Ninfeo Del Bramante
Among the most fascinating monuments of Genazzano there is the “Nymphaeum”.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Colonna family conceived the idea of creating a garden in this area where they had ownership.
The project was to build in the garden a lake on three different levels, and a Nymphaeum.
The building was certainly not constructed in a single phase, as evidenced by numerous architectural mismatches detected by various scholars. The first phase regarded the central body, consisting of the porch and the apse, engineered with a precise geometric rule. The second stage of the construction regarded the two lateral bodies, characterized by the travertine windows; The addition on the south side of the building involved the opening of a portal architrave, which replaced the central apse.
The building, in reality, was never completed, probably for damages incurred, during the construction, due to the clay soil and the erosive action of the nearby stream.
The building was abandoned by the family also for political and economical reasons. Only in 1532, with Ascanio Colonna, some archival updates regarding the work were found. From 1540 the feudal state of Ascanio fell into a severe political and economic crisis when his possessions in Lazio were confiscated by the pope.
In 1558 the garden was then transformed into a vegetable garden that was rented out in change of an annual fee. The Nymphaeum itself was rented out as shelter for cattle until the 18th century.
Because the structure of the building is similar to the ancient thermal constructions, such as the Baths of Diocleziano, between the 17th and 18th centuries, the Nymphaeum was considered as a former spa building (“Baths of Antonino Pio”). Only at the end of the 19thcentury, Giuseppe Tomassetti recognized it as a Renaissance work. Only in the 20th century, the work was attributed to Bramante’s school. More recently, Frommel and Bruschi ascribed the design to Bramante himself because of the characteristic feature of the building: the serliane.
The seriliana with its concentric arcs and five oculi, placed between the lodge and the internal environment, is typical of Bramante’s style. The serliana was introduced in Rome by Bramante and used several times by Raffaello as well.
Despite its tumultuous history, the Nymphaeum is a magical and inspiring place to visit.
Note: The seriliana is to say a structure composed of an open, true arch flanked by two lateral rectangular openings, the latter of variable breadth.