Inn The Mascherino - History

The history of the Inn The Mascherino is connected with the history of Frascati and its actual Cathedral.

The first location of Frascati, is bound to the history of the ancient city of Tusculum, destroyed twice by the Romans, the first time in 496 B.C. The second time, in 1191 A.D. the Romans not only destroyed the city of Tusculum, but operated the so called damnatio memoriae, destroying it in such a way that the rests of Tusculum were not discovered but after many centuries, during the escavations campaigns in 1800's.

The inhabitants moved down to the valley, where already was established a very small agricultural site, and enlarged it with hut of "frasche", hereafter the name Frascata then Frascati, around the church of S. Maria in Vivario, built upon the rests of and old Roman villa having also a pond (vivarium). The bell tower of this church is dated the beginning of 1300. The city walls were around the castle city, and all the castle cities of the area gave the name roman castles (Castelli Romani), a name still used today.

From a small refugee's village, Frascati had a significant growth from the second half of 1500. The popes and the cardinals, to avoid the heat and unhealthy air of Rome during the hot season, started moving to the fresh air location of Frascati under the Tusculan hill. When here, they normally stayed at the Rocca, the now Palazzo Vescovile, but this was by far too small to host the pope and his court.

The first pope that built something for Frascati was Pius II Piccolomini coming from the Siena's region. His family owned the now called Villa Lancellotti for over 2 centuries. Pius II consolidated the Frascati's walls.

After a short period, when Frascati was under the rule of the Colonna family, it became again possession of the Church, and Pope Paul III Farnese, bishop of Frascati from 1519 till 1523, and then pope from 1534 till 1549, gave to the beloved place a very strong impulse. He gave Frascati the title of City, "Tvscvlo restitvto", and transferred there the bishop seat in the rook, elevating the church of S. Maria in Vivario to the title of cathedral. He enlarged the city walls and supported the construction of the first villa, Villa Rufina, today Villa Falconieri, owned by Cardinal Rufini, bishop of Melfi.

Having a villa in Frascati, became for the cardinals a must, none should be left behind, as a good image supporting the ascent to the throne of Peter. The cardinals of the important families, competed to find the best place, to build the best villa, with the best gardens, to move in the delicious places, to host the pope and to impress people. As a result, in only half a century, twelve villas were built, putting a lot of pressure on the capacity of the Frascati town, invaded by teams of builders, artists, painters, sculptors and gardeners.

In this period the popes were Gregorius XIII Boncompagni, Clemens VIII Aldobrandini, and Paul V Borghese. The cardinal nephews, occupied in non spiritual business of the church were Marcus Sitticus Altemps, Petrus Aldobrandini, Scipio Borghese, and others.

The villas changed owners quite often. They were Villa Muti (Arrigoni, Rocci, Varesi), Villa Grazioli (Acquaviva , Montalto, Odescalchi, Bracciano), Villa Torlonia (Altemps, Ludovisi, Conti), Villa Aldobrandini, Villa Rufinella , Villa Falconieri(Rufina), Villa Mondragone, Villa Parisi (Taverna, Borghese), Villa Vecchia, Villa Sora , Villa Belpoggio (Sciarra, Ceri, Vestri)

The effect of a substantial increase in the population, raised the question whether to enlarge the old cathedral of S. Maria in Vivario, or to build a new one outside the walls. The question was connected to the availability of money for a new church, and the willingness of the city council to spend for it.

The cardinal Tolomeo Gallo, known as the Cardinal from Como, since he was born in Cernobbio, near Como, was bishop of Frascati from 1591 till 1600, was the key person to the build of the new cathedral. He convinced the pope Clemens VIII getting also from him an initial contribution of 1000 shields, on June, 16th 1596. The project requested much more money, the priors and the citizens raised lot of funds, but two years passed. It had to be decided where to build it, and the architect. On may 17th 1598, "the Cardinal of Como requested his Architect to come from Rome, to see and decide the place .... where to build the new Church "

The architect of the Cardinal Tolomeo Gallo was Ottaviano Nonni, called the Mascherino, known also as Ottaviano Mascherino de' Nonni, a well known and famous painter and architect. He was born in Bologna, but moved later to Rome, under the request of pope Gregorius XIII Boncompagni, from Bologna too. With the election of a new pope, normally a whole new set of artists changed. In this case, the Mascherino was so respected, that he was reconfirmed as the pontificial architect, after the pope changed from the Boncompagni family, to the Aldobrandini.

Ottaviano Mascherino
Ottaviano Mascherino

The Mascherino was born in Bologna in 1524.

At the time of the commission for building the cathedral of Frascati, he had already made a lot of works both in Bologna and in Rome. Arrived in the eternal city in 1574 as pontificial architect, he had already performed in 1583, the project for the new pope palace at the Quirinal, he painted rooms in the Vatican, and in the courtyards of San Damaso and Belvedere, the palace of the Commendatore of S. Spirito and the reconstruction of S. Salvatore in Lauro (1591-1600), the palace at the foro Traiano owned by noble families from Bologna. He was active also in Tivoli and other places north of Rome.

The cardinal nephew Filippo Boncompagni, son of a brother of pope Gregorius XIII (Ugo Boncompagni), invited him in Rome, where he established himself until his death.

On May 17th 1598, the Mascherino arrived in Frascati, taking part to the city Council, which discussed the question of the cathedral, either the elargement of the old one or to build a brand new one. The acts of that council tell us that The Mascherino presented the two options, which traslated into english ... "The renovation and enlargement of the actual cathedral of S. Maria in Vivario, will cost you 8000 shields, building a new cathedral outside the walls will cost 11000 shields." It is possible that the two figures were intentionally modified to support the building of a new cathedral.
Those against the new cathedral, were arguing that the cost would have been much higher that the forecast, and the great distance that the citizens from the Matone would have had to walk to go to the new church, even if the distance is really few hundred meters. The council approved with a majority vote, the building of the new cathedral.

The minutes of the council reports that The Mascherino presented also a drawing of the plan of the new church, containing as many as 13 chapels.

Cattedrale pianta
The first project of Mascherino for the Cattedrale

This drawing belongs to a set of 8 by the Mascherino, in the archive of Accademia di San Luca, and availble after digitalization from the Hertziana Library in Rome.

On May 24th 1598, The Mascherino came to Frascati for a site inspection, and selected a location outside the walls on the south side, towards the Tusculan hill where the Villa Rufina was built. The Mascherino ordered the excavation of the land the was in cosiderable slope. Shortly after, on June 29th 1598, the cardinal Tolomeo Gallo, after the mass in S. Maria in Vivario, went on the site of the future Cathedral, a place called the Bishop's vineyard, blessing the foundation stone.

It looks like tha the Mascherino, being no longer young, decided to move to Frascati to a house very close to the place of the cathedral, the place where the current Inn is located, and that stayed there until the year 1604. He moved back to Rome because was nominated principe, i.e. preseident of the Accademia di San Luca, which received his entire studio with all the drawings and projects, inluding those related to the cathedral of Frascati. He died in Rome on August 6th, 1606, with no direct heirs.

The cathedral was then followed by another architect, and hade many stops and go due to lack of moneyand finally was completed to the level of being used in 1610.

In the famous map of Mattheus Greuter, dated 1620 and showing Frascati with all his 12 Villas, the Cathedral is completed completata, but has only one bell tower and a very simple facade. In this plan, also the hous of the Mascherino is shown, just before the slope, since the excavation was done only for the cathedreal.

Cattedrale greuter
The cathedral with the nearby buildings in 1620

Coming close to the end of the century, in preparation for the jubilee of 1700, a new facade was designed and built by Domenico Fontana. The cathedral then assumed the actual shape.

Looking at the Inn building, a late map of the alexandrinan cadastre in 1819, shows the building with a large green area closeby.

Cattedrale Alessandrino
The inn building in the 1819 cadastre

The first available photos are from 1894, with the people coming out of the Sunday mass.

Cattedrale e palazzo
The cathedral place in 1894

In the following photo dated 1910, the inn is a two-story building, with a beautiful tiled roof, having shops on the ground floor, the Merge' grocery store, the family of the well known Frascati historian Romano Merge', that later moved to the corner in the beginning of Via Cairoli, where they died under the September 8th 1943 bombing raid.

Cattedrale e palazzo
The building of the locanda in 1910

The house reconstructed after the world war II, is now a two-story building with a roof garden.

Cattedrale e palazzo
The cathedral and the inn building in 1956

The building was initially a private house of a local pharmacist, then converted into an Inn with a restaurant.

Let's close this historical page, with a poem written by The Mascherino just about before his death, to be considered as a spiritual testament, and freely translated.

My family was De' Nonni, my name was Ottavian
then I took the family name Mascherino.
I was born in Bologna from an honest family:
I was born poor, and poor remained.
I hated who becomes rich by deception,
because, growing, the river becomes more muddied.

I decided to die in this small world,
because those alive in their lands
are dead, and those dead in Rome live forever.
My business was architecture and paintings.

I served famous people
Dukes, Marquis, Popes during their life,
never being exonerated,
my servantry being much appreciated.

To the great Redentor please,
I have been like
it has to be, so that i hope
to have a small place to enjoy the heaven

This poem, shows the nobility and honesty of a great artist: He donated all hist things and studio to the becoming Accademia di San Luca, an organization that made a lot to support new young artists.


1979 - don Leonello Razza, La Basilica Cattedrale di Frascati, Ed. Associazione Tuscolana Amici di Frascati
2011 - Autori Vari, L'urbanizzazione della città di Frascati, Ed. Associazione Tuscolana Amici di Frascati
2013 - Isabella Salvagni, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani: Volume 78