In the early modern Rome, carriages were a novelty and a powerfulpretention for the city’s elites and aristocrats.
The ambassadors invested alarge amount of money in purchasing and decorating the carriages as it was toclaim authority in the streets of Rome. As much as the carriages wererecognized as projection of power and claiming city’s spatial rule, it also ledto violent quarrels between two parties and their retinues. This paper will point out that the ambassadorsbroadcasted their power and prestige by asserting their spatial and ceremonial hegemonyin the streets of Rome.(Hunt 181) A new pope after being elected, has toritually lead a procession from St.Peter’s Basilica to St. John Lateran tosignal his papal authority and as the Bishop of Rome.
This procession is calledpossesso as the pope is taking possession of the papal capital. However, inearly modern Rome, Popes were not the only one to claim their space on thestage of Roman streets but elites, aristocrats and ambassadors representingother European states would mark their honor and power. In the research article, Laurie Nussdorfer elaborated that city’sspace was dominated through competition and aggression by Roman elites.Competition between rich and renowned families in the city resulted byshowcasing their strength and building huge facades that overshadowed theirenemies’ houses, investing to build chapels, tombs and buildings decorated withtheir family’s coat of arms. (Nussdorfer) All the investments by Roman eliteswere to impress the papal power and gain possession and power in the city. Samespecial domination was craved by the ambassadors of other European states, theyattempted to impress the papal court and the city by investing in palaces for theirresidence and conducting processions and hosting ceremonies.
In the seventeenth century,ambassadors embodied the power of their princes and state, and the most commonway to represent their power to the common people were on the street of Romethrough their lavish and splendor carriages. In mid-sixteenth century, carriages were oftenused as a mode of transportation by aristocratic women in Rome, later todominate the streets of Rome and to project their command and reputation on theurban fabric of Rome, elite and noble men started to own a number of carriages. Ambassador utilized the carriages whenthey entered the city through Porto del Popolo for papal audiences and theirexcursions throughout the city. (Nussdorfer) These mobile representations wereused to assert power and were decorated rather lavishly. These carriages were “gildedwith gold and silver, draped in silk and velvet, which displayed his family’scoat of arms.
The carriage’s horses had to have ribbons tied to their manes andtails.” (Hunt 180). Through thecarriage, ambassador assert their power at the papal capital which resulted inconflicts and rivalry. Conflicts and fights over precedence occurred on the stageof public theatre which are the streets of Rome. Example of these rivalry arethe quarrel between Taddeo Barberini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII and theambassador of Venice. (Hunt 189). Ambassadors understood the significance of spatialdominance and magnificence was through the streets of Rome, through formal engagementsand leisurely movement on the streets. These carriages were an extension of theluxurious palaces.
And the ambassadorsmade sure that they were decorated to the fullest and sported their coat ofarms. The cost of decorations was said to be very expensive and to keep up the lavishlifestyle the Roman elites gave up their small pleasures in their lives andtook out loans to maintain their lifestyle and prestige. (Hunt 181) The diarist, Giacinto Gigli, followed theseprocessions and ceremonies on the stage of Roman streets and enthusiasticallymade journal entries of the cost of the entourages of the cardinals andambassadors entering the Roman city.
He witnessed that the French ambassadorenter the gates of Rome with three carriages which were drawn by six horses.(Hunt 180) The baroque pomp and prestige was very important just like the facadeof a baroque palace. The ambassadors would take over the city with their entourages,sometimes only for fun, just for the purpose to be seen. Certain streets suchas Via del Corso would allow them to display their magnificence to those lookingfrom the windows of the houses situated on the street. Via del Corso is longstreet, wide enough to provide passage to two carriages at a time. It issituated betweem the Piazza del Popolo to the Piazza di Venezia.
(Hunt 182)However, no event was of more significance than the official entry made by theambassadors. This ritualistic entry of an ambassador entering the city to gainhis position in office had two parts. The first entry was the official entryinto the city through Porto del Popolo, the ambassador entered with his trainof carriages containing his luggages and his household members. (Hunt) He iswelcomed by the papal staff and other elites in the city. The second enter isthe official visit to the pope at the Quirinal Palace.
The ambassadors wereaccompanied by the carriages and horses. In the visit, the ambassador showedhis obedience to the pope. Competitions were ensued among the Spanish and theFrench rivals often regarding the number of the carriages.
As the number of thecarriages reflected the power and prestige. Episodes of arguments andcompetition would break into street battles and diplomatic arguments. Which occurredon everyday bases.
(Hunt) Rome was thehub of international politics in the seventeenth century, occasional arguments andstreet squabbles among dignitaries and ambassador regarding the precedencewould affect their diplomatic relations. The incident involving TaddeoBarberini and the Venetian ambassador ended up breaching the diplomaticrelations between the involved parties. In conclusion, through the carriages and cavalcades, ambassadors laidclaim in the spatial fabric of the city and broadcasted their honor and magnificence to their audience.