Funeral Ceremonies in Rome for Luis I, King of Spain (1707-1724)

FESTIVALS. ARCHITECTURE. Cañas Trujillo, Juan Gaspar de

Exequias hechas en Roma a la Magestad Catolica del Rey nuestro señor D. Luis Primero hallandose encargado en los negocios de la Embaxada el Eminentiss. y Reverendis. Señor Don Francisco de Acquaviva y Aragon, Cardenal Obispo de Sabina y Protector de los Reynos de España descibiolas de orden de Su Eminencia el Doctor D. Juan Gaspar de Cañas Truxillo

Rome: En la imprenta de Juan-Maria Salvioni, impresor del Vaticano, 1725


Large folio: 41 x 28 cm. xxxv pages. With 5 large folded leaves of plates.


Bound in contemporary vellum over boards, discreetly rebacked. The letterpress pages and the plates are printed on heavy paper. The text is very clean and bright and the plates are also in excellent condition with only minor blemishes as follows: just an occasional bit of extremely light foxing (almost entirely confined to the margins), a little light browning at the outer, blank edges of a few plates, and one plate with a mild discoloration where two sheets have been joined to make one image (a result of the paste used on the verso.)

Extremely rare publication (only two copies in North America: Yale, Newberry) documenting the funeral ceremonies held in honor of Luis I, King of Spain (1707-1724) in "La Real Yglesia de S. Tiago y S. Yldefonso de la Nacion Española", i.e. San Giacomo degli Spagnoli (now la Chiesa Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore) on Piazza Navona in Rome.

The large, folding plates, signed Antonio Canevari (1681-1750), with Filipp0 Vasconi (ca. 1687-1730) as engraver, capture the grandeur of the church and show in detail the opulent décor created for the occasion. The plates document details of the church as it stood in the 18thcentury, before it was drastically remodeled.

The first plate shows the church in architectural plan, with numbers marking various features (the altar, chapels, etc.) keyed to a legend inscribed on a scroll held aloft by an angel at the upper left corner of the print. The plan includes the large funerary structure erected in the center aisle for the obsequies for the deceased king.

The second plate shows the main (Eastern) façade of the church festooned with drapery and adorned with an enormous escutcheon with King Luis' arms surmounted by a crown There are also large placards with honorific inscriptions, and monumental sculptures. These include two skeletons, their heads draped, holding scythes and hourglasses; angels with trumpets and cornucopias, and prisoners of war (representing the "barbarous nations"). The third plate shows the other façade of the church (facing onto Piazza Navona) with ornamentation similar to that found on the primary façade.

The fourth and fifth plates show the opulent interior of the church, with the magnificent funerary monument, illuminated with hundreds of candles, at the center. The towering monument was surmounted by two figures of death (similar to those on the church façade) , and a painted portrait of the king, supported by winged figures. In the fifth plate, the scene is very lively, with soldiers at the doors holding back the crowd of spectators who seek entry to the church. In the foreground, a boy plays with his dog.

In 1879, when it was on the verge of collapse, the church was drastically remodeled by Luca Carimini, and the façade that faced onto Piazza Navona became the principal entrance. The apse and transept were demolished in the 1930s to make way for the Corso del Rinascimento.

The text:

In the text, the author, Juan Gaspar de Cañas Trujillo, administer of the Spanish Embassy in Rome, describes the death of the young king (who ruled for only seven and a half months before his untimely demise at the age of seventeen), news of the king's death arriving in Rome, and the multitude of ceremonies that took place, beginning with a mass in the Lateran, conducted by Pope Benedict XIII attended by 28 cardinals. 

Before describing the rites and ceremonies that took place in San Giacomo degli Spagnoli,the author gives a brief history and description of the church. This is followed by a description of the decorative program (and an analysis of the symbolism) employed for the funeral, both within the church and without. The description of the great funeral monument erected in the church alone occupies three pages of text. This is followed by a long account of the procession to the church and the rites performed within.

Rossetti 3703a; Toda, 882; not in Watanabe-O'Kelly & Simon