I am posting this on behalf of Benedicta:
It is your Italian Jacobite here reporting to headquarters. I hope this e-mail finds all of you well!
Here as promised is my little preliminary report on the reconnaissance trip to Rome that I, Sian Johnson and Peter Brown made just a couple of weeks ago in order to have a better look at the most important spots and sights connected with Prince Charlie and the Stuarts’ exile in Rome and the nearby towns – this is in preparation for the 2014 trip to Rome that the Association is planning.
Since I had already been studying and visiting these places in the course of my researches on Prince Charlie’s life, I was able to show Peter and Sian those that I deem the ‘landmarks’ and most important sights in Rome and the two neighboring towns of Albano and Frascati – of course time was limited, so we didn’t get to see every single thing there that deserves attention (there’s actually tons and tons of places connected with both Charles and Henry and the Stuart family as a whole in all these locations, so one is inevitably forced to make a choice). But I truly and honestly think that we managed to see the most important places (and also the most beautiful ones to see) and I have several ideas on how to gain access to those parts of these buildings and even to those areas that are not normally visible without prior special arrangements.
If anyone is interested in seeing more details, I am also making a word file copy of this little report featuring pictures of all these places taken for the purpose. Sian and Peter have taken many photos as well, so there would be no problem in circulating further documentation.
So, focusing on the city of Rome and then moving on to the area of the Castelli Romani (the belt of little historical hill towns that surround Rome), here are those that I consider the really key places for a trip:
– Palazzo Muti
This of course is ‘the’ place, being the palace where the Stuart court was located from 1719 onwards and where the Prince himself was born and even died (he came back to Rome several times after 1766, the time of James’ death, and spent the last two years of his life there).
Here we had a complete tour, walking all around the very long block that is normally known as the Palazzo Muti (Palazzo Balestra being its modern-day name) but is in fact two distinct palaces joined into a single huge building: the part facing Piazza Santi Apostoli, where the royal apartments were, used to be called Palazzo del Re (the King’s Palace), while the properly-called Palazzo Muti used to be on the opposite part, that on Piazza Pilotta; yet in between there are smaller blocks, called ‘palazzetti’ (small palaces), which were mostly occupied by the two Princes. We dedicated special attention to the part of the building that used to house the Stuarts themselves (the royal apartments), situated on Piazza dei Santi Apostoli: here it is possible to enter the courtyard and wander up the stairs leading to the different storeys, and we could see the two different wings – one where the King and Queen had their apartments, the other one where the two Princes had theirs. We wandered in the small courtyard and saw the stables and the carriage entrance, etc, as is still possible to do, and found the original entrance as well. Today this part of the building is divided between offices and private apartments, so, in order to see more of the inside spaces we should ask for permission, and we have secured the name and number of the building administrator in order to do so.
But the rest of the Palazzo (the parts leading up from Piazza dei Santi Apostoli to the other end, that on Piazza Pilotta) deserves attention, too: the part of the Palace that is now facing on Piazza Pilotta (the state rooms, so to speak, and the facade that was made famous by the contemporary paintings we have seen) now house some mixed ecclesiastical and political offices, some of which are connected with the nearby Pontificio Istituto Biblico; and if we make a request beforehand, I know we can enter the offices so as to be shown the only room that actually survives unchanged from when the Stuarts inhabited the palace (actually from even before they rented it): this is a beautifully frescoed small room, that I was able to see back in 2006. I still have the name of a nice chap who used to work there when I first visited the place, and who could probably help us in gaining access. This would definitely be most interesting for our members to see, as it is perhaps the only perfectly-preserved part of the Palazzo Muti block!
We must also try to gain access to some upper-storey rooms of the Palazzetti where you can still have glimpses of how the palace once was – when walking the streets around the block, I could see through the windows of some of the upper-storey rooms bits of beautiful ceiling decoration; however I know that these rooms are mostly in a bad state and that there is not much left from the glorious days, so this might be a bit heartbreaking… Thankfully we have time to arrange everything however, so we are free to decide on the matter.
In any case, a trip to the Palazzo definitely has to be on the list!
– Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli
Another key place, located just a few metres from the entrance of the Palazzo, on Piazza dei Santi Apostoli. This is the church chosen by the Stuarts for their devotions; here it is extremely easy and straightforward to see the monument to Queen Clementina, and the church itself is very beautiful and quite interesting, especially given that the Princes and James daily worshipped here (Charles attended a daily mass every single morning, and after the Queen’s death James used to spend hours in prayer here). Closes at noon so must be visited first thing when getting to the Palace; the crypt has excellent Roman frescoes and such.
The beautiful courtyard of the Santi Apostoli convent, just next to the Santi Apostoli church where the heart of Clementina is preserved and a few steps from Palazzo Muti, might also be worth showing to the members, as some sources say that the ancient fountain at the centre of the courtyard formerly used to be located in the Palazzo Muti courtyard.
– Cappella della Madonna dell’Archetto
This is another key spot: the small chapel next to the Palazzo Muti (the smallest chapel in Rome!) used to be connected to it by a small arch, often used by the Royal Family; this is where the Prince was baptized, and as the chapel was built by the Muti family for private devotions, it was also later used by the Stuarts. It is only open for visits at seven o’clock in the evening on a particular day of the week, which makes it a bit difficult for us to see it; but perhaps we could have it opened by request.
– St.Peter’s Basilica
The resting place of the whole family. Here there are no problems in seeing the Stuart Monument and Queen Clementina’s monument; however special permission must be asked in order to see the Stuart sarcophagus in the crypt (Sian, Peter and I saw it, but we were caught and sent away after a little while). With regards to Queen Clementina’s tomb, we did not see it but it is accessible – yet it might be a bit of a problem for members with mobility issues as it is located along a spiral staircase. However it has to be noted that what one sees there is simply the ‘rear’ of Queen Clementina’s tomb as seen from behind the monument that is visible on the ground floor of the Basilica; so, given that one must get onto an elevator to reach the spiral staircase etc. and that there’s definitely going to be queues and such, perhaps we could content ourselves with simply seeing it from below. The sacristy containing the Cardinal’s treasury should be no problem at all to access: in order to get to the sacristy museum you have to exit the church and re-enter it from another corner and there is an entrance fee to pay. There’s actually not much to be seen, but it could be interesting to actually have someone showing the Cardinal’s chalice and such to us if possible.
Aside from these unmissable spots, there are countless other great options in Rome. To me these were the most interesting:
– Pontificio Collegio Scozzese (Scots College)
The original Collegio was located in a building in Via delle Quattro Fontane, and though the original façade is not there anymore, it is interesting to see it from the outside, as looking on from the road you can still see an effigy of Cardinal Henry and several carvings of the Royal Arms of Scotland (and the motto) displayed onto the actual facade. It would be nice to have a look at this building as it is not far from the area of Rome where most of the key spots are located.
The modern Collegio (located in the suburbs of Rome, on the Via Cassia), has no interest to us as a building (it is modern and bearing no connection with the Stuarts itself) BUT it holds some very important relics – like the original scroll of Charles’ Commission of Regency as drawn by James (the very same scroll he took to Scotland with him in 1745). In the Collegio’s crypt are also located the original tombstones of James, Charles and Henry. There are also several portraits of Charles and Henry and smaller mementoes, which would make a visit to this place a pretty touching one – however it must be carefully arranged as we need to ask permission to enter the Collegio and see all the relics.
– Gardens of Villa Borghese
We made an expedition to this important tourist attraction as well (the Museum within the Villa Borghese is one of the most popular destinations in Rome), for this is the city park that the Prince visited on every single day: he went riding his horses here, and also played golf on the grounds. If time allows it we might have a stroll here, and visiting the Museum itself might prove a happy diversion for the members, given its international resonance – but most of all, by purchasing the ticket to visit the museum, we could also see the lovely little ‘Versailles-style’ side gardens radiating from the Villa, which date back to the 17th century and must definitely have been of interest to the Royal Family.
Of course this is not as important a destination as the palaces are, but it was one of the Prince’s favorite spots in Rome and so might be of interest to some members.
Another place the Prince loved much and almost daily visited is the Baths of Diocleziano, the beautiful Roman ruins not far from the Termini Station area – these are very interesting, lots of statues and inscriptions and such to have a look at for the Classicist.
– If there is time enough, we might consider a trip to the TRASTEVERE quarter as well –
We didn’t make it in time to go all the way to Trastevere, but, schedule permitting, there are mainly two spots that I suggest we visit if we decide to include Trastevere in our trip plan:
– CONVENTO DI SANTA CECILIA, where Clementina sought refuge when she ran off from the King and the royal court: it is still a convent but there are guided tours of it held in the mornings. If we can arrange to visit it as a group by request, it might be very interesting to see the various mementoes and inscriptions relating to Clementina’s stay there and the area of the building that she occupied.
– BASILICA DI SANTA MARIA IN TRASTEVERE, where Henry was appointed Cardinal Priest. Some inscriptions and mementoes here, with several plaques and gifts etc. Of particular interest would be gaining access to the reliquary (has to be done by special permission) in order to see the precious gifts made by Henry to the church. I am not sure if Peter and Sian have been to this church as they had a few hours’ time more than me at their disposal before their flight and intended to visit it.
– ORTO BOTANICO, formerly the Corsini family’s private gardens: a very beautiful place for an open air stroll among beautiful plants, fountains and flowers arranged in 18th-century style. This is the place where Prince Charlie used to go to with his father when they wanted to be in privacy to discuss plans for the Rising; they simply walked up and down the gardens, whispering and chatting between themselves, trying to avoid possible spies. Would be good for a field trip. It is possible to visit the place everyday by paying an entrance fee.
(Beautiful little historical town just half an hour from Rome: extremely important for the Stuarts as Henry was Bishop of this town for many years, and an extremely influential figure there).
– Basilica di San Pietro
Here is a most interesting place to visit due to the fact that there is a key monument to the Prince (his heart is still preserved here, in an urn situated under a marble slab beneath the inscription; he had been buried here after a funeral celebrated in this very church by Henry, who was Bishop of Frascati, and his body was only removed to St. Peter’s after Henry himself died in 1807). There also are inscriptions and mementoes for Cardinal Henry, though I am sorry to say that we were not able to actually find the wooden statue of the Virigin Mary donated by him to the church; this I guess is because of a mistake in the Cathedral’s information sheet, as the actual Virgin Mary donated by Henry is probably the painted one located in the chapel just left of the Altar: the tabernacle there is a gift from Henry, as are the candlesticks. We also know that the sacristy holds some interesting inscriptions and mementoes relating to Henry, among which are a portrait and a plaque, and this room will be fairly easy to access for us.
The Bishop’s Palace in Frascati, occupied by Henry when Bishop of the town: a pretty big and imposing building in the centre of town containing interesting mementoes of the Cardinal and his stay there. On certain weekday mornings it is possible to enter the courtyard and the inside of the Rocca, but this again has to be made by special arrangement if we wish to see all the inner rooms as well and not simply the courtyard. However it is definitely worth doing it, for the inner rooms (where modern offices now are) are pretty interesting and well-preserved, and there are some nice mementoes of Henry’s time there – it has a strong 18th-century flavor.
– Chiesa di Santa Maria in Vivario
This small church is located just next to la Rocca and though it was closed on the morning we were there, I had been able to visit it some years ago: it contains a tablet with an inscription honoring Cardinal Henry.
– There are countless other traces of Henry all around Frascati: there is the Seminario, a religious building that he helped establish, and then, scattered all over town, there even are several building facades bearing his coat of arms and name for everyone to see; we could have a quick tour of the town by coach and perhaps point to the group a few of such spots (I have notes of all of them and the town is small, so we shall have no problem at all).
In addition to this, members with an interest in the architecture of ancient and great aristocratic mansions might like to have a quick look at the famous Villa Alamandina, which stands on the top of the hill overlooking Frascati: it can easily be reached by coach, and the gardens can be entered with no problems at all. From there you can have a great view of the town as a whole, and you can see lots of traces of how magnificent the place must have been when the Stuarts were around (amazing Versailles-style fountains carved into stones and grottos abound).
– Villa Tuscolana
A beautiful mansion which used to be Cardinal Henry’s summer retreat, and is now a very stylish and beautifully preserved hotel, ideal for an afternoon stop in a striking and historically relevant place with a strong Stuart connection: I would definitely suggest to stop here for a tea and refreshments, thus taking the opportunity to have a good look around (there are lots of historical mementoes within the hotel).
– Collina del Tuscolo (Tusculum Hill)
This would be a very interesting excursion for the group, in a way similar to the striking views from the hills that we enjoyed in Derbyshire during the last gathering when we walked around the countryside. This is in no way going to be tiring, and it consists of driving the coach up to the top of this beautiful hill that is located between the towns of Frascati, Grottaferrata and Monte Porzio Catone. Beside being amazing as a panoramic spot to view the landscape from, the hill is actually an ancient acropolis full of ruins and interesting things to see, and as such the site is easily accessible. There is a parking where we can leave the coach and then we can easily walk among the ancient Roman ruins scattered all around (flanking the ancient Roman amphitheater as well!) and reach the beautiful panoramic point from which your gaze can take in all of the surrounding countryside, showing to everyone what once used to be the so-called Parco di Marino, where the Prince used to disappear for days on end going hunting and shooting and exercising in preparation for his great enterprise. This is a very important place for the Prince’s history and for a flavor of who he was before the ’45.
Unfortunately this hill has been badly damaged last summer due to a sudden fire; but I had enormously enjoyed my excursion to its top just a few years ago on one of my Charlie pilgrimages, and I think that by the time we get to see it in 2014 the vegetation will have recovered somewhat.
I must also stress that this walk is not going to be a challenge for members as there are no steep paths to climb – everything is very much levelled there, and you walk on grass or paths (there is also the ancient Roman road, perfectly preserved, to see!).
(Historical small town, this is another key place for the Stuarts as for more than 30 years James and his family spent the whole summer season here, in another palace lent them by the Pope.)
Lake of Albano
– One of the beautiful things to see while traveling to Albano by coach is the breathtaking view of the Lake of Albano itself: you can see it easily along the way to the town, and its importance lies in the fact that it was a place Prince Charlie loved very much and where he often went rowing and exercising while preparing his body and mind for the great enterprise. You will be amazed to see how closely it resembles a Scottish loch!
– Palazzo Savelli
Palazzo Savelli, now hosting the local council offices and town hall for the city of Albano, used to be the Stuarts’ summer palace, and King James especially spent more time here than in the Muti Palace. One can easily get into the courtyard during the day and also wander up the stairs (everything is pretty well preserved and almost as it used to be back in the Royal Family’s days) and it is even possible to get into the offices: we did actually enter the various rooms, but in order to be able to see them as they deserve to be seen, we should really ask for permission, being a pretty large group. There is a truly beautiful state room (the Sala del Consiglio) which really deserves to be admired, as it is virtually unchanged from the days when the Stuarts occupied the palace.
– Chiesa di San Pietro
A very beautiful and extremely ancient church, a true medieval gem sporting a fascinating bell tower and an amazing atmosphere of solemnity, very different from the sumptuous decorative style of most of the Roman churches. It is located just across the road from the rear facade of Palazzo Savelli. The Royal family used to worship here as this was the family church of the Savelli Family that once owned the palace. Well worth seeing.
(Of course another possible option for the trip would be a visit to MONTEFIASCONE, the town where James and Queen Clementina got married and spent their honeymoon, but this town falls within the Viterbo province, so it is a bit too far off for us to have time enough to go all the way there (it’s 60 miles from Rome…). However we can discuss this option as well if someone is interested.)
This is for the places themselves; for what concerns the intricacies of the trip, these are some of my first thoughts:
– I suggest that we enlist Dr. Edward Corp’s help for the visit to Palazzo Muti as he is THE specialist on the Palazzo and the Stuart court there: he has written many studies on the subject and recently published a new extensive work on it (“The Stuarts in Italy”), so we can safely assume he might be interested in acting as a guide for us there.
– I have also enlisted Mary Jane Cryan’s help in the trip organization: she is a knowledgeable American lady who’s been living in Italy for more than 30 years, and is currently based in Vetralla, between Rome and Viterbo. She is an expert on Cardinal Henry’s life in Italy and has published an excellent book on the subject, consisting of the transcription and translation of a first-hand testimony that she herself unearthed from the British Library – the journal of one of the cardinal’s valets. The book is titled “Travels to Tuscany and Northern Lazio” – here’s a link:
I would like her to give us a short talk on the book and the research work behind it, perhaps after dinner on one of our evenings?
We also need to be working on the matter of ensuring smooth and swift transportation throughout the trip – as the traffic problem is particularly crucial with regards to Rome and its environs, we are planning the thing very carefully (coach with the possibility of perhaps covering a very short distance by train, if needed) and will let you know more about our findings.
And of course I will be more than glad for any help and advice that David, Muriel, Steve and other members will give us!
I hope I haven’t bored you too much – please feel free to comment, add, discuss, suggest, criticize, etc. As mentioned, I have a word version of this report almost ready for perusal and featuring pictures of every single spot, so let me know if you need any further details and of course, ask me anything you need to know.
I am really looking forward to carrying on with the work for what I am sure will be an amazing trip for all of us!
I take the opportunity to wish all of you all the best for the upcoming holiday season and for a great 2013 from “o’er the water” – a Merry Christmas to you all!
(and of course, Tandem Triumphans).