Hoops, Cardinal?

June 18, 2013 / Places
Rome, Lazio

You approach the grand Palazzo della Cancelleria (the Papal Chancellery). Built for Cardinal Riario, the nephew of Pope Sistus IV (of Sistine Chapel fame), it is one of the few Renaissance buildings that was built new from the ground up. Supposedly the funds came from the Cardinal’s winnings from one night’s worth of gambling against the nephew of his uncle’s successor, Pope Innocent VIII…


Passing through the door leads you into the palazzo’s incredible triple level, double loggia courtyard designed by Bramante himself (architect of St.Peter’s), made with 44 Egyptian granite columns taken from the ancient Pompey’s Theater nearby and from the Baths of Diocletian.

Walk across the courtyard and towards the right corner and you will pass through a gate to a more enclosed and much smaller rectangular courtyard…


…which contains some beautiful Roman marble pieces on display, nicely affixed to the walls, found throughout the ages whenever any sort of plumbing or foundation work was performed.cancelleria4

And then you notice that someone put up a basket ball hoop at one end…
“That was out! It bounced beyond the Roman marble bits!”…


Actually, there’s a hoop at each end, turning the courtyard into the coolest impromptu basketball court ever.
“Pick-up game, Cardinal?”


Of course, the space intelligently doubles as a volleyball court as needs be, with its very own stowable net.


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

18 Responses to “Hoops, Cardinal?”

    • Jack Litewka

      If Obama can play basketball, why not a cardinal? It wasn’t clear to me whether one visit this Palazzo (and if ‘yes’, what days of the week and hours of the day it is open).

  1. Ann Waggoner

    GB, you definitely give us a new way and view of looking at all things Italian. BRAVO!

  2. Anne Robichaud

    Ah, the Italians and their use of sacred space for profane pleasures! When I walk past Piazza San Rufino in Assisi and see little boys kicking balls around, I can’t help but thinking “..and their ancestors did the same 9 centuries ago….”


  3. Barbara Hollowell

    How fun to have today’s entry feature Roman architecture when I have just arrived back in Florence from an incredible week-long on-site “Sensuality & Splendor: High Renaissance & Baroque Art in the Eternal City” seminar/tour conducted by Giulia, an art historian, bi-lingual certified guide, theater performer and occasional contributor to Italian Notebook! After reading the Notebook article, I generally scroll down and learn something about the contributor, often going to their website. In this way I learned of Giulia’s Roman offering, as well as Cherrie Moore’s food trip through Calabria. Thus, the Italian Notebook has been serving me not only as a daily dose of Italian reading, but also as a resource for Italian travel!!

  4. Paul Russo

    Must be good to be the nephews of Popes. Cardinal Riario nephew of Pope Sistus IV wins big from nephew of Pope Innocent VIII and built Renaissance buildings with funds. You can also be a Cardinal. Make you wonder and I still love Rome.

  5. I recall admiring this building (with the DaVinci exhibition) while awaiting a bus to travel from our wonderful apartment across Campo Fiori to the Galleria Borghese last November. And I was reminded of it again recently, while reading The Pope’s Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere, by Caroline P. Murphy, which gives a fascinating picture of life in the cinquecento.

  6. GB, what a great story. It’s wonderful to learn all these facts that we otherwise wouldn’t know. Keep up the good work!

  7. bob paglee

    What an unattractive, barren courtyard! Mannagia la miseria! Certo che dev’ essere un inutile pieta! (Sp?. and sorry no accent symbols are available in this lexicon).

    Move those ugly basketball hoops and the unsightly volleyball nets outside to the parking lot, then put some large, flowering stone tubs, (maybe including a few small trees), around the bases of all those naked columns on the piano terra.

    Great Bramante architecture, but a little sprucing-up could make a big improvement.

  8. Anna Mangus

    This looks like the handy work of my husband. Not really, but he wishes he could do this kind of thing everywhere – in his dreams there is a basketball hoop or volleyball net at every turn. Maybe if I show him this article he’ll be more inclined to site see!

  9. Allan Mahnke

    Suddenly, the scene in the film “Habemus Papam” with the College of Cardinals playing volleyball no longer seems so implausible.

  10. francesco costa

    un magnifico pezzo, caro gb! complimenti! sei un vero scrittore! e pensare che tanta bellezza si trova a pochi passi da casa nostra! un abbraccio e buon lavoro, francesco


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