One of the most famous views of Saint Peter’s Basilica is the one you can peek through the keyhole at the door of Priorato di Malta. Every day there’s a big queue of people waiting to see this incredible image of Saint Peter’s Cupola.
This is the main entrance to Villa del Priorato di Malta, located on Aventine Hill (one of the seven hills of Rome) and last week I booked a visit to discover what’s inside with Laura from Bellezze di Roma. Villa del Priorato di Malta is home to the Grand Priory in Rome of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Villa del Priorato di Malta together with Palazzo Malta (located on Via Condotti) has an extraterritorial status since 1869.
We weren’t famous enough to enter from this famous door, so we got in from a secondary entrance which takes you directly to the Church of Santa Maria del Priorato.
Originally the Church was built in 939. At that time Odo of Cluny was given the Roman Palace of Alberic II of Spoleto, then it became a Cluniac Benedictine Monastery. In the 14th century, the Knights of Malta acquired the monastery and decided to rebuild the church in 1550.
In 1760, the Grand Prior of the Knights Cardinal Giambattista Rezzonico decided to give a new appearance of the estate. The architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi designed the new church, which was renovated between 1764 and 1766. The church represents one of the first examples of Neoclassical Architecture.
The church facade shows emblems of the military and naval associations of the Knights of Malta and the Rezzonico family heraldry with a clear allusion to Ancient Rome and Etruria.
Inside the church, white dominates the scene with the incredible sculptural altar designed by Piranesi.
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to visit the monastery
so we went to the beautiful garden that you can spot from the keyhole
The garden is romantic and full of exotic trees and plants that in May will be in bloom.
We also enjoyed amazing views of Rome from the terrace