A 500-Year-Old Pawn Shop
Piazza del Monte di Pietà
The Roman branch of the Monte di Pietà was founded in 1539, during the reign of Pope Paul III (r. 1534-49), who was one of its patrons. The Monte di Pietà was a charitable institution which lent small sums of money on pledges (pegni), but without charging interest. (On larger sums of money it did charge interest.)
Monte is the Italian word for mountain, but it also once signified an amount of money; pietà means pity or compassion.
Since 1604 the Monte di Pietà has been based in a large palace not far from Campo de' Fiori, which was once the property of Cardinal Prospero Santacroce. Its otherwise plain facade sports an image of Christ, flanked by the coats of arms of popes Clement VIII (r. 1592-1605) and Paul III.
The Palazzo del Monte di Pietà is home to a sumptuously ornate chapel.
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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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