costantino, e ne' corridori varie lapidi, che erano nella chiesa vecchia.
A destra del detto convento evvi il palazzo Muti ed altro nel vicoletto contiguo, che corrisponde con un nobile prospetto sulla vicina piazza, eretto col disegno di Mattia de' Rossi.