In '86 A.D. in a sparsely inhabited suburb town called Campo Marzio in the heart of the eternal city, Emperor Domitian built a stadium with seats for athletic events; nowadays, it is the most characteristic square in Rome: Piazza Navona. Over the years, the square's evolution has changed considerably when in 1644 Pope Innocent X Pamphili family transformed the stadium into a beautiful square dominated by three Baroque masterpieces: Bernini's most glorious Four Rivers Fountain, the original Sant'Agnese in Agone church commissioned by the Pope to Borromini to be completed as a family chapel and the new Palazzo Pamphili where his sister-in-law Donna Olympia Maidalchini lived.
The name of the square was originally known as "in Agone", from the latin word agones, "games" (hence the name of the great church Sant'Agnese in Agone) since the stadium was used to host athletic competitions. The legend claiming that Piazza Navona was used for naval battles does not appear to be true. It was in fact flooded during the month of August in order to ease the heat and provide refreshment; considering that in ancient times it was concave, and by blocking the closure of the three fountains, water would flood out into the square.
The well known legend regarding the alleged rivalry between Bernini and Borromini also finds denial, for which the latter was attributed the fact that the Nile would have the head veiled to avoid the unpleasant vision of Borromini's work and that the Rio della Plata would have lifted his hand to get out of the imminent collapse of the façade. This belief is unfounded, since the fountain was built before the church and the Nile has his head veiled only because its source was still unknown at the time.
Pasquino, the talking statue
Piazza Navonas' stadium was richly decorated with statues, one of which was Pasquino, which was thought to represent Menelaus, a greek warrior, supporting the body of Patroclus. It was discovered in 1501 during road works and the renovation of Palazzo Orsini (nowadays known as Palazzo Braschi), It stood on the exact spot where it still stands today (formerly known as the Piazza di Parione). The renovation, which was also carried out by Bramante on behalf of the influential Cardinale Carafa, who later became known for the campaign for the moralization of art; the prelate, established himself in the same building and even though many people felt that the statue had little value, he insisted on saving it and positioned it the corner of his palace where the statue can still be found today, close to the Navona Governo Vecchio.
Who 'Pasquino' was remains obscure although different versions exist: some believed him to be a restaurateur, some, a teacher, but according to others, Pasquino was a character from rione, famous for his satirical verses, thus a barber, a craftsman or shoemaker. The most prominent figures, particularly the popes, became concerned and irritated by Pasquino's constant rhymes and insults, which came to be called Pasquinade, mysterious satirical comments in prose or verse ridiculizing the contemporary society. The profuse poisons were reciprocated back to Pasquino, in fact many attempts were made to eliminate the statue. The controversial Pope Hadrian VI was the first to try to get rid of the statue during his brief pontificate (1522-1523) ordering that it be thrown into the Tiber, although he was stopped just in time by his cardinals who warned him about the possibility of a similar 'attack' of the Roman people retaliating with even stronger blasts of satire. Even Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) and Pope Clemente VIII (1592-1605) both tried to get rid of the uncomfortable statue without success.
Subsequently, others ordered that the pasquinade be guarded but it appeared even more glorious in front of other statues. Benedetto XIII issued an edict, threatening the death penalty, the forfeiture and infamy to those guilty of pasquinade.
But in 1566 however, under Pious V, a man known as Niccolò Franco was accused of being the author of the pasquinades and was consequently convicted to the pitchfork. For a long period of time, during several new sovereigns and new types of states, Pasquino was “distracted" by the contemporary mass of circulation of Belli's sonnets, which showed belonginess with his spirit and which in the same sense continued his work. In any case, the statue deprived of its ancient target and loose sheets spoke less often. During the preparations for Hitler's visit to Rome in 1938, Pasquino resurfaced from its silence only to criticize the empty pompous scenographic preparations which had turned the city inside out for weeks.
La Chiesa Nuova (New Church)
“New Church" or Santa Maria in Vallicella was built in 1577 and is situated behind our building. The church rises on the plain of the Marzio Field (Campo Marzio) which the romans considered to be one of the entrances to Hades and place of infernal cult of the divinity, with the name of Tarentum.
From the 13th century, here a church dedicated to The Nativity of the Madonna, linked to the parish of Saint Lorenzo in Damaso is remembered.
In the 15th and 16th century the Church was known with the name Santa Maria in Puteo Albo, because of an ancient well “puteale" in white marble. A miraculous 14th century fresco portraying the Madonna is kept here. It was originally located on the outside of a “stove" or public bath. In the 1535 after having been hit by a stone it was said to have bled and thus the image became an object of worship. In 1574 the fresco was removed and assigned to the chancellor of the church Vallicella and stored in the sacristy, it was later placed in its final position on the greater altar of the New Church.
Antica Dimora Donna Isabella
Via del Governo Vecchio, 118
00186 Roma (ITALY)
Phone: +39 06 45429400