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Palazzo Barberini

Palazzo Barberini (31)

You are standing before a building that is considered one of the main examples of Roman patrician Baroque architecture. In 1623 Mattei Barberini became Pope Urban VIII and decided to build a palace for himself and all his family. He chose this site with views of the city for it.

The project was awarded to Carlo Maderno, Borromini’s uncle, who died one year after having started the construction, in 1629. After his death, Bernini was entrusted to take over the work, helped by the Borromini himself. 

Bernini was responsible for the gallery with stained-glass windows of the palace and for the famous stairway with a square space that begins on the left side of the portico. He was also responsible for the main façade and the incredible central portico. His great rival Borromini designed the oval stairway and the peculiar pediments of the upper windows.

The Palazzo Barberini functions as a great reflection of the luxurious life the nobility led in 17th-century Rome. Of the many ostentatiously-decorated rooms, the one that will attract your attention most is the Gran Salone, which contains the wonderful fresco by Pietro de Cortona, “The Triumph of Divine Providence”. 

In the central room of the building you will also find a door that leads to the small but charming bedroom of Princess Cornelia Constanza Barberini and Prince Giulio Cesare Colonna di Sciarra.

The palace also houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica (or National Gallery of Historical Art). The entity was founded in 1895, although it was not moved here until 1949, sharing the facility with the Army.

The gallery contains works dating from the 14th to 18th centuries, the majority coming from collections of Roman patrician families, acquisitions and legacies. 

It is not an easy museum to find your way around, since the rooms are not numbered and, generally speaking, there is not much information. However, it is well worth visiting, since it possesses masterpieces of incalculable value. 

The permanent collection is exhibited on two floors and among its many works you will find some by Filippo Lippi, El Greco, Guido Reni and Caravaggio. 

Remember that if when you visit the museum there is a temporary exhibition being held, you will have to pay a special entrance fee to see some of the works. 

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