NAME
St.Eustachius is the name of a Christian martyr of the early 2nd century, whom an ancient church is dedicated to, in the centre of this district.
Its medieval name, Regio Sancti Eustachii et Vinee Tedemarii, also refers to a cultivated field (vinea) owned by Tedemarius, a personage now obscure, who may have lived around year 950.


vicolo delle Coppelle
COAT OF ARMS
St.Eustachius between the antlers of a stag.
According to a legend, around year 100 AD, a general named Placidus was out hunting, when he saw a beautiful stag. But on taking his aim, a bright cross appeared between the antlers of the animal and on its hindquarter, and a voice was heard saying Placidus, why are you persecuting me?. The prodigy convinced the military man to convert to the Christian religion, and to change his name into Eustachius. Some time later, he refused to worship god Apollo during a public celebration, and received an ad bestias sentence, that is to be mauled by wild animals, together with his family; but the animals miraculously spared them, so they were killed by closing them inside a bronze bull, that was then heated with fire.
In earlier versions of the coat of arms, between the stag's antlers a cross is found instead of the saint.


BOUNDARY
Corso del Rinascimento; piazza delle Cinque Lune; piazza di Sant'Agostino; via di Sant'Agostino; via dei Pianellari; via dei Portoghesi; via della Stelletta; via di Campo Marzio; piazza di Campo Marzio; via della Maddalena; via del Pantheon; piazza della Rotonda; via della Rotonda; piazza di Santa Chiara; via di Torre Argentina; largo Arenula; via Arenula; piazza Benedetto Cairoli; via dei Giubbonari; via dei Chiavari.


MAIN FEATURES
(i numeri neri fra parentesi quadre nel testo si riferiscono alla pianta qui in basso)
Due to its long and very narrow shape, the boundary of this district runs very close to many of Rome's historical sites, yet without including any of the city's most famous highlights.
In ancient Rome, Sant'Eustachio would have covered the eastern part of the Campus Martius, where several important public buildings stood, none of which survived the turn of the first millennium.

Over the late Middle Ages, the district was rebuilt, with a high density of small private houses, dwelt by the middle and low social classes. Here the first University of Rome had its historical seat until 1935.

By the late 1800s, Sant'Eustachio district suffered from a demolition campaign for the opening of the thoroughfare corso del Rinascimento, which presently represents a long stretch of its western boundary.

The heart of the district is the charming square [1] named after the saint. Here stands St.Eustachius' church, above whose front is a stag's head bearing the cross. It was built on the spot where, according to tradition, the Roman soldier and his family are said to have been killed. Its present shape dates to c.1720, but the belltower still belongs to the medieval structure (late 12th century).
piazza Sant'Eustachio: the church is on the left,
the house of Tizio da Spoleto is in the centre

In front of the church, a house of the early 16th century that belonged to Tizio da Spoleto, chief chamberlain of cardinal Alessandro Farnese (the future pope Paul III), is covered with fresco paintings by Federico Zuccari, one of his earliest works in Rome, with scenes of St.Eustachius' life, and a coat of arms of the Medici family referred to Pius IV (Angelo Medici), which allows a dating of the work around 1560.

A coffee bar in the square, named after the district, is particularly popular for serving one of the best coffees in Rome; for anybody who passes by, to stop and have an espresso is almost a must, but the bar sells also all sorts of coffee-flavoured sweets and products.

On the right side of the church, along via di Sant'Eustachio, two tall columns are the only remains left of the ancient Baths of Nero (AD 62). The establishment, rather large in size, suffered damages during fires, and was restored more than once, until emperor Alexander Severus rebuilt it on the same spot in the 3rd century, naming the baths after himself. Unfortunately, today only scanty fragments are left; another one is mentioned further in the page.

the two surviving columns from the Baths of Nero →

The western side of piazza Sant'Eustachio is closed by the complex know as La Sapienza [3] ("Wisdom"), whose tall and bizarre lantern rises high above; its main entrance is along corso del Rinascimento, but it can be accessed also from a rear door, only a few steps off the square. It includes a building of the 16th century with a large courtyard in the centre, surrounded on three sides by a two-storey porch (a work by Giacomo Della Porta), while the fourth side is occupied by the church of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza (St.Yves by La Sapienza), built by Francesco Borromini. This was the seat of Rome's first university, called Studium Urbis, whose complicated making many pontiffs were involved in, over a time length of about 350 years.
The institution was founded in 1303 under Boniface VIII, following similar ones already extant in other Italian cities (Bologna, Padua, Siena, Naples), as well as in foreign ones (Paris, Oxford, Cambridge), but it did not have a seat of its own. In the days of old, the teachers used to meet in the nearby church of St.Eustachius. In 1431, Eugene IV provided some economic funds, thanks to which qualified teachers could be hired in Rome from other cities; but the first seat of the university was built no sooner than by the end of the century (c.1495), and later enlarged in the early 1500s by Leo X, who had two courtyards and a chapel added to the structure. A complete refurbishment started under Pius IV (c.1560), a work which Pirro Ligorio was initially commissioned for. About ten years later, Gregory XIII handed over the works to Giacomo Della Porta, who completed them in 1587, under Sixtus V: the name of this pontiff in fact appears above the main doorway. During the refurbishment, the chapel was taken down; for this reason, soon after 1630, Urban VIII commissioned to Borromini the making of the new church, which took about twenty-five years, and was completed under Alexander VII (1660).

← the courtyard of La Sapienza with Sant'Ivo's

When Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, in 1870, the massive increase of students caused the need of finding new branches for the university; at the same time, the works for the making of a new university campus started, in a completely different part of the city (outside Aurelian's walls), but it was opened no sooner than 1935. Ever since, the complex of La Sapienza was turned into a state archive.

the lantern of St.Yves'
Sant'Ivo's is a gem of Baroque architecture. It features a concave fašade, whose windows are perfectly consistent in perspective with those of the two-storey porch, instead of breaking them. But the most amazing element is the lantern, consisting in six concave sections, separated by couples of small columns topped by thin spires; the latter keep ascending following a spiral ramp that tapers, ending in a ring of flames, a cage, and a globe bearing the cross, which, as a whole, suggest the shape of a crown. The design of the inside of the dome, rather unusual as well, is shaped as an equilateral triangle with convex corners, and a semicircle in the centre of each side, thus forming a second triangle that crosses the first one.
scheme of the dome of St.Yves

The nearby Palazzo Madama [4], along corso del Rinascimento, is the seat of the Senate (i.e. the High Chamber) of Italy's parliament.

Palazzo Madama
The first building appeared in the late 15th century, when on this spot a house was built, dwelt in the early 1500s by cardinal Giovanni de' Medici (the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and future pope Leo X). Later in time, the Medici remained owners of the property, and had it enlarged. It then became the residence in Rome of Marguerite of Austria, the daughter of emperor Charles V, who was herself a member of the Florentine family, having married in her early youth a member of the Medici; the latter was killed, and she then married again with a member of the Farnese family (a nephew of pope Paul III), so she kept residing in the mansion during her stays in Rome. Since people used to address her as Madama (Madam), also the mansion took the name Palazzo Madama. It took its present shape in the early 1600s; over the following century it changed owner several times, and was used for several purposes: a law court, a jail, then since the mid 1800s it became the Ministry of Finance, and the place where lotto numbers were publicly drawn, on the balcony (in earlier times, this took place at Palazzo di Montecitorio, in Colonna district).
In 1870 it was chosen for housing the Senate of the newborn Kingdom of Italy. As the number of senators grew, for space reasons in 1905 it was enlarged at the back, and finally in 1929 it was connected with an aerial passage to the nearby Palazzo Carpegna, which on this occasion was entirely rebuilt.
Furthermore, since 1938 Palazzo Madama is also connected to Palazzo Giustiniani (a mansion of the late 1500s, enlarged by Borromini since 1655) by means of an underground passage; in this building the Italian Constitution was signed, in 1947. It now acts as a seat of the Senate chairman's offices. The street it stands along is called via della Dogana Vecchia (Old Customs Street) after the land customs boureau, that was originally located there, before being moved to Piazza di Pietra (Colonna district), in the mid 1600s.

In via degli Staderari, which separates Palazzo Carpegna from La Sapienza complex, is Sant'Eustachio small district fountain (1927), known as the Fountain of the Books, with a stag's head between four volumes, a reference to the nearby university.


the Fountain of the Books



the ancient Roman basin
Midway along the same street, in a small opening at the back of Palazzo Carpegna, stands another fountain consisting of an enormous basin of Egyptian granite, found during excavation works below the Senate. It belonged to the Baths of Nero, which in ancient Roman times stretched up to the area now occupied by Palazzo Madama and by the aforesaid Palazzo Giustiniani; actually, some remains of the establishment are still extant in the Senate's basement.
The basin was already known during the Middle Ages, when it was mentioned in early city guides as concha Sancti Eustachii; but in time, it ended covered by earth. The fountain is now provided with a modern octagonal ground basin, where the water that trickles from the edge of the upper one is collected.

In this district, some churches hold a wealth of works of art by famous artists.
One of them is San Luigi dei Francesi (St.Louis of the French) [5], one of Rome's several 'foreign' churches, founded in 1518 by the will of cardinal Giuliano de' Medici (a cousin of the aforesaid Giovanni, and a future pope, as well, with the title of Clement VII). The works for its making, though, were stopped rather soon, and were resumed only in 1580, by commission of Catherine de' Medici, the wife of the late French king Henry II, and the mother of his successor Henry III. The fašade features the statues of kings and queens of France (among whom is Charlemagne) and, in the lower part, two large discs in relief, with the unusual heraldic device of the French monarch Francis I, who ruled by the time of the church's foundation, consisting of a dragon-shaped salamander, surviving amidsts the flames; in those days, the people believed that such animal was invulnerable to fire.

the heraldic device of king Francis I

In one of its chapels, belonged to cardinal Mathieu Cointrel (o Cointerel, then Italianized into Contarelli), hang three famous paintings by Caravaggio, inspired by episodes of the life of St.Matthew.

the two versions of St.Matthew and the Angel
In 1577, the Dutch sculptor Jacob Cobaert had been commissioned with an altarpiece (St.Matthew and the Angel), on which the artist worked for over twenty years; then, by the end of the century, Caravaggio was hired for the two side walls of the chapel. But in the end, Cobaert's work, still unfinished, was disliked, and Caravaggio was hired again for painting the same theme. Also his first version, though, considered too unconventional, was rejected; so what now hangs on the back wall of the chapel is actually the second version (c.1602). The discarded painting was unfortunately destroyed during a WW II bombing in Berlin. Instead the disliked group by Cobaert, with the angel finished by Pompeo Ferrucci, ended up in the church of the Santissima TrinitÓ dei Pellegrini (Holy Trinity of Pilgrims), in Regola district.

Another nearby church is St.Augustine [6], one of the earliest Renaissance buildings in Rome (1483). Inside, one of the pillars is decorated with a fresco by Raphael (prophet Isaiah), while below the painting is a fine marble group by Andrea Sansovino (the Virgin and Child with St.Anne); both are works dated 1512, and both were commissioned by a cardinal from Luxemburg, Johann Goritz, as the decoration for a no longer extant altar that stood by the same pillar.
carved wooden street signs in via dei Pianellari

from the left: the Madonna of the Pilgrims (Caravaggio); Prophet Isaiah (Raphael); the Madonna of Childbirth (Jacopo Sansovino)

St.Augustine is almost a small art gallery, as it holds also a further work by Caravaggio, the Madonna of Loreto, alternatively known as the Madonna of the Pilgrims after the two figures in the foreground; in the painting, two elderly peasants are kneeling in an attitude of worship towards the Virgin Mary, who is portrayed as an ordinary folk woman; the lively depiction, with almost no sign at all of her holy nature, and the crude details of the paintings, such as the pilgrims' dirty feet, were considered inopportune for a religious theme, and initially sparked harsh criticism.
In the same church, a further masterwork is a beautiful sculpture of the Virgin and Child known as the 'Madonna of Childbirth' (1518), strongly reminiscent of Michelangelo's style; it was carved by Jacopo Sansovino, who took inspiration from an ancient sitting statue of Apollo (now held by a museum in Naples). Actually, for a long time the common people believed that the figures featured in the group were Agrippina Minor and her baby son Nero. The work is traditionally worshipped by pregnant women, whence its title; once the child is born, ribbons, pictures, bibs, and handwritten notes are left by the group by mothers, as tokens of gratitude.
la targa presso Sant'Agostino

Outside the church, on the left side, high above hangs one of the earliest plaques bearing a ban on leaving litter in the streets (on this topic see Curious and Unusual), and threatening offenders of "...personal arrest, a 25 golden Scudi fine, three tugs of the 'rope', and other penalties as stated by the decree of July 6, 1646".

The northernmost part of the district is crossed by via delle Coppelle, a name connected to an ancient measure of volume, the coppella, or copella (from Latin cupa = "barrel"), equals to five litres, used for wine and water. Along the street is a small square that bears the same name [6], mostly occupied by the tiny church of San Salvatore delle Coppelle, founded around 1200, but rebuilt for the Jubilee Year of 1775 (the small Romanesque belltower is the only trace of the original building).

← a madonnella shrine on the front of an ancient building in piazza delle Coppelle
On its left side hang two interesting ancient plaques. One, dated 1749, with a tiny door, orders to hostel-keepers and inn-keepers to give warning of any foreign traveller that fell sick, by inserting a notice, in the fear that a plague may break out because of the great attendance of pilgrims to the Jubilee Year of 1750.
The other one, much more simple, states the double name of the church: during the Middle Ages, it was also called San Salvatore della PietÓ; the reason for such place name is explained further in the page. What is most striking is the year inscribed on the plaque, 1195; should such date be authentic, this would be the oldest public inscription known in early Italian language (in those days, notices were only written in Latin).
the plaques on the side of
San Salvatore's church


Along the eastern side of the district, the boundary line runs across piazza della Rotonda [2], cutting it into two halves: the southern one, where the Pantheon stands, belongs to Pigna district; the other one, included in Sant'Eustachio, has a beautiful fountain built in 1575, embellished by a central group added in 1711, which supports a small egyptian obelisk coming from the Temple of Isis (see the Fountains and Obelisks monographs for details).
Before being moved to piazza della Rotonda, the spire stood about 200 metres/yards off the square, on the spot where it had been unearthed at the end of the Middle Ages, by the small church of San Macuto, on the boundary between Colonna and Pigna districts. For this reason the obelisk is also known as the Macuteo.
(← left) the fountain before the Pantheon and
its fancy central group (above ↑)


The square is now completely surrounded by bars, coffee houses, and even a fast food restaurant which, according to several, according to most people who love Rome, should have never been opened right in front of an important historical site such as the Pantheon.

Also over the past centuries this square had been spoiled by several taverns and inns, up to the point of forming an actual market, on three sides of the square, which obstructed the view over the famous building. For this reason, in 1822 pope Pius VII had all stalls removed, restoring the original beauty of the site, as remembered by a large plaque in Latin, which reads as follows:

top: view of the square by the late 1600s
bottom: the restaurant below the plaque by Pius VII, shown in detail on the right →

As a funny coincidence, this plaque now hangs above the aforesaid restaurant, almost as an admonishment from the past, despite the owners of the establishment as well as the customers seem to be aware of the paradoxical situation.
POPE PIUS VII IN THE 23RD YEAR OF HIS REIGN
RECLAIMED FROM THE DISLIKED UGLINESS
THE AREA IN FRONT OF M. AGRIPPA'S PANTHEON
OCCUPIED BY DISGRACEFUL TAVERNS
BY MEANS OF A MOST WISE DEMOLITION
AND ORDERED TO LEAVE THE VIEW FREE IN A OPEN PLACE



In ancient times, in the centre of the square, more or less where the fountain now stands, was a monument shaped as an arch, dating to the 2nd century AD, with reliefs likely representing allegories of Rome's provinces. During the Middle Ages, the people interpreted the frieze as the depiction of an old legend: emperor Trajan, on leaving for a campaign, was stopped by an elderly widow who pleaded for justice, having her son been killed; the emperor, out of pity for the woman's perseverance, accepted to dismount and to prosecute the killer (the legend is also mentioned by Dante in the X Canto of Purgatory). Therefore, the monument was known as the Arch of Pity. Up to the mid 1400s, remains of the monument were still visible in the square, so the area north of the Pantheon was referred to as neighborhood of the Pity (this gives reason for the early title of the nearby church of San Salvatore).

In the southern part of the district, the end of corso del Rinascimento is closed by the wide fašade of Sant'Andrea della Valle's church [7], built from c.1590 over the site of the mansion of the Piccolomini family; Costanza Piccolomini, duchess of Amalfi, had given it away for such purpose, being St.Andrew the patron of Amalfi. The works were led by Carlo Maderno and Giacomo Della Porta, and were completed by Carlo Rainaldi no sooner than 1665. Since in Rome other two churches dedicated to the same saint exist, namely Sant'Andrea al Quirinale (in Monti district) and Sant'Andrea delle Fratte (in Trevi district), this one was given its title after the cardinal Andrea Della Valle's mansion, which stands on the opposite side of the street, a building of the early 1500s by Lorenzetto. The church is famous because of its huge dome, third in size among historical ones, a record lost in the 1950s after the making of two large churches in the outer districts.* In the Barberini family chapel, decorated with sculptures carved by Pietro and Gianlorenzo Bernini and by Francesco Mochi, the composer Giacomo Puccini set the first act of his opera Tosca.
* the basilicas of Santi Pietro e Paolo (1939-1958, EUR district) and of San Giovanni Bosco (1953-59, Don Bosco district), now boast respectively the third and fourth dome in width, after those of the Pantheon and of St.Peter's in the Vatican.

Sant'Andrea della Valle
On the left side of the fašade stands the statue of an angel, while on the right it is missing. Sculptor Giacomo Antonio Fancelli (who belonged to Bernini's circle) had been commissioned with two twin figures. But when the first one was set into place, his work received harsh comments due to its wing, reputed excessively long; even the pope was not very happy with the result. The sculptor, resenting the criticism, refused to carve the second statue, stating that the pope would have certainly done a better job by carving it himself. So the right half of the fašade was left without an angel.
the criticized angel stands alone
on the left side of the fašade

In Sant'Andrea della Valle two popes of the early Renaissance are buried, namely Pius II (Silvio Enea Piccolomini, a fine humanist, 1458-64) and Pius III (his nephew, whose pontificate lasted only eleven days, in October 1503).

the memorial of Pius II
Their tall memorials, almost twins in shape, were originally located in the old basilica of St.Peter's, leaning against the counterfacade; they were moved in 1615, during the final stage of the works for the making of the new Vatican basilica. Actually, in St.Peter's the two popes were not buried inside their own memorials, but in simple ground tombs; their remains were moved to Sant'Andrea della Valle's eight years after the memorials had been taken there, and also in this church their remains were buried below the floor of the tribune. They were unearthed in the mid 1700s, during some restoration works, and set back into place. But the burial spot went lost, and their graves have never been retrieved ever since.
The church boasts also some important frescoes by Domenichino (in the apse, and on the pendentives), and by Giovanni Lanfranco (the ceiling of the dome), both painted since 1621, but in two extremely different styles, what sparked a rivalry between the two famous painters.

one of the panels →
painted by Domenichino

The pretty fountain before Sant'Andrea della Valle, by Carlo Maderno, was moved here in 1958, after having been taken away from its original site, piazza Scossacavalli, no longer extant after the demolition campaign that upset Borgo district (1936-1937).


On the left side of the church, in a corner, stands one of the so-called talking statues of Rome, known as Abbot Louis.

At the back of the block that faces Sant'Andrea's (including the aforesaid Palazzo Della Valle) runs the narrow and short via dei Redentoristi [8].
At number 9, in a small open place, stands a house whose corner features an ancient column topped by a Corinthian capital and a weird grotesque head with bat-like wings. In the second half of the 1800s, marquis Capranica del Grillo had it refurbished for his wife, actress Adelaide Ristori, rather famous in those days (the building on the opposite side of the street houses the Valle Theatre). During the first half of the 1900s, also poet Aldo Palazzeschi dwelt there, as remembered by a plaque.

← the capital with the grotesque head

A few metres further, at the end of the street, another plaque hangs from number 13, next to a doorway with the number '1864' in Roman numerals on the lintel (referring to the date of a restoration); it informs us that the famous dialect poet Giuseppe Gioachino Belli was born there in 1791.

Belli's birthplace


the House of Burcardo in via del Sudario
Along the district boundary with Pigna, in largo Arenula, stands Rome's oldest theatre [9a], called Argentina after the name of a tower, now no longer extant, that once stood at the back. The tower belonged to a small mansion of the late 1400s, whose entrance is at number 44 of the narrow via del Sudario, and is known as the House of Burcardo [9b].
Shortly after 1490, the Alsatian bishop Johannes Burckardt (Italianized into Burcardo) had his own house built by enlarging some minor preexisting buildings in bad conditions, which also included an ancient tower. Since he came from the surroundings of Strasbourg (which in ancient Roman times was known as Argentorarum, referring to nearby silver mines), he used to sign documents as episcopus argentinus; this is how the the tower came to be named Argentina.
When the bishop died (1506), the house was taken by the Cesarini family, who had already been claiming the property for years. In 1730 the Cesarini Sforza family built a theatre; its making required the demolition of the rear part of the House of Burcardo, while other parts were used as service rooms for the theatre. By the end of the century, also the top part of the tower was taken down. During the first half of the 1800s, the theater was purchased by the Torlonia family, and finally, after 1870, it became a property of Rome's Municipality.


At the southernmost end of Sant'Eustachio stands the church of San Carlo ai Catinari (St.Charles by the Basin-makers) [11].
The works for its making started in 1611, the funds being provided by the Milanese community that lived in Rome; it replaced an older church of the 12th century dedicated to St.Blaise, and its new title was chosen after the bishop of Milan, Carlo Borromeo, a cardinal and a nephew of Pius IV, who had been proclaimed a saint on the previous year. The church was managed by the Barnabite Order, from the same Lombardic city. Its title in full is, in fact, the Saints Blaise and Charles by the Basin-makers (another place name that comes from local craftsmen). Its towering dome overlooks the surrounding buildings; it was stricken by lightning several times, and in June 1849, at the end of the short-lasting Roman Republic (see also Trastevere), it was damaged by artillery shots from the Janiculum Hill, that were restored in 1860. Inside, it holds works by masters of the Baroque art, such as Domenichino (the pendentives above the dome pillars), Pietro da Cortona (the main altarpiece) and Giovanni Lanfranco (the altarpiece of one the chapels).