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Rome Little Madonnas Little Madonnas


Introduction

The ancient Romans venerated the Lares, tutelary spirits of the house, in the form of small statues (of men and women), put in high places. These spirits protected also the roads and their statues were placed at road intersections. This practice is at the root of the very large number of sacred images which populated (and to some extent still populate) the streets of Rome. In 1853 a researcher, Alessandro Rufini, listed 2739 sacred images, the majority of which portrayed a Madonna (hence they are called Madonnelle = Little Madonnas).
Some of these images became associated with miraculous events and were moved inside a church (for example Madonna dell'Archetto).
This page shows a number of sacred images and has a list of links to pages of this website where other sacred images are shown. Be aware that in Rome there are many more Madonnelle to see.


Patterns

The majority of the images were positioned on the line marking the separation between the ground floor and the first floor. An alternative placement was between two windows of the first floor. The height protected the image from damage caused by the carriages and was consistent with the positioning of images inside churches or chapels. In many cases the images were placed at the corner of a building. Because very often an oil-lamp shed some light on the Madonnelle, they constituted for centuries the only public lighting available in Rome.

Madonna in Via CaetaniMadonna in Borgo PioMadonna in Palazzo Patrizi
Near Palazzo Mattei, in Borgo Pio and near Palazzo Patrizi

The Madonnelle were a form of popular devotion. In general the rich did not feel these images would add to the beauty and importance of their palaces and only a limited number of palaces show a sacred image. A miraculous event or just a happy event often led the inhabitants of a street or of a building to commemorate it by placing a little Madonna at the corner of the street. In the XVIIth century the development of stucco techniques made affordable to these people the framing of the image in a little stucco relief. Angels holding the image became a common subject of these reliefs or statues. Angels were a typical Baroque theme, but they were popular among the lower classes well into the XIXth century.

Madonna in Via PaolinaMadonna in Via dell'UmiltÓGes¨ a Palazzo Lancellotti
Opposite Cappella Paolina, opposite S. Maria delle Vergini and near Palazzo Lancellotti

A little baldaquin, sometimes made with metal, gave the image some protection against rain. The more sophisticated stucco reliefs were painted in line with the Baroque tendency to mix painting with sculpture (and architecture).

Madonna di Campo Marzio
Near S. Maria della Concezione

A certain number of images were made of rather large paintings, a memory perhaps of the Renaissance habit of painting the fašades of the palaces. In these cases the subject of the image was more complex and the painting was most likely the initiative of a brotherhood, if not of the pope. The first two images here below are both next to plaques with inscriptions celebrating the opening of a new street.

Madonna in Via del Governo VecchioCrucifixion in Via della DatariaMadonna in Piazza della Rotonda
Near Piazza dell'Orologio, in Via della Dataria and in Piazza della Rotonda

In some cases the stucco reliefs are so large and ornate that the sacred images are somewhat suffocated. Besides many painted images are almost unreadable. In general we know very little about who designed and executed these reliefs.

Madonna in Via della DatariaMadonna in Piazza dei Caprettari
In Via della Dataria and near S. Eustachio

The large majority of the Madonnelle have a Baroque appearance, even though they were designed in the XIXth or even in the XXth century. In the late XIXth century, however a certain number of Madonnelle were designed having in mind Renaissance patterns.

Redentore in Via de' FarnesiMadonna in Palazzo Altieri
Near Palazzo Farnese and in Palazzo Altieri

The image below shows an example of the simplest form of Madonnella, most likely the prevailing one until the XVth century. It is however a XXth century Madonnella.

Madonna in S. Giovanni Calibita
In S. Giovanni di Dio

Directory

(for a map of the districts click here)

SubjectLocationDistrictNotes
Madonna Opposite Cappella PaolinaI-MontiShown above
Madonna with SaintsCollegio dei NeofitiI-Monti-
Madonna Opposite Arco dei PantaniI-Monti-
Madonna Opposite S. Maria delle VerginiII-Trevi Shown above
Madonna Opposite SS. Vincenzo e AnastasioII-Trevi-
Madonna Via della DatariaII-Trevi Shown above
Crucifixion Via della DatariaII-Trevi Shown above
Announcement Opposite Palazzo di FianoIII-Colonna-
Madonna Palazzo ChigiIII-Colonna-
Madonna Via Mario dei FioriIII-Colonna-
(2) Madonna Casa dei Preti della MissioneIII-Colonna-
Madonna Palazzo del Seminario RomanoIII-Colonna-
Presentation to the Temple Palazzo SerlupiIII-Colonna-
Madonna Piazza di Monte d'OroIV-Campo Marzio-
MadonnaNear S. Maria della Concezione IV-Campo Marzio Shown above
Jesus Palazzo LancellottiV-PonteShown above
Madonna Near Via dei CoronariV-Ponte-
Madonna Palazzo CesiV-Ponte-
Madonna Near SS. Simone e GiudaV-Ponte-
Madonna Torre ScapucciV-Ponte-
Madonna Opposite Tor SanguignaV-Ponte-
Madonna Opposite Palazzo della CancelleriaVI-Parione-
Madonna S. Maria di GrottapintaVI-Parione-
Madonna Opposite Palazzo PioVI-Parione-
S. Stefano Opposite S. Lucia del GonfaloneVI-Parione-
Madonna Piazza dell'OrologioVI-Parione-
Madonna Near Piazza dell'OrologioVI-Parione Shown above
Madonna Near Palazzo FarneseVI-Parione Shown above
Jesus Palazzo del Monte di PietÓVII-Regola-
Jesus Near Palazzo FarneseVII-Regola-
Madonna Albergo della VaccaVII-Regola-
Madonna Palazzo TeutonicoVII-Regola-
Madonna Near S. Giovanni in AynoVII-Regola-
CircumcisionNear S. EustachioVIII-Sant'Eustachio Shown above
MadonnaIn Piazza della RotondaVIII-Sant'Eustachio Shown above
MadonnaIn Piazza delle CoppelleVIII-Sant'Eustachio-
MadonnaPalazzo PatriziVIII-Sant'Eustachio Shown above
MadonnaArco della CiambellaIX-Pigna-
MadonnaS. Giovanni della PignaIX-Pigna-
Madonna Palazzo PanfilioIX-Pigna-
Madonna Palazzo AltieriIX-Pigna Shown above
Madonna In Via del Ges¨IX-Pigna-
Madonna Collegio CalasanzioIX-Pigna-
Madonna Palazzo Caetani LovatelliX-Campitelli-
S. Francesca Romana Monastero di Tor de' SpecchiX-Campitelli-
Madonna S. Maria della ConsolazioneX-Campitelli-
Madonna Near SS. Quattro CoronatiX-Campitelli-
Madonna Near Palazzo Mattei di GioveXI-Sant'Angelo Shown above
Madonna Palazzo Mattei PaganicaXI-Sant'Angelo-
Madonna S. Giovanni di DioXII-Ripa Shown above
St Anne Former Eremitorio di S. AnnaXII-Ripa-
MadonnaS. EgidioXIII-Trastevere-
MadonnaNear Palazzo Del CinqueXIII-Trastevere-
MadonnaOpposite S. Giovanni della MalvaXIII-Trastevere-
MadonnaNear S. Francesco di SalesXIII-Trastevere-
MadonnaNear Arco de' TolomeiXIII-Trastevere-
MadonnaCasa di Sir John LeslieXIII-Trastevere-
Madonna Borgo PioXIV-Borgo Shown above
Madonna Near Porta S. SpiritoXIV-Borgo-

The images used as an icon and as a background for this page show the Madonna of Palazzo Panfilio.
Bibliography: Nica Fiori - Le Madonnelle di Roma - 1995 Newton Compton - Rome, Italy

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All images © 1999 - 2003 by Roberto Piperno. Write to romapip@quipo.it