ROME DAY 3: The Bones of Borgia Popes

Today the Aurora was a 6:44.  I was awake to see it.  Colors tonight at 18:46.  The Ave Maria is still at 19:00.

When you really start to dig into the history of the streets of Rome, fascination drives you on and on.  For example, walking through the Via di Monserrato, I spotted a palazzo of a family I hadn’t recalled ever looking up, the Podocatari.  It seems that the place was connected to Roderigo Borgia, Alexander VI.  It was the residence of the physician of Innocent VIII, later Cardinal Ludovico Podocatari.    This explains in part why there is a monument to Alexander VI in the nearby church S. Maria di Monserrato, named for the famous Spanish sanctuary near Barcelona.

S. M. di Monserrato had earlier origins, always Spanish, but the present church was build in 1518.   Over the main door there is a relief of Our Lady of Monserrat.  The church was designed by Antonio Sangallo il Vecchio, though the facade is by Volterra.

Inside the church on the left, you find the tombs of two Borgia Popes, the infamous Alexander VI (+1503) and Callixtus III (+1458).

Their bones were mixed and they were interred together in a single tomb in the Vatican, and then forgotten.   Just because you are the Pope doesn’t mean that people have to like you.  Ehem.

Nevertheless, Sixtus V (who will be the last of that name) and Urban VIII (Barbarini) described Alexander VI as one of the best Popes since Peter.

Anyway, in 1881 they were translated to this church.

Some Popes were pretty good Popes but were not exactly great men.  Others were quite saintly but not exactly good Popes.  That’s how it goes.   The Holy Spirit doesn’t force Popes on the electors.  He prevents that the man they choose is a total disaster.

Miss me yet?

I recall the church from years ago as being pretty neglected.  It has been cleaned and people were praying.

Our Lady of Monserrato.

Just up from here, by the way, where the Via del Pellegrino intersects, there is the Palazzo di Pietro Paolo della Zecca which was known in its day to be the most elegant of all elegant places in Rome, incredibly wealthy and tastefully appointed.  So magnificent were its apartments that the story is told of the ambassador of Spain – this whole area is like Spanish-town – while waiting for an audience with the legendary courtesan Imperia, thought it would be a good idea to clear his throat and have a little spit before entering her presence.  As he looked about for a place to launch his contribution, he could see only magnificence.  Hence, he spat into the face of his footman, as being the least worthy object in the room.

On my home from Mass, I enjoyed something of the wonderful color that shades the City in the evening.  It is unmatchable and hard to capture.

The dome of Sant’Andrea.

One of my favored butchers.

The terrific bakery.

A bit grainy, but evocative.

I have a head cold.  Pray for me. Click that wavy flag to provide me with some additional chicken soup… or something.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Filiolus says:

    Why won’t we ever have a Sixtus Sextus?

    [It would be too hilarious.]

  2. UncleBlobb says:

    Dear Father, Our Lady Of Montserrat reminds me of our mutual friend, Dr. Stephen Maturin. I wonder if this church was built and attended by primarily Catalans, and not Catholics from all of Spain?

  3. grateful says:

    Heavenly Father, Have mercy on Father with his cold, in the name of Jesus. Amen

    [Thanks. It’s kind of awful.]

  4. FrAnt says:

    Father, Have you ever thought of writing a book about Rome? I’m going to the Eternal City on the 22nd. I can’t wait to visit the place you write about. Feel better. Ask a local nonna, she’ll have you feeling better in a few hours.

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