A means for the projection of soft power: 'Spanish churches' at Rome 1469-1527

Baker-Bates, P.A. (2011). A means for the projection of soft power: 'Spanish churches' at Rome 1469-1527. Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture, 22

URL: http://www.brill.nl/foundation-dedication-and-cons...


In 1518 the ambassador of the Emperor Charles V at Rome, Don Jeronimo de Vich y Vallterra, laid the foundation stone for the rebuilding of the church of the Catalans at Rome—Santa Maria di Monserrato. In that same year, as a result of direct papal initiative, the same architect involved there—the Florentine Antonio da Sangallo—was also charged with rebuilding the church of the Castilians at Rome—San Giacomo degli Spagnoli. The dedication of both churches, unusual outside of the Iberian Peninsula, already proclaimed their national characteristics. Meanwhile work was ongoing at a yet third ‘Spanish’ church at Rome—San Pietro in Montorio; although extensive work had already taken place there over the forty years prior to 1518; most famously with the erection of Bramante’s Tempietto. San Pietro, situated on a prominent site overlooking the city, was intended as a visible representation at Rome of the unification of the Iberian Peninsula under Ferdinand and Isabella.
While individual aspects of these three churches have been considered previously no over-all study has been made of this unprecedented spurt of construction of ‘national’ churches. The church of the German nation may be earlier but no other nationality had by 1518 such an obvious and extensive religious presence in Rome. Nor has emphasis been placed on how the ceremonies involved, of which the events of 1518 are one prominent example, are an affirmation through sacrality of Spanish power at Rome. This paper then will undertake to explore the variety of means through which the re-foundation and dedication of these three churches was as much a result of political aggrandisement as it was of necessity. In 1504 King Ferdinand had described Rome as the ‘plaza del mundo’ and he had already begun the very public acts, continued by his successor Charles, to ensure the visibility of the Hispanic presence in that particular ‘plaza’. And in this over-all strategy the rituals surrounding the national churches played a significant role.

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