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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in March 2010.

Collegio Ecclesiastico a Ponte Sisto (Book 9) (Map C3) (Day 7) (View D8) (Rione Regola)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view
Ospizio dei Mendicanti (Cappella di S. Francesco)
Conservatorio delle Zoccolette
Fontanone di Ponte Sisto
S. Caterina da Siena

The Plate (No. 178)

Collegio Ecclesiastico a Ponte Sisto

Giuseppe Vasi called Collegio Ecclesiastico this large palace, because at his time it housed old and poor members of the clergy, but the building was best known as Ospizio dei Mendicanti, because it was built by Pope Sixtus V to keep beggars and tramps off the streets; it was located very near Ponte Sisto and it was designed by Domenico Fontana. The palace was embellished with an elegant clock; the fountain was added by Pope Paul V in 1613.
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Part of Ponte Sisto; 2) Cappella di S. Francesco; 3) Fontana di Ponte Sisto; 4) Collegio Ecclesiastico; 5) Dome of SS. TrinitÓ de' Pellegrini. 1) and 5) are shown in other pages. The map shows also 6) S. Caterina da Siena and 7) Conservatorio delle Zoccolette.

Small ViewSmall Map


The area today
The view in September 2008

In the late XIXth century high walls were built on the river banks to avoid floods; Lungotevere, roads along the river, were built to facilitate traffic and Ospizio dei Mendicanti was reduced in size and given a new fašade with porticoes; the new design is typical of some cities in northern Italy such as Turin and Bologna, but it does not fit in the Roman urban context.

Ospizio dei Mendicanti

Details of Ospizio dei Mendicanti
(left-above) Heraldic symbol of Pope Sixtus V on a column of the new building; (right-above) madonnella on the rear side of Ospizio dei Mendicanti; (below) 1720 (left) and 1757 (right) inscriptions now in the courtyard of the building

Pope Sixtus V provided the institution with a chapel dedicated to S. Francesco; it had also an independent entrance to the right of the fountain; the chapel was pulled down in 1885; its fine wooden ceiling decorated with the heraldic symbols of the pope was moved to S. Caterina della Ruota.

S. Francesco
Details of the wooden ceiling of Cappella di S. Francesco, now in S. Caterina della Ruota

Conservatorio delle Zoccolette

Conservatorio delle Zoccolette
(left-above) Street plaque; (left-below) old inscription making reference to "zoccolette"; (centre) one of the entrances to the building with an inscription detailing the objective of the institution: to save "periclitantes puellas per Urbem collectas" (girls in danger found in the streets of Rome); (right) entrance to today's college for students

At the beginning of the XVIIIth century Pope Clement XI moved part of the beggars housed in the building to S. Michele a Ripa and used the resulting empty space for a new institution aimed at helping young women "in danger". They were provided with clogs (It. zoccolo) so their home became known as Conservatorio delle Zoccolette.
The young women did not live in the building on a voluntary basis; it is worth mentioning that in today's Roman slang zoccola means a woman of little virtue, so probably the objective of the institution was not entirely achieved.

Fontanone di Ponte Sisto

The Fountain of Pope Paul V
(left) A photo taken just before the removal of the fountain (to the right the entrance to Cappella di S. Francesco); the photo is placed on the rear wall of Palazzo Farnese; (right) the reconstructed fountain on the other side of the bridge

In 1613 Pope Paul V built a large fountain designed by Giovanni Vasanzio which brought the water of Acqua Paola to Rione Regola. In 1879 the fountain was dismantled and in 1898 it was rebuilt on other side of Ponte Sisto. The image used as background for this page shows a detail of the fountain (for similar strange faces see a page on the laughing masks of Rome).

S. Caterina da Siena

S. Caterina da Siena
(left) Fašade; (right) relief portraying Aschio and Senio with the she-wolf

In nearby Via Giulia there are several national churches (click here for a list of national churches in Rome). Siena was an independent Republic until 1557, when it was conquered by Cosimo I de' Medici who with this annexation became the Grand Duke of Tuscany. The merchants and bankers from Siena who lived in Via Giulia from the XVth century however continued to support a separate brotherhood (from that of the Florentines) and in 1775 they renovated their church which was dedicated to St. Catherine of Siena. The design of the new building by Paolo Posi is an interesting example of late baroque style.
According to traditional accounts, many Italian towns trace their origin in the history of Ancient Rome: the inhabitants of Siena claimed that their town was founded by Aschio and Senio, two sons of Remus, the brother of Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome. Fearing that their uncle wanted to kill them, Aschio and Senio escaped into Etruria carrying with them a statue of the she-wolf, the symbol of Rome; this explains why a she-wolf with two children was portrayed in the decoration of the church.

S. Caterina da Siena
(left) Coat of arms of Siena; (right) painting by Laurent Pecheux portraying St. Catherine greeting Pope Gregory XI at his return to Rome

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Ospizio Ecclesiastico
Sisto V. per evitare l'incomodo, che pativano i poveri invalidi nell'ospizio presso la chiesa di s. Sisto, ed ancora i benefattori, e ministri, che andavano per servirli, edific˛ quest'ospizio l'anno 1587. ed ancora la piccola chiesa dedicata a s. Francesco di Assisi.
Paolo V. fece la gran fontana fra la chiesa, e il portone dell'ospizio con disegno di Domenico Fontana eseguito per˛ da Carlo Maderno. Quindi Clemente XI. avendo nell'anno 1714. trasportati i poveri, come dicemmo, nell' ospizio di s. Michele a Ripagrande, destin˛ questo, parte per conservatorio delle povere zittelle mendicanti, che volgarmente vengono dette le Zoccolette, e parte per un convitto di ecclesiastici; ed ancora vi fu unito l'antico ospizio de' cento Preti, ed insieme lo spedale di questi; e l'uno, e l'altro furono dati in cura ai religiosi Scolopj.

Next plate in Book 9: Chiesa delle Stimmate di S. Francesco
Next step in Day 7 itinerary: Chiesa della SS. TrinitÓ e Ospizio de' Pellegrini
Next step in your tour of Rione Regola: Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio alla Regola