Monday, 21 March 2016

A special tour around Boncompagni-Corcos palace

During the special openings of the FAI Spring Days, I managed to take a peek to the intriguing Boncompagni-Corcos palace, a building with an interesting story.
The Corcos were a rich family of Jewish discent; due to the closeness to the Oratorio dei Filippini they got in touch with the Saint, and, impressed by his mission, they decided to convert to Christianism.
As they converted and baptized they needed a "new" surname to go by-- And in these cases, the surname of the current Pope of the times applied to them: that's why the palace is called "Boncompagni-Corcos". If anything, the Corcos became even more influent and powerful, and profitted "to fix" their residence, among other things.
The original building dates around the 1640s, it was enlarged and richly decorated in the 1660s by Pietro Boncompagni.
The structure is quite simple and elegant, in an attempt to take inspiration from Palazzo Farnese, with its light yet powerful Reinassant vibe.
Travertine and bricks are another hint in this sense-- You can feel the baroqueness of the architecture only in the decorations of the windows and the mascheroni decorating them.

Once inside, we're welcomed by a tiny yet nice courtyard, featuring an interesting interpretation of Ionic capitals:
The columns were obviously just paired up, the capitals were added on a second time-- thus explaining their weird look!

The achitecture bits were fixed by Giovan Antonio De' Rossi, and the painting decorations are the job of Carlo Cesi-- The decorations followed the trend of the mythological themes imbued with edifying morals, allegories, or scenes of the Old Testament.
In this sense, the most important artwork is the one dedicated to the marriage between Maddalena Boncompagni and Filippo Camerata of Ancona, dated 1661, September 22th, proudly celebrated by Pietro with a fresco depicting the marriage between Ariadne and Bacchus...






--I was more taken aback by the ceiling decorations, though, sorry guys!

One of the most interesting rooms, in my opinion, was the tiny yet richly decorated little private chapel.
Besides the beautiful marble decorations and the fine paintings, it hosts a venerated icon of Virgin Mary, said to be miraculous during the Pestilence of 1657, and an extremely cute example of a tiny, home nativity scene to decorate during Christmas time--!




On a parting note, the chapel is decorated with portraits of religious figures that the Boncompagni-Corcos held in great consideration-- It was nice to see that Pippo Buono was there too..!

Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Little Treasure of Santa Bibiana

Are you guys familiar with the Termini train station? Are you aware that squeezed inbetween its terminal and the platforms is the cute little church of Santa Bibiana, that hosts one of the masterpieces by Gian Lorenzo Bernini?
If you don't, here is a report from your "Rome-biter", if you do, a few shots to enjoy!

Dating 468 AD, the church was built over the ancient tomb of Saint Bibiana, the daughter of a Christian former prefect, whose family has been persecuted by Julian the Apostate.
The ancient vibes of the place can be spotted by the plaque at the entrance of the church, that tells the story of the place, that once was a cemetery and later on a monastry, and the relic of the column where Bibiana was tortured, preserved into the church.

As I previously stated the church is quite old, but on 1625 the place was completely restored by Bernini under the request of Pope Urbano VIII Barberini; Bernini redesigned the facade of the church, added the two lateral chapels and fixed the position of the altar.

Also the interior was redesigned, using the original columns from the previous church; it's a simple, refined architecture that reminds that of residential buildings of the Reinassance rather than a church, expecially in the facade.
Bernini closed the windows once placed on the upper sides of the main nave, now decorated by the frescoes of Pietro da Cortona (on the left) and Agostino Ciampelli (on the right), both portraing scenes of the life of the Saint.
The lateral chapels are dedicated to Saints Dafrosa and Demetria, mother and sister of Bibiana respectively, featuring paintings of the same artists as above.


Under the altar is placed an ancient sarcophagus protecting the bodies of the three women, and on top of it is the niche protecting the beautiful statue of Bibiana rendered by Bernini:

My pictures are terrible as usual, but I like how it looks as if the figure of the Saint is almost drawn rather than sculpted, as if the tiny bits of light were granting her the role of a medium between here and heaven...

Stalking the Borgias: a walk around the Rome of the Reinassance between Legend and History

So, time for another walk in Rome dedicated to its popular personalities-- Today I'll go with you around a suggestive walk to spot the location of one of the most gossip-inducing family of the Rome of the Reinassance, the infamous Borgia's!
You can check the GoogleMap to access the spots right here.

So, we'll start our walk from the suggestive slope of the Borgias part of a manor where once lived Vannozza with her sons, Lucrezia, Giovanni and Cesare, guests of the Orsini family, their relatives (Adriana, wife of the Orsini's head, Ludovico, was a cousin of Pope Alexander VI Borgia).
The huge building was built by the Montanari family, later on it was enlarged by the Margani's, and it was acquired by the Orsini on the XV century. On 1571 the place was sold to the Cesarini's and on 1622 friar Pizzullo bought it to convert it into the Franciscan monastery servicing the close-by Church of Saint Francis of Paola.

The design of the balcony, suggestively covered in ivy, dates from the XV century, and it's said that Lord Byron loved to imagine Lucrezia looking down on him from there.
The slope is way steeper than it looks, so be careful!
It's said that Giovanni was last seen running from here to the house of one of his lovers on the day of his death. --The spot sure has an intriguing mood itself!

Once on the other side, you can check out the Basilica of Saint Peter's in Chains and take a good look at the tower of the Borgias. This was actually built by the Margani's, and later on converted into a towerbell by the friars-- So no actual scary story is connected to it. Maybe--

Proceeding on our tour we reach the Basilica di San Marco in Campidoglio, located in Venezia square.
We stop here 'cause at the entrance of the church is preserved a stone of the tomb of Vannozza once located in Santa Maria del Popolo, where she was buried together with her son Giovanni on 1518, before both tombs were desecrated and mostly destroyed during the sack of Rome of 1527; the remains of her headstone were collected and placed in here, but both corpses were lost.

This is not the last disturbing stop.
Next is the turn for a walk in the Jewish ghetto of Rome on the traces of the now disappeared Giudea square, where Giovanni was probably killed, some said by his own brother Cesare as the instigator.
The places is located on an unnamed little square placed by the streets of Santa Maria del Pianto and Portico d'Ottavia.
Some said that the actual place of the murder was by Piazza Campo de' Fiori, but all of them are rumors from the witnesses of the time-- The only sure thing was that Giovanni's corpse was found in the Tiber a few days after his disappearance.

Since we mentioned Piazza Campo de' Fiori, let's go there to find "Vicolo del Gallo 13", the old address of the Osteria della Vacca, one of the many properties of Vannozza, who used to rent them to gain rich profits.

On top of the arc, you can still spot the coat of arms of Vannozza, sporting the heraldry of her husbands.
On top-left you can recognize "The Walking Bull" of the Borgia's.

Let's keep on walking around these tiny roads 'til our next stop, the Church of Holy Mary in Monserrat of the Spaniards where we can find the tomb of the two Popes of the Borgia's family, Pope Alexander VI and his predecessor, Pope Calixtus III.


Our last stop is supposed to leave a nicer aftertaste, as we're heading towards Fiammetta square, to see the House of Fiammetta, the residence of one of Cesare's lovers, Fiammetta Michaelis:


We know about this popular courtesan and her relationship with Cesare because on her testament she called herself "the woman of the Duke of Valentinois". The coat of arms on top of the house is that of the Bennicelli's, who bought the house at the end of the XIX century and restored it at the beginning of the XX century.
As today, this is the only case in Italy of a square dedicated to a courtesan!