No other building in Rome displays the heraldic arms of so many popes as the Palazzo della Sapienza, which was once the seat of the city's university.
From the courtyard of the palazzo it is possible to see references to as many as five popes: Gregory XIII (r. 1573-85, dragon), Sixtus V (r. 1585-90-lion's head, pears, three mountains & a star), Paul V (r. 1605-21, dragon & eagle), Urban VIII (r. 1623-44, bees), and Alexander VII (r. 1655-67, six mountains, a star & an oak tree).
The building of Palazzo della Sapienza (1562-1667) lasted more than a century, hence the visual references to so many popes!
A Latin inscription above the entrance to the palazzo proclaims: INITIVM SAPIENTIAE TIMOR DOMINI (The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, Proverbs 9:10, KJV). Sapientiae becomes sapienza in Italian.
At the east end of the courtyard stands the beautiful church of Sant' Ivo alla Sapienza, the creation of that master of Baroque architecture, Francesco Borromini (1599-1667).
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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