Villa Mondragone - eine Papstresidenz als Villa

  • Villa Mondragone - a papal residence as a villa

Buggert, Daniel; Pieper, Jan (Thesis advisor); Raabe, Christian (Thesis advisor); Imorde, Joseph (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2015)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2015


The original structure of the Villa Mondragone was erected between 1573 and 1578 by mandate of Cardinal Marcus Sitticus Altemps, who dedicated the building as a guest house for Pope Gregory XIII. Within this villa - which is the greatest building among the Villas of Frascati - on February 24, 1584 the Boncompagni-Pope issued a papal bull titled "Inter gravissimas", which outlined the rules for his newly reformed Gregorian calendar. Although the villa thusly is the site of great historical significance, its architectural significance is determined with the second building phase during the Borghese Era of the Villa Mondragone in the beginning of the 17th century. Until now all research on the Villa Mondragone has been based in historical texts. The loss of numerous documents and the misclassification thereof within the archives indicates that so far no accurate reconstruction of the site as it stood in the 16th century could be produced. Using architectural research methods the building itself could give clues as to its original form and thus this gap within the architectural history of the Villa Mondragone could be filled.The reconstruction plans show a stately building with two perpendicular axial systems. On the frontal side, the view of the villa is characterized through mirror symmetry, taken from the main route into the villa and a large terrace, both of which are aligned with the central entrance of the building. To the south of the building are the gardens, where this main axis is used as a secondary one. The middle axis of the first floor gardens runs instead easterly through a small annex building. In this humble annex - which breaks through the site’s symmetry - the papal private apartments are placed in the center of the Piano Nobile. Therefore the building structure is to be seen as a contrasting juxtaposition of a stately papal residence and a simple dwelling of a hermit. The clear structure of the building is understood as an architectural interpretation of the papal title "servus servorum dei," which was introduced by Pope Gregory I. In this title the self-image of the papal office is reflected: the pope is simultaneously regarded as the supreme servant and as below all other servants of God. The structural implementation of this humble title illustrates, that the statesmanlike provisions must be recognized as a necessity of office, when the Pope himself shows his humility and modesty through needing merely simple lodgings. The iconographical concept of the villa blends in this way consistently into the rhetoric of the Papal court at the time of the Counter-Reformation, so that the villegiatura of this era could not be understood as a revival of the ancient Roman tradition of "otium et negotium." To understand the villegiatura of this time, the doctrine of creation must be taken into account. During the Counter-Reformation this doctrine is brought back to the center of Christian faith, where it is an essential belief that the Creator God is revealed to men continually through nature. Access to nature is therefore an act of devotion in which closeness to God is sought. The composed analysis of panegyric writings, in honor of Gregory XIII, show that even the villegiatura of the Pope should be seen as such an act: the Pope withdraws for contemplation into nature - at a distance from the chaos of the city - so as to preserve his moral integrity. A similar scene can be found in the Life of St. Gregory, which is shown in a series of paintings in the chapel of the Villa Mondragone.The ideal model for the Pope was also staged on a larger scale, as a collegiate church dedicated to San Gregorio Magno was built in the village of Monte Porzio. This church is visible from afar on the western slope of the site, so that it has a large presence within the landscape. In this building the Giardino Secreto and the private apartments of the Pope are aligned, so that the Pope can continually reminisce on the virtues of his predecessors. In conclusion the Villa Mondragone presents itself as a papal villa of the Counter-Reformation Era, which is embedded in the ensemble of Frascati villas as a place of common curial villegiatura. With these villas, which included large agrarian estates, the Roman court symbolically illustrates its ruling force. In this it is the highest responsibility of the Pope and his College of Cardinals to preserve the world order set forth by Christ.


  • Department for Historic Building Conservation and Research [217220]