Casa dei Crescenzi in Rome, Italy

Detail of the recycled architectural elements on the short side.

Just past the ambitious, yet incongruous buildings along via Petroselli, sits an unusual house known as Casa dei Crescenzi.

The house is remarkable in that it is a well-preserved example of a medieval home, one originally owned by Niccolò de Crescenzi, son of Crescenzio and Theodora. The house was constructed sometime during the 12th-century. Crescenzi built a small fortress here to guard the river harbors and access to the Aemilius bridge, where he levied tolls and made a small fortune. His ambition was reflected in the eclectic style of his house, which he decorated with recycled ancient Roman artifacts and architectural elements, which are still visible today.

Originally crowned by a tower known as Tor Crescenzia (which collapsed in 1312), the building contains a lengthy inscription above the main entrance which explains why Crescenzi incorporated Roman remains into his own abode. It reads, “it was not vanity which motivated [Nicholas] to build this house, but the desire to restore the ancient dignity of Rome.”

The remainder of the inscription reminds the reader of the transience of life and the inevitability of death. Some inscriptions also celebrate the work of its owner, while others have not been deciphered. 

The house was also known as the “House of Pilate” since it served this purpose during the representation of the Via Crucis, after being abandoned during the 14th-century.

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