Lecture Series - The House of Colonna: Prestige & Patronage in Rome

December 15, 2022

If you are unable to attend the live sessions, do not worry - all those who register will automatically be sent copies of the lectures to view in your own time (from around four hours after they take place).  Further details on how to register can be found at the end of this newsletter.


The House of Colonna: Prestige & Patronage in Rome

The princely House of Colonna has occupied a position at the fulcrum of Rome’s history from their recorded origins in the eleventh century to the present day. No other aristocratic family has enjoyed such a place at the heart of the religious, political and cultural life of the city. From brutal warring in medieval Rome against their bitter rivals the Orsini family, the Colonna were elevated through the church as counts, cardinals and princes. It was Oddone Colonna, who ruled as Pope Martin V (1417 – 1431), who ended the Western Schism in 1417, and returned the Papacy to its former home in Rome. The family were given titles, benefices and estates; marriages were made, and international alliances were secured. As the Colonna grew in influence their power as skilled diplomats and military leaders bolstered their prestige as arguably some of the greatest patrons of the arts in Rome.

James Hill returns to present two lectures on The House of Colonna: Prestige & Patronage in Rome, 26 & 27 January . In the first he will explore the family’s origins, Pope Martin V’s role and legacy in the story of Rome’s renaissance, and the family’s place in the wider struggles which convulsed Italy and the continent in the sixteenth century. In the second lecture he will introduce important members of the family, both the past and recent, exploring the magnificence of Rome’s greatest palace and private art collection, Palazzo Colonna.

Thursday 26 January 2023 at 11am
Lecture 1 - Collapsam Urbem Restituit: Rome’s Restoration
The Colonna family were well-established in Rome by the thirteenth century. Members had been created cardinals as the family accumulated properties across the city and increased its territories in the surrounding countryside. Oddone Colonna was elected Pope at the Council of Constance in 1417 as Martin V Colonna. On his return to Rome (the Papacy had been absent in Avignon for many decades) he found the small city in a ruined state, its economy moribund and heavily depopulated. He quickly re-established law and order and promoted an ambitious plan to restore Rome’s churches and urban infrastructure. In short, Pope Martin laid the foundations of the restoration and ‘renaissance, of Rome.

In the following century the Colonna played pivotal roles as the intricacies of the Italian Wars, as papal intrigue and the wider context of international affairs bedeviled the relationship between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. Indeed, the family’s growing prestige culminated in the figure of Marcantonio II Colonna who, as naval commander, led the papal fleet at the victorious Battle of Lepanto in 1571 when a coalition of several Christian navies (under the overall command of Don John of Austria) defeated the Ottoman Turks.
Friday 27 January 2023 at 11am
Lecture 2 - The Colonna Family: Courtiers & Connoisseurs
From the early sixteenth century the military, diplomatic and civilian duties of the family were increasingly complimented by cultural exchange and artistic patronage. The poetess Vittoria Colonna was a spiritual friend and confidant of Michelangelo. In the early seventeenth century Prince Filippo I Colonna began the transformation of the family palace into a noble residence, enriched throughout the century by the leading architects and artists of the day. Italian and foreign artists including Antonio Tempesta, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci, Jan Breughel the Elder, Paul Brill and Gaspar van Wittel (also known as Vanvitelli) all worked for the family, their art still magnificently displayed in the family’s private home, Palazzo Colonna.
During Rome’s more recent heady transition from capital of a papal state to headquarters of the Savoy monarchy, and now the embodiment of the Italian Republic, the Colonna have continued to embellish their palace, a model of modern adaptation. At the same time, they have also continued to fulfill a variety of pubic roles as ambassadors, mayors of Rome and Prince Assistants to the Papal Throne - roles which to this day act still as a bridge linking this illustrious family to both church and city.

Format for Lecture

James will give two one-hour illustrated lectures for £25. During the lecture you will have the chance to submit written questions which James will answer at the end - if time permits.

You will not need to download any software and the lecture will work in any browser. For the best experience use a desktop or laptop - but it will also work on an iPad or similar tablet. You will be also able to re-watch or watch a recording after the lecture.

Register for Lectures - 26 & 27 January at 11am

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