One of the lovely surprises of indulging in my passion for writing about Rome is that sometimes my work gets noticed and I am able to take part in activities I never would have been invited to had I not started my blog. My tour today of Palazzo Sacchetti on Via Giulia, a historic noble family’s residence even to this day, was one such event. The tour was graciously offered and hosted by Italian Ways, an online Italian lifestyle and arts magazine. About 15 local bloggers and Instagrammers were invited to join in the tour of the palazzo, which isn’t open to the public and within which photos aren’t normally permitted.
Palazzo Sacchetti is featured in the Oscar-winning film La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty), as the home where the character Viola lived with her mentally ill son. Designed by famous architect Antonio da Sangallo, construction started in 1542 and the building was completed in 1546. The Sacchetti family, who left their native Florence for Rome in the 16th century to escape persecution by the Medici, bought the palazzo in 1648, and the same family owns the palazzo and lives there to this very day. Private visits are available by special request.
The Sacchetti family was a very important noble family in Rome—so important, in fact, that they became one of only a handful of families to be named marchesi di baldacchino. A baldacchino is called a baldachin in English, and is a ceremonial canopy over an altar or throne. The marquis of the baldachin were an exceptional class of nobility between princes and inferior nobility, and they had to have the following characteristics:
- Historical and social importance of the family
- Registered as Roman nobility. Instated by Pope Benedict XIV in 1746 in his bolla (official letter) Urbem Romam, the registry commonly came to be known as the Libro d’Oro or “the golden book.” The original copy was burned by the Jacobins in 1799 during the first Roman Republic. A new Libro d’Oro was compiled between 1839 and 1847 and is kept to this day in the City of Rome Historical Archives. A paperback reproduction is available on Amazon. Look how cool, the archive website has the entire book indexed and available for viewing online (I AM AMAZED AND DELIGHTED) and here is the Sacchetti family’s page in the book:
- Possession of feudal property
- Having had Cardinals in the family
- Matrimonial alliances with royal families (principality, duchy)
- Hereditary office holder within the Papal Court, known as the Roman Curia of the Holy See (the administrative branch of the Vatican)
This last qualification was modified in 1968, when Pope Paul VI abolished the Papal Court and modified it into what is now known as the Pontifical Household. The Sacchetti family role was called Foriere Maggiore prior to the reform, and is now Hereditary Quartermaster General of the Sacred Apostolic Palace. In terms of what they actually do, from what I gather I think it more or less involves receiving heads of State for the Pope and leading ceremonial processions. Here’s a picture of Giulio Sacchetti on the cover of the book he wrote called Segreti Romani (Roman Secrets):
And as far as the heads of State/ceremonial thing goes, in one room we saw some “family photos” on top of a table:
The baldachin is still there in the entrance hall of the palazzo. Only the noble families of the baldachin (the ones that fit the criteria above) had them, and there were very few of these families; in my various research I found four of them listed: Patrizzi, Serlupi, Sacchetti and Teodoli. The baldachin was placed in the entrance hall for receiving the pope during a visit, and included kneeling cushions for dignitaries who would come before the pope.
On the baldachin you can see the family crest: silver with three black stripes. The family crest was everywhere within the palazzo, from the ceilings:
to the windows in one hallway:
even down to the plant pots in the garden:
Although the artistic treasures in the palazzo were incredible, and I will share those photos in a future post, I must say the most touching aspect for me, because it lent a very human feel to such a majestic place, was seeing the framed family photos on the side tables in the “living room”:
To learn more about Palazzo Sacchetti and the Sacchetti family:
- Ave Papa, Ave Papabile: The Sacchetti Family, Their Art Patronage, and Political Aspirations by Lilian Zirpolo
- I found this account fascinating, also by Lilian Zirpolo, regarding her access to the Sacchetti Family Archives for research purposes: Conducting Research at the Sacchetti Archives in Rome
- Palazzo Sacchetti Sulla Strada Giulia