The massive temple on the Quirinal hill in Rome is now gone, but substantial remains still exist of the twin brick staircases, and the stair-well, down the hill. Unfortunately they stand in the gardens of the Colonna palace, which is not very accessible; and on the other side is the Gregorian University.
However the Gregorian University was only constructed in the early 1930s. A marvellous photograph exists, showing the site under construction. Behind it, clearly visible, is the huge square carcass of the stairwell, and the twin staircases on either side!
The picture was printed by Rabun Taylor in his marvellous article arguing (convincingly) that the temple was built by Hadrian, and the stairwell by Severus. Here it is:
For convenience, here’s an extract highlighting the staircases on either side. The house built into the Roman arches in between is later.
It’s worth repeating one of the renaissance drawings of the same area (by Giovanolli). It is incredible to think this mostly still exists!
A kind correspondent (R. Fassaert) has sent me an image of one of the plates in the new Atlas of Ancient Rome, featuring the huge temple on the Quirinal Hill in Rome, about which I have written a series of posts. The temple was thought to be Aurelian’s Temple of the Sun; then a Hadrianic Temple of Serapis; and the authors of that Atlas propose that it was a temple of Hercules and Dionysius.
“Tab.192” includes a plan and section by a certain “G. da Sangallo”. The image I have is low-resolution, but looks intriguing:
Of course it may be to some extent a reconstruction. But where is it from?
In common with many other sources, the Atlas leaves the reader at a loss. Engravings apparently magically appear. But I wondered if anything might be online.
The author turns out to be Giuliano da Sangallo (or San Gallo), who died in 1516. Italian Wikipedia has an article on him, from which I learn that he was a true renaissance man, who started with wood-carving and went into architecture and much else.
The notes tell me that manuscript of sketches is preserved in the Vatican in Ms. Barberini lat. 4424. My friend J.-B.Piggin provides a link to the manuscript online, which is here. It’s also now possible to save individual pages to file, which is most useful, as we shall see.
On first sight it did not contain what we were looking for. But a further search for da Sangallo and the Quirinal led me to a really useful article at Academia.edu by Dr Cammy Brothers, precisely about Da Sangallo and the temple on the Quirinal hill. This tells us that there are 7 drawings, all in the Barberini codex: on fol. 10r, 60r, 60v, 68v. The plan and section are folios 65r and 65v.
But looking at the manuscript, the reader is puzzled. Folios 65r and 65v are blank. Fol. 10r contains nothing relating to the Quirinal temple. 68v is blank. The page numbers are corrupt.
Like all these online interfaces, it is hard to use as first. But it got easier as I worked with it. I found, by scanning through the thumbnails, that the images of the section and plan are in fact folios 57r and 57v. The top of 57r is a bunch of figures from the arch of Severus in Rome. So here’s the bottom of that page:
I cannot make out the writing, however, even at maximum resolution, however.
Here’s the plan of the temple, on the next page, slightly edited.
Can any reader make out the writing?
Folio 60v does indeed show the pediment of the temple, before its demolition, on the left.
(One must deplore the vandalism of the circular Vatican logo across the picture, and I hope that the curators recognise how obnoxious this is, and remove it.)
It is perhaps likely that Dr Brothers did not consult the manuscript, but rather the reproduction by C. Hülsen (1910). Maybe this had different folio numbers.
I cannot recommend too highly the article by Cammy Brothers. It is a treasure trove. It contains reproductions of other drawings, and also calculations of the size of the monument as it then was. It also contains computer-generated reconstructions. In short it is a very useful article indeed, which I only encountered by accident.
The Barberini codex is not the only online item by G. da Sangallo. Wikipedia also told me of a “Sienese sketchbook” (Taccuino senese), held at the Biblioteca degli intronati in Siena. Rather to my surprise, this also proves to be online, although in a 1902 anastatic copy, at Google Books here. But it had no material on the temple.
It all goes to show that, with a little effort, it really is possible for a non-specialist to locate these drawings. How fortunate we are to live in the age of the internet!
Let’s finish with a striking image, not of the Quirinal temple, by Da Sangallo which I found on Wikimedia Commons. Apparently it depicts the ruins of the Basilica Aemilia in 1480!
But once again this is actually from the Barberini Codex, fol.28r.
It is nice to make use of a Vatican manuscript from a hotel room. This would hardly have been dreamt of, even a few years ago.
Via the German Wikipedia article on the temple of Serapis.↩
Cammy Brothers, “Reconstruction as design: Giuliano da Sangallo and the ‘palazzo di mecenate’ on the Quirinal Hill”, Annali di architettura: Rivista del Centro internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio di Vicenza 14, 2002, 55-72. Online here.↩
C. Hülsen, Il libro di Giuliano da Sangallo: codice Vaticano Barberiniano Latino 4424, I-II, Lepizig, 1910.↩
Little as I like Wikipedia, I think I will add a note to the Wikimedia Commons page, if I can.↩
A correspondent, Rene Fassaert, has directed my attention to a 1910 two-volume item Monuments Antiques, which contains some architectural materials for ancient Greece and Rome. It’s online in very high resolution at the University of Texas here.
On p.172 of the second volume (p.77 of the PDF), there is a splendid plan of the massive temple on the Quirinal Hill in Rome. This very clearly relates the great stairwell down the hill to the existing layout of the Colonna gardens.
The plate also contains a reconstruction of the whole plan of the temple. For some reason the original had this upside down, so I have corrected it.
Here it is. As ever, click on it for a larger image.
Much of the area of gardens to the left of the plan is now part of the Gregorian University. But the plan is still useful as a guide to what might be where.
UPDATE: I have had to reduce the size of the image, as the downloads were too much for my site bandwidth. You can of course follow the link to get the full size original.
After posting my last, I went back and played a bit more with Google maps on the Quirinal hill. And I found … something marvellous! Here it is:
This is part of the arcades of the Southern wall of the great stairwell that ran from the vast temple on the Quirinal – of the Sun, according to some, of Serapis according to others – down to the plain. It’s clearly visible in an old drawing by van Heemskerk:
And in this:
But who would have thought to see that sloping arcade now?
This morning I accidentally discovered the 3D feature of Google Maps. If you search for the Quirinal Hill in Rome, turn on the Satellite view, and then hold down the control key, you can “fly” around the area. Not every area of the world is filmed in this detail; but for the gardens of the Colonna palace, where the ruins of the vast temple of the Sun (or of Serapis) lurk invisibly, it is just amazing!
Here’s a screen grab that I made just now. The southern wall of the great staircase that descended from the temple to the plain is on the left, the northern wall is further away, and the massive chunks of the pediment are on the terrace to the right:
Here’s another view, taken the same way, but looking from the other side:
These make it quite plain that the temple itself mainly stood where the scuderia or stables of the Quirinal Palace now stand; and also that the intrusion of the buildings of the Gregorian University into the stairwell – a modern thing – is very unfortunate. Also obvious is how the Roman buildings have been reused.
Rather marvellous. But these screen shots give no idea, really. Fire up Google Maps, and start zooming and flying around!
I’ve written a few posts now about the vast temple whose remains may still be seen on the Quirinal hill in Rome (but only if you know where to look, and can get into the gardens of the Palazzo Colonna). Early engravers considered that this is the remains of Aurelian’s temple of the sun; German scholars of the early 20th century that it is the remains of Caracalla’s temple of Serapis; but the truth is unknown.
If you go to Rome, and walk over the Quirinal hill, as I have done, it is remarkably hard to work out just where it was. So I was very pleased to come across a very useful map, on p.376 of Ernest Nash’s Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1961). Here it is:
The temple faced what is now the Quirinal piazza, and the long square box at the back is the stairways down to the plain. Substantial remains exist of the outer walls of these staircases, which appear within the grounds of the Gregorian University, to the left, and the gardens of the Colonna Palace to the right. I have never been able to get into either, I should add.
Nash’s entry is brief:
SERAPIS, Templum. The ruins of a building on the west slope of the Quirinal have been identified as the Temple of Serapis (CIL VI, 570), which was built by Caracalla in the VI Region (CodTop I, p. 107). Part of the ruins lies in the gardens of the Palazzo Colonna, and part in the Universita Gregoriana Pontificia. Until early in the 17th century, part of the rear wall of the temple cella was still standing, and it is known to us from numerous 16th century drawings as “Torre Mesa”, “Torre di Mecenate”, or ‘Frontispizio di Nerone” (s. Egger, Römische Veduten II, 86 88). A corner-piece of the marble pediment of the rear wall, and a fragment of the marble frieze, have lain in the gardens of the Palazzo Colonna since about 1630 when the wall was destroyed. A monumental double-stairway led down from the temple on the Quirinal to the Campus Martius; part of its enclosure walls and sections of four partition walls are still preserved.
A. Palladio, I quattro libri dell’architettura, 1570, I, pp. 64, 66; IV, pp. 41-47; A. Nibby, Rom Ant II, p. 715 f.; R. Lanciani, NSc, 1878. pp. 92, 369; L. Urlichs, RM III, 1888, p. 98; Ch. Hülsen, RhM XLIX, 1894, pp. 392-396; id., BCom XXIII, 1895, pp. 39 59; R. Lanciani, BCom XXII. 1894, pp. 297-307; XXIII, 1895, pp. 94-101; id., Ruins, pp. 428-432 (Bibl; p. 432); id., Storia II, pp. 154 f., 249 f.; III, pp. 203 205; IV, pp. 97 f., 155 f.; H. Jordan, Top I, 3, pp. 421 423; M. Marchetti, BCom XLII, 1914, p. 374; G. Cultrera, MemLinc 5, XVIII, 1923. p. 528 f.; Röm Gebalke I, pp. 73-84; Th. Ashby, The years work in class. studies XX, 1926-27, p. 103; P-A, pp. 487, 491 f; H, Kahler, RM LI1, 1937, p. 94 f.; G. Lugli, Mon III, pp. 279, 304-307; M. Santangelo, Quirinale, pp. 154-177; L. Crema, ArchRom, p. 521.
As we have seen, Palladio is definitely online, and doubtless most of the older items are too, although I have not looked.
Where Nash really scores is in a series of monochrome detailed photographs of the surviving walls of the temple stairwell. I would really recommend consulting a printed copy – my copies are not very good quality. But, such as they are, here they are:
The arch visible in the partition wall is also depicted in the views of the structure from the 16th century. This shows the northern wall to the left, the southern wall to the right (of which more in a moment), the now destroyed corner of the temple at the top right. But it also shows the arches in the transverse, joining left and right. How fascinating to know that these still exist!
The next photo must relate to the northern outer wall, but I’m not clear how!
It’s not quite clear to me where this “substructure” stuff is, except that it must be outside the northern outer wall of the staircase. A bit mysterious, this.
The other side of the stairwell wall is also preserved, in the Colonna gardens:
This is more intelligible if we look at a couple of old drawings, which Nash helpfully reproduces:
An image that I found online shows that, prior to 1630, at least one of the temple columns was preserved. I’m not sure who this drawing is by – if it is Giovanello, I did not see it in the copy that I inspected – but I found it here. It also shows the fragment of the rear of the temple, the transverse arches along the back of the temple, and the southern outer wall of the temple.
The decoration of the pediment and frieze is clearly shown; and fragments of both are preserved, in blocks too massive to be easily destroyed, in the Colonna gardens:
Since these items are extant, there ought to be modern photographs. The first is a view of the ruins from the “scuderie” of the Quirinal palace – the stables, which stand much where the temple did, via Wikipedia here. The brick pillar must be part of the old Colonna palace shown in the drawing.
Here’s a picture from here (a great collection of photos of the Colonna gardens) of the southern outer wall, with part of the old Colonna palace depicted in the drawing above:
There are a few photographs from the Gregorian University of the North Stairway wall. Here’s the first, via here:
Next up is the northern outer wall, plus the surviving transverse. This looks towards the Quirinal palace, to the upper left. Via here.
Wikipedia has a nice collection of modern photographs here. But I think we should stop at this point!
Also indicated on the plan, very usefully, is the location of the now vanished Baths of Constantine. I believe that some foundations of these may still be seen in the palazzo built over them. But that’s another story!
I mentioned several times a fascinating drawing, of unknown origin, that I found on the web in very low resolution. It depicts the remains of the vast temple on the Quirinal, as it was before 1630, together with the newly built Quirinal palace – today the residence of the Italian president. But I was never able to find out where it came from, or read the lettering on the image.
Today, finally, I have managed to find a higher-resolution image. This is to be found at Stanford University, among the papers of … none other than Rudolfo Lanciani! The link is here. Sadly they prohibit downloading, but I was able to get a better image than we have had before. Click on it to expand.
The item is dated 1600 by the cataloguers: “Width: 380 mm x Height: 202 mm, date: 1600, medium: copper engravings (visual works), views, copper engraving, and incisione a rame, inventory numbers: 32674 and Roma XI.53.13”.
The lettering also becomes visible. It is in two lines, the first in Latin, the second in Italian. At extreme left is what looks like a monogram: AG. As we have seen, this is Aloisio Giovannoli, and the date is actually 1616, and the title is “Il Quirinale con frontespizio di Nerone, Aloisio Giovannoli“. Then we read:
A – Templum Solis pars II. B – Palatium Quirinale. C – Sacellum Pontificium a Srno. D. Nro. Paulo V Pont Max exaedificatum, ac maior eiusdem Palatii pars ad Meridie S. Agnes clam effertur in eius suburbium ad sepeliedum, in quo postmodum ei replum dedicatum est.
A – Tempio del Sol parte II. B – Palazzo di Monte Cavallo. C – Capella Pontificale fatta di Nro Sig. Papa Paolo Quinto Pont. Massimo con la maggior parte del detto Palazzo a Mezzogiorno S. Agnesa e portatu alla sepoltura di nascosto in un suo campo doue hora e la sua chiesa.
It is then followed by “Foglio 61”.
Googling, I find that this is plainly part of a series by Aloisio Giovandolli, 1550(?)-1618, whose monogram was apparently ALO.G. The BNF in Paris indicate that he published the following item in Rome in 1616: Vedute degli antichi vestigi di Roma di Alo Giovannoli in due parti [Texte imprimé] : la prima contiene mausolei, archi, colonne, e fabbriche pubbliche, la seconda rapprasenta terme, anfiteatri, e tempj. Comprese in rami 106. Parte prima [-seconda]. Physically it was “1 carte, 106 est. [1-44 ; 45-106] ; in-fol, oblong”. They add “Alo Giovannoli publia en 1616 les ruines des vestiges de Rome. La biblioteca del Museo di Roma donne 1750 comme date d’édition.”
The book itself can be found online at Arache, at the University of Köln, at http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/books/Giovannoli1616. And it can be downloaded at very high res (575 mb!), if you can work through the confusing menus (the trick is to click on the top link in the pop-up box and ignore all the stuff below). Oddly the PDF is in reverse order. But on p.94 of the PDF, large as life is … our plate.
Even better, plate 60 is another engraving of the temple. I was unable to work out how to extract it from the PDF, but here’s a screen grab. Looking from the west, as Giovanolli tells us.
On p.218 of the PDF is a map of Rome, with a list of monuments.
I wonder if I should email Stanford with this additional data?
I was able to acquire access to a couple of reference tomes, and see what they had to say about this huge but mysterious temple. Here’s the first of them. Sadly the figure was not well reproduced in my copy.
From L. Richardson, A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, 1992, 341-2:
Remains of a very large temple that faced east stood south of Montecavallo until the seventeenth century. Together with its stair, this extended from Piazza della Pilotta to the fountain of Montecavallo (Fig. 72). The rear corner of the temple, built of blocks of peperino and carrying the marble entablature and a corner of the pediment, against which was built a medieval defense tower, was known variously as Torre Mesa, Torre di Mecenate, and Frontispizio di Nerone. Remains of a great stair leading to the temple from the plain below still survive in the gardens of Palazzo Colonna and the Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, and records of these have been left by artists, notably van Heemskerck, who gives a panorama of what was to be seen in the sixteenth century (2.81 v, 82 r). There are also a plan by Palladio (Zorzi pls. 153-55 ) and drawings of the entablature and corner of the pediment by Serlio and the Anonymous Destailleur (RomMitt 52 : 95 fig. 1). Fragments of the architecture, including an architrave block, parts of the frieze, and the corner block of the pediment, still lie in the gardens of Palazzo Colonna.
This complex was the subject of a famous debate toward the end of the nineteenth century between Hulsen, who wished to identify it as the Temple of Serapis (see Serapis, Aedes), built by Caracalla, and Lanciani, who held it to be the Temple of Sol (see Sol, Templum) built by Aurelian. Each advanced relays of argument for his identification, and since then topographers have generally held for one theory or the other. Most recently Nash (2.376-83) and Lugli (Lugli 1938, 304-7 ) have sided with Hulsen, whereas M . Santangelo (MemPontAcc, ser. 3.5 [1940-41]: 154-77 ) has sided with Lanciani. Only H. Kàhler (RomMitt 52 : 9 4 —105) has been bold enough to reject both identifications, yet he is unquestionably correct. The architectural ornament of the temple is unmistakably Hadrianic (cf. PBSR, n.s., 8, vol. 21 : 118-51 [D. Strong]). Moreover, the pronaos, as Palladio has drawn it, is a close congener of the pronaos of Hadrian’s Pantheon, with its lines of columns leading back to important niches between pronaos and cella. It has been argued that the brickwork in the walls of the monumental stair approaching the temple is typically Severan (see Lugli 1938, 306-7), but there seems to have been no confirmation of this from the evidence of brickstamps. If it is Severan, it must be a later addition to a Hadrianic building.
Palladio shows the temple as peripteral, sine postico, pseudo-dipteral, with twelve columns on the façade and fourteen down the flanks. It is mounted on a platform with seven steps running around the three colonnaded sides. The pronaos is deep, with eight columns in pairs behind the third, fifth, eighth, and tenth columns of the façade. These flank niches in the cella wall, semicircular to either side, and rectangular for the door in the middle. The interior is believed to have been hypaethral, with colonnades down the sides in two storeys, Ionic below, Corinthian above. The total height of the main order has been calculated as 21.17 m (Alberti), the entablature as 4.83 m. It was a huge temple, on the order of the Temple of Venus et Roma, and set at the back of a large precinct finished, at least along the back, with a wall behind an addorsed colonnade, in the bays of which were niches, alternately rectangular and semicircular. At the front of the precinct were found the statues of the horse tamers that still adorn Montecavallo, although perhaps they belonged to the Thermae Constantinianae (MemPontAcc, ser. 3.5 [1940-41]: 158, 161 [M. Santangelo]).
The approach from the plain of the Campus Martius was complicated, and the drawings of it are difficult to read. It consisted of a double stair on each side of an open court, the inner stair on each side steeper than the outer. The stairs were roofed, so there was a subtle element of surprise introduced, but there were windows along the sides, so one could admire the view along the way. At the top one had to make a detour to enter the precinct, where the view of the flank of the temple would be enhanced. The stairs were carried on vaults, and a number of vaulted chambers filled the back of the court between them. It is not clear what the use of these rooms may have been. Lanciani (LS 1.38) believed that blocks of these stairs were robbed in 1348 to build the stair leading up to the church of S. Maria in Aracoeli.
The arguments in favor of identifying this as the Temple of Salus are simply that it is in approximately the right place with respect to the Porta Salutaris and would have a certain prominence, consonant with its having been repeatedly struck by lightning. We know of no Hadrianic rebuilding of the Temple of Salus, but coins bearing the image of Salus and the legend Salus Augusti are particularly numerous in Hadrian’s principate (see, e.g., B. M. Coins. Rom. Emp. 3. cxlviii-clxix).
RomMitt 52 (1937): 94-105 (H. Kahler); Lugli 1938, 304-7 ; MemPontAcc, ser. 3.5 (1940-41): 154-77 (M. Santangelo); PBSR, n.s., 8, vol. 21 (1953): 118-51 (D. E. Strong); Nash 2.376-83 ; M. A. Marwood, The Roman Cult of Salus (BAR, Int. Ser. 465 ): especially 2-15 .
[Lugli, G. I monumenti antichi di Romae suburbio. Vol. 3, A traverso le regioni. Rome 1938.
MemPontAcc = Memorie: Atti délla Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia.
PBSR = Papers of the British School at Rome.
RomMitt = Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung.]
At the back of the great temple on the Quirinal – often thought to be Aurelian’s Temple of the Sun, sometimes Caracalla’s Temple of Serapis – a great staircase ran down the hill to the plain. Portions of the sides of this still remain; but the actual arrangement of this is unclear. The steps themselves vanished in the 14th century, so even 16th century drawings must be treated with care.
Yesterday I found a 16th century drawing of this temple and staircase by Sallustio Peruzzi (Click to enlarge).
It is entirely consistent with Palladio’s plan, which leaves the disposition of the staircase unclear.
However Palladio also gives a nonsense reconstruction of the stairs, which is not consistent with his own plan:
It has misled the authors of the recent Atlas of Ancient Rome, whose diagram shows a block:
As I remarked earlier, the slope of the hill is gentle, and this enormous construction is simply unnecessary, and unevidenced.
Peruzzi is almost certainly right, I believe. His view is also consistent with this drawing of the stair side-walls from the period.
So… unless any further evidence is forthcoming, that’s how I think it should be seen. Palladio’s block is just an architect’s fantasy, and should not be considered.
Let’s look for more evidence about the temple. I learn that the ruins of Aurelian’s Temple of the Sun (or possibly Caracalla’s Temple of Serapis) on the Quirinal are depicted in “numerous” 16th century drawings, under the names of the “Torre Mesa” or “Torre di Mecenate” or “Frontispizio di Nerone”.
Of course such a claim deserves to be tested – with a Google search! Here are some results.
“The Temple of Serapis (or Frontispizio di Nerone) Rome”, from the circle of Circle of Willem van Nieulandt the Younger (d. ca. 1635), oil, 80×103 cms. Via here:
This is infinitely clearer than the black-and-white images that we have all seen.
A less clear item is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in high res here: an anonymous Dutch pen and ink drawing with red wash, 16th century, 22×33.4cm. This is labelled “Palazzo Nerone”, which is perhaps the name of the miserable shack erected in the ruins of the stairwell of the temple.
Some of the enormous ruins left in the Colonna gardens may be seen here. I am unclear what this image is, tho.
The following item is a reconstruction from 1879 “based on a 16th century drawing”:
Finally a mysterious fragment of a map, showing the corner of the temple, and also the adjacent Baths of Constantine, from here:
One item that has always bothered me (as showing the temple with the newly built Palazzo Quirinale, but with no idea where it comes from) is this:
Today I learn that this is “Il Quirinale con frontespizio di Nerone, Aloisio Giovannoli, 1616″. Searching for this, I encounter an Italian blog discussing the removal of the stairs from the temple, to make stairs to the Ara Coeli on the Capitoline, in 1348. And this includes this plan of the temple, clearly showing the stairs!
Peruzzi died in 1573. It is frustrating that we do not know where this came from. And I wish I could read any of the writing on this!
A treasure all the same. Plainly there is more stuff out there to be seen.
UPDATE: Peruzzi’s drawing makes clear that Palladio’s drawing of the stairs must be fiction. I draw together the real picture here.