Palazzo della Cancelleria

Entertainment & Arts

Europe, Italy, Rome

The Palazzo della Cancelleria (Italian for "Palace of the Chancellery", meaning the Papal Chancellery) is a palace in Rome, Italy, situated between the present Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and the Campo de' Fiori, in the rione of Parione. It is designated as one of the extraterritorial Properties of the Holy See . It was constructed between 1489–1513, being the first palazzo in Rome to be built from the ground up in the new Renaissance style. The long façade with its rhythm of flat doubled pilasters between the arch-headed windows is Florentine in conception, comparable to Leone Battista Alberti's Palazzo Rucellai, though the concept of drafted masonry is ancient Roman in its origin. The grand doorway was added in the 16th century by Domenico Fontana on the orders of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. The building's bone-colored travertine was scavenged from the nearby Roman ruins of the Theatre of Pompey, for the Eternal City was a field of ruins, built for a city of over a million people that now housed some thirty thousand. The forty-four Egyptian granite columns of the inner courtyard are from the porticoes of the theatres upper covered seating, however they were originally taken from the theatre to build the old Basilica of S. Lorenzo. In the central rectangular courtyard, the two lower floors are represented by open arcaded loggias. While opinion of the architect's identity is divided, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Baccio Pontelli may have been involved in the early stages of design. The traditional attribution to Bramante and Andrea Bregno have been largely discredited, though many still attribute it to Bramante. Brunelleschi's cloisters of Santa Croce in Florence, which may have also inspired the courtyard of Luciano Laurana's Palazzo Ducale of Urbino (circa 1468, has been suggested as a possible source of inspiration. It is more likely that the form of the courtyard is derived from that of the Ducal Palace in Urbino, since the individuals involved in the early planning of the palazzo had come from Urbino. The Cancelleria was built for Cardinal Raffaele Riario who held the post of Cardinal Camerlengo to his powerful uncle, Pope Sixtus IV. The rumor was that the funds came in a single night's winnings at gaming. From 1753 the vice-chancellor happened to be the Jacobite pretender to the throne of Great Britain, Henry Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York, the Jacobite "Henry IX of Great Britain" . It still houses the Papal Chancellery, and is an exclave of the Vatican, not subject to Italian sovereignty. The palazzo's long façade engulfs the small Basilica Church of San Lorenzo in Damaso, the Cardinal's titular church, that sits to its right, with the palatial front continuing straight across: the entrance to the church is on the right side of the facade. The 5th century church (its interior has been rebuilt) sits, like the church of Saint Clement among others, upon a Roman mithraeum (pagan sanctuary); excavations beneath the cortile in 1988 – 1991 revealed the 4th and 5th century foundations of the grand basilica of San Lorenzo in Damaso, founded by pope Damasus I, and one of the most important early Christian churches in Rome. A cemetery in use from the 8th century until shortly before the palazzo's construction was also identified. In 1517, the just-completed palazzo was seized by the first Medici Pope, Leo X, who had not forgotten the complacency of Sixtus at the time of the murderous Pazzi conspiracy designed to replace the Medici in Florence with a Della Rovere regime. In the palazzo is a vast mural that Giorgio Vasari accomplished in a mere 100 days. He breathlessly boasted of his facility to Michelangelo, who responded "Si vede" ("it shows"). In the palazzo a little private theatre was installed by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, and in the later 17th century the Cancelleria became a center of the musical life of Rome. During the Roman Republic of 1849, the Roman parliament briefly sat here.