The Largest Room in the Quirinale Palace: the Great Hall of the Cuirassiers

The large rooms at the south of the palace, near the street Via del Quirinale, were commissioned by Pope Paul V between 1615 and 1616

By Quirinale Palace

Institutional visit

The Great Hall of the CuirassiersQuirinale Palace

The Great Hall of the Cuirassiers is the largest and most solemn room of the palace, used for many important ceremonies and high-representative activities of the Head of State.

Large-scale events are held there because it can hold up to 350 guests.

The history of the hall

The room was built in 1615, by the architect Carlo Maderno, commissioned by Pope Paul V, and it still retains many elements of the original 17th-century decoration.

The antique marble floor, installed in 1616, echoes the geometric design of the majestic wooden coffered ceiling.

View of the ceiling in the Great Hall of the Cuirassiers (Early 17th century) by Giovan Battista SoriaQuirinale Palace

The wooden ceiling

At either end, the ceiling features the emblem of Pope Paul V with an eagle and a dragon; in the center, there is a representation of the great crossed shield, the emblem of the Savoys, added after 1870, in place of a depiction of the Holy Spirit.

The Great Hall of the CuirassiersQuirinale Palace

The frieze

The large frieze in the upper part of the walls was produced in 1616.

Detail of the frieze in the Great Hall of the Cuirassiers (1616)Quirinale Palace

The frescoes are characterized by people looking out of faux balconies: they depict some important Eastern and African missions to Rome in the early 17th century, during the pontificate of Paul V.

The subject choice is consistent with the room's purpose: the Pope used it to host rulers and ambassadors.

A mission of particular note and design is the image of the Japanese diplomat Hasekura Tsunenaga, who was hosted by the Pope at the Quirinal Palace a few months before the frescoes were completed.

View of the frieze in the Great Hall of the CuirassiersQuirinale Palace

The medals feature the Stories of Moses, which refer to the role of the pontiff as a leader of Christianity, while the female allegorical figures incarnate virtue, and papal powers.

Detail of the frieze in the Great Hall of the Cuirassiers (1616)Quirinale Palace

At the end of the long walls, there are four monochrome medals which are also examples of the Roman architecture commissioned by Pope Paul V.

The façade of St. Peter's,

Detail of the frieze in the Great Hall of the CuirassiersQuirinale Palace

the Quirinal Palace,

Detail of the frieze in the Great Hall of the Cuirassiers (1616)Quirinale Palace

the Pauline Chapel (Cappella Paolina) in Santa Maria Maggiore,

Detail of the frieze in the Great Hall of the CuirassiersQuirinale Palace

and the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola fountain on Janiculum Hill.

View of the frieze in the Great Hall of the CuirassiersQuirinale Palace

Cornice with Doric frieze

The entire ornamental display rests perfectly on a cornice painted in 1616, decorated with liturgical objects, uncovered during the 2005-2006 restoration.

Detail of the frieze in the Great Hall of the Cuirassiers (1616)Quirinale Palace

The restoration revealed that the visible cornice had been completed by the French in 1812, to cover up the 17th-century liturgical symbology, in striking contrast to revolutionary ideology.

After returning to Rome, Pope Pius VII ordered the napoleonic emblems to be covered up.

A fragment of the French intervention has been preserved in one area of the room, showing the monogram NL, the initials of the Emperor Napoleon and his consort Maria Luisa painted in green tempera and inserted inside a garland.

The Great Hall of the CuirassiersQuirinale Palace

The frieze underneath was however painted in 1872, by the artist Gaetano Lodi who was the appointed honorary decorative artist of the Royal Household at the time.


The Savoys commissioned it to commemorate the Unity of Italy and requested that the emblems of 46 cities of the peninsular be painted.

Turin Coat of Arms (1872) by Gaetano LodiQuirinale Palace

These include the emblems of Turin,

Venice Coat of Arms (1872) by Gaetano LodiQuirinale Palace

Venice,

Florence Coat of Arms (1872) by Gaetano LodiQuirinale Palace

Florence, 

Rome Coat of Arms (1872) by Gaetano LodiQuirinale Palace

Rome,

Coat of arms of Naples (1872) by Gaetano LodiQuirinale Palace

and Naples.

View of the grotesque-decorated windows (1616) by Annibale Durante and helpQuirinale Palace

The windows

The grotesque decorations by Annibale Durante on the splays of the room's seven windows date back to 1616.

The fne decorations are characterized by a bright color scheme, and an abundance of eagles and dragons, emblems of the Borghese family.

Emblems are incorporated within coats of arms and complement the countless animals and monstrous grotesque forms: allegorical figures, nudes, satyrs, flying cherubs, landscapes, musical instruments, and figures devoted to sacred rites.

Grotesque (1616) by Annibale Durante and helpQuirinale Palace

A sacrificial scene is also represented with male and female figures kneeling and a child, to the side of which there is an elephant and a rhinoceros which refer back to the exotic theme of the missions in the frieze.

View of the double portal crowned by the washing of the feetQuirinale Palace

The entranceway

The majestic entranceway to the Pauline Chapel is also from the 17th century, and probably designed by Maderno.

The solution of the double door, where only the right-hand door is real, cleverly solves the problem of having a door centered on the inner wall of the chapel, which has different dimensions to the room.

The entranceway is crowned by a large lunette in high relief by Taddeo Landini featuring the Washing of the Feet (Lavanda dei Piedi); the sculpture was completed in 1578, for St. Peter's Basilica and was transported to the Quirinal Palace in 1616.

The two angels on the tympanum are works by the sculptors Guglielmo Berthelot (angel on the left) and Pietro Bernini (angel on the right); they originally bore the emblem of Pope Paul V, but it was subsequently replaced with the metal crown visible today.

The wooden doors, as with all the doors to the room, were made in 1616, by the carpenter Giovan Battista Soria, who was also responsible for the creation of the ceiling.

Tapestry dedicated to the mythological fable of Cupid and Psyche by French manifactureQuirinale Palace

The tapestries on Cupid and Psyche

Adorning the walls are 18th-century tapestries pertaining to two different series. The first series is French and is dedicated to the story of Cupid and Psyche.

The first tapestry features the young Charite held captive and being comforted by the female guard, who narrates Apuleius' fable.

Tapestry dedicated to the mythological fable of Cupid and Psyche (Mid 18th century) by French manifactureQuirinale Palace

The second tapestry recounts the marriages of Psyche's sisters.

Tapestry dedicated to the mythological fable of Cupid and Psyche by French manifactureQuirinale Palace

The third tapestry features Psyche, admired by all for her extraordinary beauty. The scene arouses envy in Venus, pictured in the sky, so she orders Cupid to punish the maiden, which is where the problems begin.

Tapestry dedicated to Don Quixote by Gobelins manifactureQuirinale Palace

The tapestries about Don Quixote

The other series of tapestries, partly French and partly Neapolitan, illustrate the affairs of Don Quixote.

The French tapestry, manufactured by the Gobelins between 1721 and 1735, features a prank played on Don Quixote, who was led to believe that a bronze bust could answer any question.

In the bottom right-hand corner, it is possible to see the signature of the tapestry weaver Lefèbvre and the lily with the G of the Gobelins.

The interlaced double L in the corners is the emblem of Louis XV, King of France.

Tapestry dedicated to Don Quixote by Neapolitan manifactureQuirinale Palace

The tapestries about Don Quixote

The other tapestries are of Neapolitan manufacture, woven between 1757 and 1779, at the request of Charles III of Bourbon.

Two of these are narrative tapestries: one shows the episode in which the bachelor Carrasco mockingly welcomes Quixote to tell him about the book which praises his exploits.

Tapestry dedicated to Don Quixote (1761) by Pietro Duranti, Neapolitan Royal Tapestry of San Carlo alle MortelleQuirinale Palace

The other illustrates the scene in which  Sancho makes Don Quixote a knight.

Both bear the signature of Pietro Duranti, director of the Neapolitan Royal Tapestry Manufactory in San Carlo alle Mortelle.

The Great Hall of the CuirassiersQuirinale Palace

Tennis court during the Savoy era

The Great Hall of the Cuirassiers has one curious feature: in 1912, the Savoys turned it into an enclosed tennis court. A few years ago, during the restoration works, a tennis ball was found behind the tympanum above the entranceway to the Pauline Chapel.

Explore thePauline Chapel!

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