Palazzo Barbarini, Fontain and Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini

We cross the street and move north through the Via delle Quattro Fontane, and then take a right turn to find ourselves at the Palazzo Barberini.

Palazzo Barberini entrance and facade    Garden

Palazzo Barberini entrance
photos: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

Unfortunately, we lack the time to go inside. Nowadays, the palace has a museum with a wonderful collection of paintings including a famous one by Caravaggio, titled: ‘Judith and Holofernes’ (Wikipedia) and a famous ceiling painting by Pietro da Cortona (Wikipedia).

Caravaggio ‘Judith and Holofernes’ 145 x 195 cm, 1598 1599
Holofernes      Judith and her servant

Caravaggio ‘Judith and Holofernes'

Pietro da Cortona ‘Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power

Pietro da Cortona ‘Allegory Divine Providence and Barberini Power

At standing in front of the large wall, you will immediately notice a remarkable window frame. Borromini made this when he worked for some time under Bernini. Having this kind of aedicula around a window, is in direct violation of pretty much any decent and conventional architecture standards as held by Vitruvius but also contemporaries of Borromini. I am left wondering if you are able to explain why this aedicula by Borromini is so wrong according to Vitruvius and Giovanni Pietro Bellori. In addition, Borromini also designed a staircase for the Palazzo Barberini.

Borromini's window Palazzo barberini

The door to the staircase

photos: Teggelaar

   Staircase   Borromini’s staircase

Borromini staircase Palazzo Barberini
photos: Sailko and Wikipedia

We continue north where we can already see the Piazza Barberini, close to the Palazzo Barberni.

Piazza Barberini and the fountain Bernini 
G. B. Falda ‘Fontana del Tritone Piazza Barberini’    Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Piazza Barberini/ fountain Bernini 
photo: Frank Gabriel Garcia

The Triton fountain is found at the centre of the Piazza Barberini. The Barberini family commissioned Bernini to construct it. Bernini places Triton on a large clam that’s carried by four dolphins. In his hands, Triton holds a conch in the air with water flowing out. In Ovid’s book Metamorphoses, he describes how Jupiter ordered to have mankind punished with a flood. Neptune subsequently caused one. Triton is told by his father Neptune to blow the conch to maintain the memory of the flood.

Triton fountain    Triton and water    Coat of arms    Dolphins
Bernini preliminary study of the Triton, 1642    THE MET

Bernini remains truthful to the description by Ovid who remarked that Triton lifts his hands with the shell:
[…] that coils from its base in broad spirals,
that shell that filled with his breath in mid-ocean
makes the eastern and the western shores sound.
So now when it touched the god’s mouth,
and dripping beard, and sounded out the order for retreat,
it was heard by all the waters on earth and in the ocean,
and all the waters hearing it were checked.
Now the sea has shorelines, the brimming rivers
keep to their channels, the floods subside, and hills appear.
Earth rises, the soil increasing as the water ebbs,
and finally the trees show their naked tops,
the slime still clinging to their leaves.
Thus the world had returned
From: Ovidius, ‘Metamorphoses’

Triton fountain  Bernini
photos: Miguel Hermoso Cuesto and Triton water: Hervé Simon
Fountain of the Bees Bernini
photos: Carmen Alonso Suarez and Babizehet

Fontana delle Api    In situ    Api    Text

We now walk to the Via Veneto where we will look at a smaller fountain, the fountain with the Bees (Api) by Bernini.

“Fontana delle Api (Fountain of the Bees) is a fountain located in the Piazza Barberini in Rome where the Via Veneto enters the piazza. It was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and completed in April 1644.
Fontana delle Api consists of a marble bi-valve shell with three bees of the same material resting on it. The fountain was intended to be a watering trough for horses. An inscription on the shell reads, “Urban VIII Pont. Max., having built a fountain for the public ornamentation of the City, also built this little fountain to be of service to private citizens. In the year 1644, XXI of his pontificate.” The “public ornamentation” referred to in the inscription is the Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain), which Bernini had completed the year before.”
Source Wikipedia

Afterwards we head towards the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini.

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini Rome
photos: Geobia and José Luiz

We descend to the crypt of this church and end up at some kind of freak show. For centuries, the capuchins preserved the bones of over four thousand of their monks. Wherever you look you will see bones, skulls and other monk remnants.
Some of the skeletons even still wear the order’s brown robes. The parts of the skeletons are arranged in such a way that they form into a few Christian symbols.
The cardinal’s tomb is inscribed with: ‘We were what you are. You will be what we are.” At leaving the crypt, the monk shaking his tin is a friendly reminder for us to leave behind a few coins. I do recommend our tribute to be more modest than what we paid the nuns for the institute for the mute children at the Santi Quattro Coronati that we examined in the first programme.


“The crypt is located just under the church. Cardinal Antonio Barberini, who was a member of the Capuchin order, in 1631 ordered the remains of thousands of Capuchin friars exhumed and transferred from the friary Via dei Lucchesi to the crypt.

The bones were arranged along the walls, and the friars began to bury their own dead there, as well as the bodies of poor Romans, whose tomb was under the floor of the present Mass chapel. Here the Capuchins would come to pray and reflect each evening before retiring for the night. The crypt, or ossuary, now contains the remains of 4,000 friars buried between 1500 and 1870, during which time the Roman Catholic Church permitted burial in and under churches.

The underground crypt is divided into five chapels, lit only by dim natural light seeping in through cracks, and small fluorescent lamps. The crypt walls are decorated with the remains in elaborate fashion, making this crypt a macabre work of art. Some of the skeletons are intact and draped with Franciscan habits, but for the most part, individual bones are used to create elaborate ornamental designs.

The crypt originated at a period of a rich and creative cult for their dead; great spiritual masters meditated and preached with a skull in hand. A plaque in one of the chapels reads, in three languages, “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.” This is a memento mori.

The popularity of the crypt as a tourist attraction once rivalled the Catacombs. The Sedlec ossuary (1870) in the Czech Republic and the Skull Chapel in Poland are said to have been inspired by it.”

Source: Wikipedia
See also: Capuchin crypt

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini Entrance
photo: Ethan Doyle White

Capuchin crypt

“This must be a revolting sight”, said I to my friend; “and what appears to me yet more disgusting is that these remains of the dead are only exposed in this manner for the sake of levying a tax on the imbecility of the living”.— J. D. de Chatelain, 1851
Source: Capuchin crypt

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini crypt
photos: Dnalor 01 and Jeroen van Luin

We continue north through the Via di Porta Pinciana to arrive at the old Rome city walls. After the city gates (Porta Pinciana), we can see across the road a park that is named after the famous villa: the Villa Borghese.

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese  park
photo: Slices of Light

Continuation Rome day 4: Bernini and the Villa Borghese I