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Rome and the spy hole. That’s what it was for

On the external wall of the church of San Salvatore alle Coppelle, in Piazza delle Coppelle, in the Sant’Eustachio district, a marble plaque with a small crack was placed almost three hundred years ago. What was it for?

It was placed here on the occasion of the jubilee of 1750, because in the Eternal City there was a massive influx of pilgrims, estimated at more than one million presences.

It is a mailbox, similar to a mailbox, made of marble complete with a plaque with instructions. It had been built for hosts, hoteliers and innkeepers who had to use it by reporting sick foreigners and pilgrims who had found themselves in their premises, indicating their name and origin with a letter to post. According to the Roman authorities, thanks to these reports, the Archconfraternity of the Blessed Sacrament of Divine Perseverance would have checked names and presences to help and care for sick pilgrims.

The authorities imposed severe penalties on those who did not report immediately. In reality, the Romans immediately understood that it was an imposition to let the police know the names of the guests and facilitate their surveillance. For this reason the Romans called that box the Buca dello Spione.

OFFICIAL TOUR GUIDES

The text reads: “HERE MUST PUT THE VIGLIETS ALL THE GUESTS HOTELS, LANDKERS AND OTHERS TO GIVE NEWS OF FORESTIERS WHO HAPPEN IN THEIR HOUSES TO THE VENERABLE BROTHERHOOD OF DIVINE PERSEVERANCE, WITH THE APOSTITOLIC AUTHORITY OF THE ERETTA APOSTITOLIC ETC. VICAR ISSUED ON DECEMBER XVII MDCCXLIX “.

From 1633 the church of San Salvatore alle Coppelle was the seat of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament of Divine Perseverance, which provided assistance to pilgrims and strangers who fell ill in inns, then hospitalized them in some of the city’s hospitals, or by informing relatives and taking custody of the personal effects of those who died.

The activity of the brotherhood was essentially a health police and public order control activity for the other – also as a guarantee for foreigners.

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