Wednesday, February 15, 2017


The oldest of the four buildings that make up the so-called Isola Mattei (Mattei Block), together with Palazzo Mattei di Giove, Palazzo Mattei Paganica and Palazzo di Alessandro Mattei (now Caetani)
It was built in part on the cavea of the ancient THEATER OF BALBUS of 13 BC
It consists of the union of two buildings:
The one at No. 19, the oldest, of the end of the fifteenth century with the FIRST COURTYARD featuring a white marble portal with the coat of arms of the Mattei family
The portal leads to a beautiful SECOND COURTYARD with two rows of arches, balcony and staircase
The two courtyards were used by movie director Sergio Leone for some scenes of his “spaghetti western” movies
Renovated in mid-1500s by Giovanni Lippi aka Nanni di Baccio Bigio (about 1513/68) for Giacomo Mattei, who built a single façade to combine it with the other building at No. 17
The FAÇADE was originally decorated with monochrome frescoes by Taddeo Zuccari (1529/66) of 1548 representing stories of Furius Camillus, considered his first masterpiece, but now completely disappeared
On the front side there is a window which is linked to a legendary story probably not true: it is said that one of the Dukes Mattei, a compulsive gambler, one night lost a large sum playing with his future father in law who, knowing he had no money anymore, refused at that point to give him his daughter's hand
The duke, anxious to redeem the insult, bet his palace, the only thing he had left, against the hand of the girl, that he would have made a fountain appear in the square in a few hours. He invited to his palace his now no longer future father in law and organized a party until dawn
During the night he made the beautiful fountain appear. It was actually ready within easy reach and it only needed to have the pipes connected, having been prepared for the Jewish Ghetto of which the Mattei family held the keys
The next morning he invited his future father in law to look out the window, saying, “That's what a penniless Mattei is able to do in a few hours!” In this way he recovered the girl's hand but the bride had an unhappy life and had the window walled in memory of the event
The real tragedy was for the Roman Jews to whom the fountain was intended: they had to stay without water for thirty years

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