Papal power and patronage










Building the Urbs Sancta

Gain a deeper insight into the history and culture of Renaissance and Early Modern Rome, and the role of the popes as artistic patrons, promoting their wealthy dynasties through increasingly extravagant memorials. How did these ambitious papal families use monumental construction projects and great artists to advance and maintain their power? Uncover the rivalries of prominent dynasties and learn about the intense political and religious conflict, the scandalous hedonism and all-consuming vanity that characterised this transformative period and helped to create modern Rome. 

Staying in central Rome, explore the Sacred City in the illuminating company of a leading historian and descendent of one of Rome’s oldest families, enjoying unrivalled access to churches, palazzi and some of the most revealing artworks commissioned by competing papal dynasties through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The Glory of the Renaissance Papacy

In the company of an eminent art historian, experience a fresh appreciation of the High Renaissance splendour of Rome, beginning with the supreme monument to papal ambition, St Peter’s Basilica. Discover the signature styles of Bramante and Michelangelo, before descending to the Vatican Necropolis for a specially arranged visit to St Peter’s tomb. Unlock the doors to the Apostolic Palace for an insightful study of some of the world’s greatest art treasures including Raphael’s sublime frescoes, created for Pope Julius II. How was religious imagery used as propaganda to enhance the status of papal families?

Rome in Darkness

In Trastevere, experience the opulence of Villa Farnesina, once owned by papal banker and ‘richest man in Rome’, Agostino Chigi. Uncover the scandalous tale of Cardinal Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte, adopted nephew and lover of Pope Julius III, who lies in an unmarked tomb in the church of San Pietro in Montorio, and admire Bramante’s exquisite Tempietto, one of the most influential buildings of the Renaissance. Learn about one of the darkest moments in Rome’s history in Castel Sant’Angelo, the fortress where Pope Clement VII found refuge during the 1527 Sack of Rome. Was this a pivotal turning point for papal authority?

Reforming and Rebuilding

An acclaimed historian leads an exploration of the Counter-Reformation in Rome, a time of growing confidence and renewal which saw the revival of large-scale building projects. Experience the grandeur of Piazza del Campidoglio, one of Rome’s most beautiful squares, based on designs by Michelangelo, and learn more about Il Gesù, Rome’s first Jesuit Church, built in 1568. How does this ground-breaking monument embody the reforming religious spirit of the time? Later, enjoy an aperitivo in the splendid surroundings of the Galleria at Palazzo Farnese, beneath Annibale Carracci’s joyous frescoes, Gli amori degli dei.

The Lavishness of Triumph

Moving into the seventeenth century, religious sobriety gave way to luxury as wealthy Roman families memorialised their dynasties through extravagant artistic commissions. What statement was Pope Innocent X making when he commissioned Bernini’s colossal masterpiece, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi? Explore the rich collections of Palazzo Barberini, examining the symbolism of Pietro da Cortona’s Trionfo della Divina Provvidenza. Was this ostentatious paean to the family of Pope Urban VIII the highpoint of papal hubris? Leaving Rome, join descendants of the Barberini popes at their palazzo in Palestrina for an unforgettable lunch.


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