Study on the Evolution of the Urban Structure of Rome, and the Results of the Architectonic Field During the Pontificates of Leo X, Adrian VI and Clemente VII (1513-1534)

Project location: ITALY, Rome
Project start date: December 2010 - Project end date: November 2013
Project number: 2010-57
Beneficiary: Università di Roma La Sapienza – C.I.T.E.R.A.


Timeline: October 2011- December 2012


The purpose of the project called Roma Medicea is to study the urban planning of Rome during the papacy of the two Popes belonging to the Medici family, namely Leo X (1513-21) and Clement VII (1523-34), and its subsequent evolution and transformations.

The first step was to identify the interventions and subjects of real interest that had not been examined thoroughly by previous studies.

The research program has focused mainly on the following topics:

1) The making of the urbanistic system of Tridente, called also the Tridente of Piazza del Popolo, with three streets: Via di Ripetta o Leonina, Via Lata o del Corso, Via Paolina o del Babuino;

2) The connection between Tridente and the area of Piazza Navona, Piazza Madama, Via della Scrofa and Piazza San Luigi dei Francesi;

3) Villa Madama and the evolution of the Roman renaissance villas and gardens during the Medici Papacy



As for the origins of the Tridente, a first preliminary account has been given through the analysis of all the data that have been found. A very comprehensive literature review has been compiled, which includes all the available texts and sources relating to architecture, urbanism and art for the period chosen, as well as essays relating to the social, religious and economic life for the same period.
The second phase of this preliminary work, the archivistic research, is still ongoing since the amount of relevant material is very consistent. To date, the research is being carried out mainly in the Archivio di Stato di Roma, where a lot of papers concerning the area of Tridente and Campo Marzio during the first half of the Sixteenth century are preserved.
In fact, most part of the land used to belong to a certain number of religious institutions such as the Friars of Santa Maria del Popolo, the Friars of S. Agostino and the Hospital of San Giacomo degli Incurabili. Those written sources, most of all notarial acts, have permitted the identification of the various properties at the beginning of the century, and have been compared with later textual and cartographic sources such as the maps of Rome drawn by Leonardo Bufalini (1551), by Stefano Duperac (1577) and by Antonio Tempesta (1593).
While traditional methods tend to dictate a piecemeal approach to individuals sites belonging to the entire urban system of Tridente, it is very important on the other hand to study this part of the city as an overall urban landscape, which was characterized at the beginning of the century by vineyards and ruins such as the Mausoleo di Augusto.
Through the analysis of the various documents, some important facts have emerged, such as the presence of important figures linked to the entourage of Pope Leo X, like Niccolò Gaddi or Angelo Colocci, who owned a certain amount of land situated at the border of the future via Leonina, lately via di Ripetta.

At the same time through the archivistic research, a lot of iconographic material, mostly unpublished, has been found. Another interesting subject, which has been given very little attention from the literature, is the genesis of via del Babuino. Through documents belonging to the archive of the Confraternita della Santissima Annunziata, it has been possible to figure out how the settlement called "Borghetto di Pidocchi", placed between via del Babuino ( at those times called via Paolina) and via Margutta, not far from the convent of Santa Maria del Popolo and the Pincio Hill, was at the time. This settlement has a very peculiar design and its evolution is very important for the reconstruction of the street, built, like the earlier via Leonina, on a certain number of private properties, mainly belonging to the Massimo family.
Another field of research, always strictly connected to the Tridente is the study of two squares, now disappeared or strongly spoiled, like piazza Condipola and piazza degli Otto Cantoni. Through the observation and analysis of the design and the metrological pattern of those two squares, it clearly appears that they belong to an urban planning tradition that is more Tuscan than Roman, and whose origin can be seen in the squares of the French bastides of the XII-XIII century. This is due to the cultural environment of the two Florentine Popes and to Tuscan artistic personalities such as Antonio da Sangallo il Giovane or Baldassare Peruzzi, themselves strictly connected to the prominent Agostino Chigi, owner himself of many land spots in the area of Tridente. For piazza Condipola, it is very important to note that the lots of land where purchased or leased by those artists.
Once analysed and classified all the data, that will be also computerized, a cartographic reconstruction of the area, with the different phases of the growing of the settlement of Tridente along the Sixteenth century, is foreseen. The base is a computerised map of Rome based on the information from the Catasto Gregoriano (1816) and the map of Rome drawn by Nolli (1748).
Directly linked to the growing of Tridente is the study of the area between Via della Scrofa, Piazza San Luigi dei Francesi and Piazza Navona. It has been proved that the idea of Leo X was to connect the northern area of the town, through the Tridente, with the central area of Piazza Navova, where the Medici Family used to have one of their residences, that in the idea of the Pope, should have been a real "imperial" palace with an entrance on Piazza Navona. At the same time the study wants to prove that there was a direct connection with the rebuilding of the church of the French nation, San Luigi, and the politics of the Pope towards the French King.

The study of Villa Madama and the evolution of the Roman gardens during Renaissance is very important. Even in garden designing, there is a peculiar "Medici manner", in this case strongly connected to the discovery of the Antiquity and where Raffaello Sanzio plays a pre-eminent role. In the area of Tridente, for instance, some land portions were not occupied by houses, but by some urban gardens, such the one of the Orsini family, related with the Medici, close to via del Babuino.
At the moment, with all the information collected, it has emerged that there was a very strong influence of Tuscan and Florentine manners in the evolution of Roman urban planning during the Medici papacy. At the same time it appears clear that there was in fact a plan for large-scale town planning aimed to change the aspect of the town of Rome in the first half of the Sixteenth century. All the results of this research, together with the iconographic reconstructions, will be presented in a publication.
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