Sunday, 2 September 2012

A discovery at Palazzo Altemps

One of the most beautiful aspects of Rome's Palazzo Altemps isn't the ancient statuary, or even the lovely courtyard with its mosaic fountain.

It's the church.

I was surprised to find a really lovely church - not just a home chapel, but a proper church - inside this 15th-century palazzo located just at the top of Piazza Navona.

After months of living in Rome, and much time spent here as a visitor, I hadn't before gotten around to visiting the Altemps, one of Rome's lesser-known museums.

Besides being so  very centrally located, it displays some of the very best of the important collection of classical sculpture amassed by the Museo Nazionale Romano (Rome's municipal system of museums.)

Many of the pieces come from the celebrated Ludovisi collection, put together by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi in the 17th century.

Yet it's overlooked by most visitors (me included, until very recently.) In fact, while I was there on Saturday, I saw only a few people rushing through the rooms of the palazzo, snapping a few photos, and rushing back out.

I liked the palazzo. I like the peace, the statues were interesting (although not really my thing.) I marvelled at the gorgeous, painted loggia on the first floor (or, what we'd call second floor in North America. One up from ground level.)

But what I really appreciated was the Church of Sant'Aniceto of Palazzo Altemps.

Beautifully decorated, I particularly loved the series of baby angels and cherubs frescoed across the high walls and ceiling. One little fellow seems to have fallen out and is shown climbing up over a railing to join his chums, his little bare bottom waving at the congregation.

(Apologies; I forgot my camera so these are wikipedia photos.)

Initially, this was simply a chapel as was the tradition for the great patrician families. Until this family somehow got hold of the remains of Sant'Aniceto, one of the first popes, managing the Catholic Church from 155 to 166 AD.

To honor these relics, the family chapel was transformed into a legitimate church, complete with dome and sacristy between 1603 and 1617.

The presbytery is decorated with a Marian cycle (including, of course, an Annunciation) and an enormous reliquary that presumably contains the remains of Sant'Aniceto and which serves as the high altar.


Trekcapri said...

Hi Sandra, Rome has so many hidden treasures and I'm so enjoying and appreciate your wonderful articles sharing your discoveries and experiences. And the baby angels are wonderful. I always like to think that I have angels above looking out for me, so I find it really cool that they are on the ceiling here in this church.

Have a great weekend.

sandrac said...

I agree completely, Kathy! Maybe I'll even go back in and get some good photos of the cherubs and baby angels - they really are delightful!

Maybe you'll find some on church ceilings in Argentina!

madonnadelpiatto said...

Sandra next time I come to Rome I will have to hire you as my private tour guide of undiscovered secrets!

sandrac said...

Now that sounds like fun, Letizia!

Susie L said...

Lovely post Sandra. I never knew this existed! Thanks for enlightening me.

sandrac said...

Thanks, Susie! Clearly, I'm going to need to live in Rome for a long time to discover more of these treasures.

Annie said...

Those joyful angels really make me smile!