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The origin of the Roman saying. What the barbarians did not do, the Barberinis did

Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini, or rather what the barbarians did not do the Barberini is a saying often repeated in Rome.

The motto appears for the first time in a “pasquinata” that is a satirical phrase associated with “Pasquino” the most famous talking statue in Rome. Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries at his feet, or around his neck, sheets containing satire in verse were hung in the night. And various sources attribute the saying to Monsignor Carlo Castelli, ambassador of the Duke of Mantua.

According to a widespread belief, the phrase refers to decisions taken by the noble family that were real scars for the monuments of Rome, but not all the stories correspond entirely to the truth.


For example, it is often said that to build the Baldacchino di San Pietro by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the bronze covering of the Pantheon’s pronaos was removed and cast in 1625, under Pope Urban VIII.

In reality, 99% of the material was heavily used in the construction of the 80 guns of Castel Sant’Angelo and only a small part for the Canopy.
Instead, according to the American art historian Louise Rice, a professor at New York University and a specialist in the Italian seventeenth century, the version of the facts “was specially crafted by papal propaganda. In short, it was a matter of artfully constructed false news ”. In short, according to the scholar, it would be an ancient “fake news”.

Going to read, however, the diary of Urban VIII himself, preserved in the Vatican Apostolic Library under the name of Urbinate Code 1647, it is written: “From the cursed languages and detractors of contaminated fame the remains of an ancient ornament were extolled, although this is It was true to have removed that metal, but still well esteemed and placed,

for having been adorned in the Church of SS. Apostles, and in our times we have seen the curse of God above these Critics, because the Agent of the Duke of Mantua who was Detractor of having posted the Cartels of that infamous Pasquinata from the Barbera family in Barberina, he bit from infirmity and in bed he asked for forgiveness from Pope Urban Eighth ”.

Carlo Castelli then had a bad end and, dying, begged the Pope’s forgiveness, but his “pasquinata” was founded on the fact that there were not a few unfortunate choices of the family of patrons: one of these was the decision to loot the marble from the Colosseum to recycle them in the construction of Palazzo Barberini.

The 1600 historian Giacinto Gigli wrote that “the people curiously went to see such a work being unraveled and could not help but feel sorry and regret that such a beautiful antiquity which alone had remained intact from the offenses of the barbarians and could be said to be truly a work eternal, were now undone ”.

Despite their errors and misdeeds, however, the Barberinis were also great patrons and protectors of the arts, having also taken under their wings excellent artists such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Francesco Borromini and Pietro da Cortona.

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