Truly this is a grand hall, adorned as it is with mirrors and statuary, painted with brilliant frescoes and portraits by the great masters and paved with the finest marble. At night, when the crystal candelabra are all ablaze, mirrors, marbles and frescoes render the gallery a scene of dazzling splendor.
The Colonna Palace was begun in the fifteenth century, by Martin V, a member of the Colonna family. It is said by some to have been constructed partly from material belonging to Aurelian’s Temple of the Sun, but this is very doubtful. The glistening marble pavement before us is said to have been formed from pieces cut out of a fragment of the frieze of this mammoth temple.
Close at hand is the site of the ancient castle belonging to this celebrated family where Prince Colonna entertained Petrarch, during one, at least, of his visits to Rome.
This beautiful gallery abounds with works of art of the greatest value – Raphael, Titian, Andrea del Sarto, Paul Veronese, Vandyke and Tintoretto being among the painters here represented. That vaulted ceiling is one of the finest in Rome and is adorned by Coli and Gherardi with frescoes of the battle of Le-panto, in which Marc Antonio Colonna took part. As one wanders through these fantastic and fairy-like rooms, filled with gems of art, a light and playful fancy guides the eyes from one object to another – portraits, landscapes, battle scenes, tapestries and fine old cabinets inlaid with ivory and lapis lazuli; but the object which arrests the attention oftenest and lingers in the memory longest is the chaste yet simple emblem of the family, a pure stately column which appears in paintings and works of art again and again. A flight of seven marble steps, in which is imbedded a cannon-ball fired into the city during the bombardment of 1849, leads to this gallery.
The greater part of the palace is now occupied by the French ambassador to the Kingdom of Italy.
Having stood for some time in this delightful spot, surrounded by so much of beauty, we will now, on the principle that variety is the spice of life, go to one of the most curiously interesting places in Rome, the Cappuccini catacombs. The convent and church beneath which these catacombs are located are found on the map a considerable distance to the north of the Palace of Colonna, on the north side of the Quirinal Palace.