The Casino of the Cardinal Bessarione

of Gianluca Pica

The Casino of the Cardinal Bessarione, a suburban villa from the xv century

The so-called Casina of the Bessarione Cardinal is a very pretty and nice small house, built in the mid of the XV century, that is able to show us how intellectuals or people from the aristocracy would like to be surrounded by beauties. In this case I’m not talking about works of art of incredible art collections. No, I’m talking about a house where they could physically rest, a building where they could forget the chaos of Rome, or the chaos of a court, just to have an idea.

For example, let me tell you how Bessarione, a cardinal from the XV century, commissioned this nice building at the urban section of the Appian Way, not so far from the Aurelian Walls, the city walls of Rome which were built at the III century AD. The small country house was not located beyond the walls, so it was not easy for bandits to enter here. But, for sure, back then the area where the casina is located was totally outside the city center, at the outskirts of Rome. It is the first reason why it was built here. As a sort of summer villa, the casina was used by the cardinal Bessarione to spend time in a very quiet and peaceful way. The villa was physically surrounded by nature, but just to be sure Bessarione commissioned several frescos, that can be seen still today, where the main element is nature. Try to see the loggia, where the walls are totally painted following a bucolic style: trees, wild animals, bushes and not so many human figures. The message is very clear. Being in this villa you have to forget the mankind, you must imagine to be in a natural area, without any problems. No troubles, no thoughts. We have to imagine how this casina was the best place where Bessarione can read, or where he could write letters, or where again he can study more. But there is something more…

Entering the small villa, you can admire other original frescos from the XV century, where nothing changes. Vegetal spirals are depicted everywhere, colorful fruits and flowers are remembering you that you are outside the city of Rome. There are also many putti, the winged children who were typical figures from the ancient roman style. They were usually used to make more joyful, for example, a fresco.

Loggia 2 - Casina del Cardinal Bessarione

Lato ovest - Casina del Cardinal Bessarione

Bessarione tried to do. He followed the ancient roman style, how the ancient roman noblemen sometimes decorated there wonderful domus, which were usually located out of the city centre. No doubt that Bessarione perfectly knew a lot about the ancient roman society and culture. Again, he was an intellectual and a scholar, a man who knew a lot about philosophy. For example, he was a convinced supporter of the neo-platonic idea, which was a sort of philosophical idea to try to find connections between the ancient greek-roman philosophy and the Christian one. Bessarione was a real diplomatic, a man who built metaphoric bridges how he tried to do with the ortodox and the latin churches, which since the XI century didn’t have very good relationships. So, we can just try to imagine how this cardinal, who was born at the 1403 in Trebisonda, the modern Turkey, was a person who sometimes needed to rest, understanding what new steps he can do to enlarge his collection, to study more, or to find hew ways to bring peace, no war.

And we should imagine how this pretty country house, with its bucolic paintings, looks like a paradise, a place that was made to read, to think, to rest…

Guide of  – Gianluca Pica

Gianluca Pica

Eyes of Rome
My name is Gianluca and I'm a professional and local tour guide in Rome. I feel very lucky because thanks to my job and my passion I have the opportunity to share with you the beauty of Rome. Moreover I…
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