The “Loggia by Raphael”, a magniﬁcent architectural prospect that overlooks the San Damaso Courtyard, was completed in the centuries that followed its creation. In fact, after the ﬁrst construction of the western and northern sides, the east branch was completed by the architect Domenico Fontana, as requested by Pope Gregory XIII. The latter work was carried out in the last decades of the 1500’s, under the pontiﬁcate of Sixtus V. However, the three ﬂoors that compose the east branch lacked a decoration for almost three years. The making of the rich iconographic project with stuccos, friezes, grotesqueries, picturesque scenes, and false marbles aligned with the antique model of the loggias, began only under the pontiﬁcate of Pius IX (1846-1878).
Pope Mastai Ferretti commissioned the new decorations to Alessandro Mantovani, painter and decorator from Ferrara, who in the previous years had restored paintings from the 1500’s in the northern and western wings of the Loggias, along with Pietro Galli. The ﬁrst decorative task was carried out in 1862 for the second Loggia, when Mantovani, Galli and Nicola Consoni created the Stories of the Passion of Christ. The new decorative phase for the third Loggia started in 1872 after Pius IX approved Mantovani’s contract. The decorative phase ended six years later, in 1878, shortly after the pontiﬁcate’s death. The artist ideated a series of paintings on the walls intended to introduce intriguing modern characteristics, while continuing to follow the classical traits from the 1500’s. The scenes depicting the gloriﬁcation of the pontiﬁcate of Pius IX are limpid urban views ofcontemporary Rome. Mantovani depicts an extraordinary “photographic” documentation showing modern Rome, requested by the Pope prior to the loss of the city in 1870. As remembered by the contemporary sources, this project constitutes a testimony «ai posteri che le riguarderanno curiosamente, come fatte fossero le fabbriche di Pio IX innanzi che il tempo, che tutto tramuta e dissolve, avesse loro cangiata la faccia» (for the future generations, in order for them to see how the buildings of the past looked, before time had changed forever their layout). Noteworthy are the signiﬁcant religious symbols such as: the new Saint Paul Basilica and the inauguration of the Immaculate Conception’s column located in Piazza di Spagna; the efﬁcient productive services as the Fabbrica dei Tabacchi in Trastevere; or those regarding transportation, as with the modern Termini Station, made out of glass and metal. Moreover, there are symbols that range from the urban embellishments, such as Piazza Pia in Rione Borgo; to the opening of Via della Dataria at the Quirinale and the opening of the new road to the Gianicolo towards Saint Peter in Montorio. This also includes an important religious event: the opening of the First Vatican Council on December 7, 1869.The above-mentioned list constitutes a documentary ensemble of extreme importance. The walls of the Third Loggia are decorated with inventive grotesqueries and elegant elements related to animals and vegetation. Among these, the exotic species like a tapir or birds with colorful featherings, which manage to coexist with the reﬁned embellishments of the Loggia of Raphael thanks to the meticulous attention that the artist gave to detail. Within the decoration of the eight vaults, that were divided in half from the deleted original made out of wrought iron, this decoration is characterized by reﬁned medallions in white stucco with a golden mosaic background, made by Pietro Galli, depicting pagan and Christian ﬁgures. Among the medallions one may ﬁnd a jubilation of decorations: grotesqueries, dancing fauna, fantastic animals, cherubs, lion heads and vegetation intertwining of every kind. At the focus of each vault, there is the emblem of Pius IX, made in gilded wood and paint that even more emphasizes the preexisting decorative characteristics from the 1500’s. Along with the emblem, there are gilded inscriptions on a turquoise background that were dictated by Giulio Barluzzi (the “bussolante pontiﬁcio” of Pius IX) and that were then framed in rectangular “folders”.