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Sunday, March 17, 2013

STEFANIA GIALDRONI on Law and Architecture

Dear students,
next week's classes will be devoted to the meaning and function of the Italian Court of Cassation's building, better known to the people of Rome as "il Palazzaccio". On Thursday March 21st we will visit the Supreme Course together while on Friday we will discuss your impressions and analyze the use of the building in cinema.

Temple of Justice or "Palazzaccio"? Giuseppe Zanardelli's Idea of Justice in Unified Italy


Terry Rossi Kirk, The Politicization of the Landscape of Roma Capitale and the Symbolic Role of the Palazzo di Giustizia, in "Mélanges de l'Ecole française de Rome: Italie et Méditerranée", 109.1 (2006), pp. 89-114.
Dr. Gialdroni's CV
Stefania Gialdroni graduated cum laude in 2003 from the University of RomaTre (Law faculty), where she immediately started a collaboration with Prof. Conte, the chair of Medieval and Modern Legal History. In 2004 she did an Internship at the Italian Senate and in October 2005, and after having finished her legal apprenticeship in Rome, she started the International Max-Planck Research School for Comparative Legal History (Germany). By 2005 she had obtained two scholarships from the Max-Planck Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Frankfurt am Main (MPIER). In 2006 she started the Marie-Curie European Doctorate in History, Sociology, Anthropology and Philosophy of Legal Cultures in Europe. In the framework of the European Doctorate she spent one year (2006-2007) as a visiting Ph.D. student at the London School of Economics (LSE) and one year as a visiting Ph.D. student at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris (EHESS).
On February 11th 2009 she received her Ph.D. en cotutelle between the Universities Milano-Bicocca (Private Law and History of Private Law Legal Science) and EHESS, Paris (History and Civilisations). Since 2008, she has been coordinating the course Law and the Humanities (RomaTre University), directed by prof. E. Conte. In 2011 she published her first book, based on her PhD thesis: East India Company. Una storia giuridica (1600-1708), Bologna: Il Mulino.


  1. I never thought that Palazzaccio might have a pedagogical meaning as the seat of the new secular indipendent state, in opposite to the former papal capital!
    Sometimes when you live in a city like Rome full of history, it only stops the appearance of our surroundings without going to look for the history and the essence of so much beauty.
    I was surprised to read what deep and hidden (though not so hidden) meaning could be the construction of a building so massive and important.
    This building, Instrument of power implicit, and justice, whose construction has expressed the desire for renewal of a judiciary confused disoriented and divided. I found the article really interesting and I'm curious to what I know today in class!

    Chiara Lombardi

  2. I am really sorry but I am not able to post what I have written with my own name at the top!!
    I tried a lot, and I will continue to find a solution,
    Chiara Lombardi

  3. About what we said this afternoon about the simbolic meaning of "il diritto" made by Ximenes at the Vittoriano, I have made a lot of researches surfing the internet, but I have not found the deep meaning of this statue but also the way in which it is made and history of Vittoriano itself. I ask to a really close friend of mine (graduating in Architecture) to reveal me this sudden meaning.
    You can find the image of "il Diritto" right here
    It is one of the six groups of sculptures, the first two in bronze and the remaining four in marble, representing the six values ​​of the Unification of Italy, that artists wanted to symbolically emphasize: namely, from left to right, the strength (1911), harmony (1911), thought (bronze, 1912), Action (bronze, 1912), The Sacrifice (1911) and the Law (1911).
    In the STRENGHT a nude figure stands flanked by two figures representing the force at work, in CONCORDIA a female character leads to embrace an old man wearing a toga and a young man, in PENSIERO the winged goddess Minerva helps italian people to rise up, in AZIONE a group of fighters hoisted the tricolor bearing written Italy and Victor, in SaCRIFICIO a dying hero is assisted by representations of freedom and family, while in DIRITTO a figure puts the sword in sheath, layng the foundations of the state.
    As I said before, unfortunately I didn't find anything about the allegoric meaning of this last one, Diritto, the main important for us!
    What i noticed, from what I have red, is that the embellishment statuary served to ennoble the civil virtues which strongly believed to be a prerequisite for a healthy and strong nation.

    Chiara Lombardi

  4. Another thing I would like to say, is that I really would read the book titled "Giustizia Bendata" by Prospery. take a look here, it is a comment upon what is written inside the book and it reveals interesting things about Symbolism and Justice. It is in italian,
    I'll try to traslate the most important things:

    -The symbolic language has three functions: to give meaning and value to the events, turning them into examples and propose to social acceptance. Each symbol is then, at the same time, interpretation, generalization and standardization, as expressed in the power of synthesis.

    -The concept of justice can be represented symbolically in many ways that refer to different concepts, functional to the different policies of the right

    -let's compare two images of justice: the first and the last one. At the beginning, we see Maat, the Egyptian goddess feathered who supervises the weighing of the merits and demerits of the deceased on a scale with two arms. She is a benevolent goddess, which combines truth and justice, law and order, wisdom and gentleness. On a plate is the heart of the deceased, based on its merits and its faults, on another, the goddess herself, namely that represents harmony: harmony as a balance, the essence of justice and the purpose of who administers it.
    The last page shows us another picture, Lady Justice, who is like a reversal of Maat. It is a tattoo freehand in wich an aggressive woman executioner with his eyes blindfolded, embraces a knife to slay and a revolver to shoot. What does this mean?

    Prosperi doesn't comment, but we can see the idea of a justice exterminator, who does not know and does not see, with the aim not to balance the parties but to annihilation of the enemy.

    The representative figures of justice are always female.

  5. -The exception of the figure of the "great man" who stands out with the symbols of justice in the hands, on the title page of the first edition of Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes is only apparent exception. The image is that of the sovereign, who wields the sword and scales as instruments of absolute government. When we talk about justice as a function based on the principles and requirements of its own, and sometimes even opposite to those of power, always appears the woman. You could say that power is male, the female justice.

    -What is clear is that the image of the scale, which is always associated to the idea of balance, is accompanied by that of the sword, a tool certainly not women. The sword is associated with balance when judging becomes power. It appears as a symbol of sovereignty,
    But the scale and sword belong to different worlds, even potentially in conflict, justice and strength. they are, however, two worlds destined to live. with the words of Pascal (Pensées, no. 135): "Justice without force is powerless, force without justice is tyrannical. Justice without force is disputed, since there are always the bad guys, the force without justice is put on trial. It must therefore join Justice and strength, and for this to make sure that what is right is strong or that what is strong is right. "

    -The bandage is another topos of the representations of justice, in addition to the balance and the sword. Prosperi's book refers to it in the title and in the text, the phylogenetic reconstruction of this image, traced back to the scene of Christ blindfolded, mocked and beaten after his arrest and before the trial has an important role. In fact, this is perhaps the most ambiguous symbol and therefore intriguing. Usually, the blind justice is interpreted as one that "does not look at anybody," then the impartial justice, equal for all, rich and poor, large and small. But it can also be one that strikes at random, and that stops in front of the worst atrocities, the justice that will not see the injustice. The justice that turns horrified, not to see the severed heads, exhibited by the Executioner - image chosen for one of the first editions of On Crimes and Punishments by Cesare Beccaria - is instead equipped with a watchful eye. In short, the blindfold is a sign of justice or injustice?

    I think this is the main think to discover.

    Chiara lombardi

  6. Chiara, what a research! Just a few words about the Leviathan: I think that prof. Manderson will talk about it but I know that the important philpsopher of law Giorgio Agamben has recently done some research about it. I don't know if he has already published on the topic but we can check together.


    Visiting the Italian Supreme Court turned out to be more interesting than what expected. Surely we all had already seen the impressive “Palazzaccio” walking trough the centre, but few stopped to think about its structure and its symbolism, due to the high function that is called to do. In this regard it should be noted that already its location is not random: the chosen area of “Prati di Castello”, the ancient “Orti di Domizia Lepida”, Nerone’s aunt, seemed dominated by a large Castel Sant’Angelo. The Calderini’s construction was in fact just oppose it, as it symbolized the Church and its law.
    The architect from Perugia, won the special competition thanks to the grandeur and majesty of the structure of his project, without any religious reference. He created a “Temple” of justice incorporating the ancient Roman basilicas, but not their churches. This was in harmony with the idea of the grandeur that law was to have. A sort of “Bring back the Glory” referring to Professor Whitman. Calderini's spaces tend to be open to indicate the opening law, understood as freedom of thought of every human being: freedom from political ideas and especially religious ideology.
    From the outside, quadryga transpires that the building was to house something solemn. The quadryga, by Ettore Ximenes, is the chariot in which gods and heroes in Ancient Greece and Rome are often depicted.
    Entering, the atmosphere is definitely that we have moved through the great Roman Empire. There is evidence of this: texts in Latin and brocardi (Lex, Veritas…), represent the Emperor Justinian, Roman symbols. A symbol repeated often is the Owl, carved on the side walls of the Aula Massima. It is, as some of the Greek and Roman mythologies believe, an animal sacred to the goddess of Wisdom Atena/Minerva.
    Then, ten large statues of lawyers adorn the ramps before the main façade and the inner courtyard.
    However, what surprised the most, is not so much the solemnity and majesty that was given to the Palace of Justice, but the fact that other buildings in Rome exercising the function of applying the Lex, are not such. Just think of the civil or criminal court, first instance: a series of several rooms, without any reference to the period of the great Roman Ius or our Ius, embedded in buildings confused with the rest of the houses.
    Today surprisingly, see a court, as the Supreme Court, which still reflects the ancient canons as well as the law itself, should reign over society. It suggests that the first steps are not so solemn, even if there often refer to a judgment on the merits rather than on law, as instead typical of the Court of Cassation.


  8. Alice Borsacchi

    The building called "Palazzaccio" is accredited as the Temple of Justice where is situated the Italian Court of Cassation. We can underline the meaning of this building through the analysis of the principal steps starting from 1899 ( the year were the perugian architect Guglielmo Calderini carried out the project of the building) to 2013, year in which Palazzaccio represents the seat of the Italian Court of Cassation, the seat of board of the bar association and the seat of the Juridical Central Athenaeum. During the excavations were founded lots of archeological finds relating with the glorious Roman history. The inauguration of the building took place on 12 Genuary of 1911. The name "Palazzaccio" aims to the corruption that characterized the masonworks. The Palazzaccio is located in the district called Prati, in the XVII town hall. It borders with Piazza dei Tribunali, Via Triboniano, the famous Piazza Cavour and Via Ulpiano. The idea to build a new Temple of Justice can be attributed to Giuseppe Zanardelli in 1879; he focused the attention of Guglielmo Calderini on three basic points:

    1) A central court without coverage;
    2) A sloping ground;
    3) Large spaces for the administrative bureau.

    He said, during the approval report of the project, that was necessary to give to the building a monumental image, an imposing character, impressive and several as must be for a Temple of Justice.
    The symbolism pervades the atmosphere both inside the walls, both externally. The intent of Zanardelli had been completely realized by the architect Calderini who refused to assign a religious meaning to the building focusing only to bring to light the Roman grandeur and majesty.
    In Zanardelli mind, Palazzaccio metaphorically represents THE JUSTICE and the Unified Italy where justice would triumph ...

  9. While visiting the il Palazzaccio, I always had in the back of my mind what we had discussed in class prior to visiting the court: that Italians living in Rome were not fond of the architecture and space of the Court of Cassation, as they felt the court was too large and pompous. I was then very surprised when a majority of my classmates seemingly enjoyed our visit to the court, as we all not only left with a new appreciation for the deliberate architectural elements carried out, but also, as a whole, the class stated that we liked Zanardelli and Calderini's structure of the Palazzaccio. Even reading previous comments, and from our in class discussions, I have learned that my classmates seem to enjoy the "grandeur" and "majesty" of the space, and find that the values of justice and power that resonate throughout the design flawlessly. These opposing viewpoints left me wondering why so many of my classmates seemed to identify with the values and architecture of the Court, while so many other Romans are known to despise it.

    Personally, I enjoyed the space very much. One aspect I found unique was the lack of religious undertones prevailing in the court, as so much of Rome is built upon religious values, particularly that of Catholicism and the Papacy. Instead, the frescoes depicted ancient Greek and Roman mythology, pertaining to Justice of society and government rather than of religion.

    I had never thought before about how architecture can promote the values of legal studies, but after visiting the Court, particularly the Aula Magna, I have a new appreciation for symbols of Power and Justice as well as the use of space to promote the two.

  10. Zanardelli(1826-1903) was an Italian jurisconsult,nationalist and political figure.
    He was the Italy Prime Minister from 1901 to 1903; he was a distinguished jurist and eloquent orator.
    Throught his long political career he was the most ardent advocats of free trade and laissez-faire,freedom of conscience and divorce.
    He really wanted a main structure in the center of Rome,which could gather and match the most important juridical functions in the country all together in only one great and magnificent building.
    The Palace of Justice, the seat of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the juridical Public Library,is located in the Prati district of Rome.
    The huge building is popularly called in Italian the PALAZZACCIO: designed by the Perugia architect Guglielmo Calderini and built between 1888 and 1910. The Palace of Justice is considered one of the grandest of the new buildins which followed the proclamation of Rome as the capital city of the kingdom of Italy.
    The foundation stone was laid on 1888 in the presence of Zanardelli, Minister of justice, who had insisted on a prestigious location in the Prati district.
    The building's unusually large size, astonishing decorations and long period of construction, created the suspicion of corruption.
    In April 1912 a Parliamentary Commission was appointed to inquire into the matter and it presented its findings the following years. The affair gave rise to the building's popular nickname of PALAZZACCIO.
    Inspired by late Renaissance and Baroque architecture the building is completely covered with travertine limestone. Above the facade it is surmounted by a graet bronze quadriga. Ten large statues of notable jurists adorn the ramps before the facade and the internal courtyard.
    Inside the Hall of Supreme Court(Aula Maxima) are several frescoes begun by Cesare Maccari.
    In Zanardelli's opinion, this place should have celebrated "a laical and not partial justice". If we consider these facts and Zanardelli's original ideas,we should call that building with the name of "Temple of justice", which really responds to Zanardelli's intentions.

  11. In March we had a beautiful fieldtrip! We visited the Court of Cassation (Palazzo di Giustizia) in Rome. The buildings called “Palazzaccio” is the seat and symbol of the centralized national Italian Judiciary: the united Court of Cassation and, originally, all the Roman district court.
    Construction was begun on 1889 and inaugurated in 1911.
    The monument stands as a symbol of the liberation of the Italian people from foreign domination and oppression. Zanardelli, a key member of the Liberal Left, guided the entire project. He tried to reconcile the forces of the political and spiritual institution in Italian society by erecting the symbol of the secular, jurisdictional state before ineradicable ecclesiastical power.
    Zanardelli provided the public building for Prati by designating the site for the Palazzo di Giustuzia.
    The Palazzaccio is the first modern Roman building realized with its principal facede turned to the river. The architect was Guglielmo Calderini, winner of the series of architectural competitions.
    Calderini practiced an architectural theory of free inspiration from historical prototypes rather than an imitation of set academic models.
    We visited also the Aula Massima, the hall of the supreme body of the Italian magistracy. The Aula Massima is a solemn, palatial room that evokes a temple cella with its windowlss isolation, its hight columnar galleries and elevated frescoed apse (abside affrescata). It is not a vast space but has a surprisingly condensed impact and it’s the only colored element in the entire building.

    When you enter in Aula Massima you are immediately attracted by the elevated frescoed apse.
    This fresco represent Triboniano while gives the Lex (Digesto) at Giustiniano.
    The painting program in a series of lunettes in the Aula Massima proposes images of the great moments in the history of Italian law emphasizing the largesse of the monarchy.

    The plethora of decorative and sculptural details presents a panorama of iconography on national and secular themes. A bronze quadriga by Ettore Ximenes a clear pre-Christian allusion to the sculpture of ancient temples.
    Under the entrance archway, a sculptural groups by Enrico Quattrini to enthroned Justice flanked by Strength and Law.

  12. During the course we visited the court of cassation, with reference to the law and architecture.
    We have thus been able to analyze not only the history of the building itself but also the figure of Lady Justice. it was built in the early twentieth century, and we know that the project belonged to William Calderini, it is one of the major works produced after Rome became the capital.
    We entered in the main hall where every year celebrate the beginning of the judicial year. inside there are many frameworks, including one in which you can see Justinian
    there are also many statues of owls, so I found it interesting to study its origins.
    The eyes and beak follow the line of the letter φ (fi), alphabetical symbol greek philosophy and as a result of the golden section. Letter which then unites harmony, beauty, and love of knowledge and research in the broad sense. The guide told us it symbolizes justice because he can turn his head much better than any other animal and have a greater field of view and see even at night, just as the justice who sees even if blindfolded. With my colleagues then, we decided to get together and find all lady justice in the world.
    I have analyzed the Japanese and the Francese. because I'm fascinated by these two countries and why the French lady justice is one of the most diverse.It holds a scepter in the right hand with the hand of the justice, and the left hand in the tables of the Law.
    she is different from others because it is not wielding any sword and has no scale. it seems to be more real, more human.
    Japanese mythology is much more that it is in fact graca themis goddess of justice.