In a darkly lit room and barely noticeable above the arched doorway inside an old Italian palace is a painting with a 400 year old story still being told. Just outside of Rome and on the hillside beyond the fortified walls of the village of Zagarolo, is the former Colonna palace where the Pope’s commission began their work to revise the bible. No one expected Pope Gregory XIV to die before their work was completed.
Nearly forgotten over time, the painting depicting 7 cardinals and 11 consultants sheds some light into their lively process to make the changes. It’s the everlasting remembrance of such a historical occasion. A visitor such as me merely observing the picture would not know of its significance unless the locals brought it to light.
Mr. Alessandro D’Ambrosi, President of Amici di Zagarolo (friends of Zagarolo), met me at the Rospigliosi Palace to show me the painting. As we walked through the palace, my eyes were drawn to the gorgeous paintings on the ceiling, resembling the Sistine Chapel and completed by various artists. Interestingly, famous and notorious artist Caravaggio was allowed refuge here by Cardinal Colonna to hide from an alleged murder in Rome. He put his paint brush to work creating masterpieces such as a version of Supper of Emmaus.
This painting of the clerics sitting across from each other while helpers scurried about reflected their laborious work to revise the Sixtine edition of the Bible and make it more understandable for the people. Attempts at authentication had been done during and after the Middle Ages but in 1591, the Pope wanted it accurate once and for all. This committee was to streamline the previous interpretations and work quickly. It is unknown who the artist was, but during that time, Dutch and Italian painters commonly painted inside churches. The artist keenly captured the committees’ intensive collaboration of their monumental task.
Their work was completed in record time, 19 days and presented to Pope Gregory as the Sixtine Vulgate. The Pope died shortly thereafter and Innocent lX was elected as the new Pope. But he soon died and when Pope Clement Vlll was appointed, he used some of the revisions and renamed the works the Clementine Bible.
Visitors can view the painting and the palace in Zagarolo with a quick train ride from Rome and afterward explore the bakeries, shops and restaurants in the medieval town. Staying overnight makes it a relaxing time to see many interesting areas away from the busy city of Rome. Mr. Ivano Bruno, President of Lazio’s B&B association will assist tourists with lodging, meals and tours throughout the area. Although he is the owner of Olive Tree Hill B&B, he is in contact with other B&B’s and promotes the Lazio region including Zagarolo with an Italian flair.
Contact Mr. Bruno for more visitor information at www.Olivetreehill.com.