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Scapucci Palace – The legend of the monkey

There are places in Rome to which probably very few pay attention. These are streets, squares or buildings that seem trivial or irrelevant, but that actually have a lot to tell. Scapucci Palace is one of these places: an ancient building in the capital, which has become famous for a curious legend about a monkey.

The Palace is a building that stands in Via dei Portoghesi 18, near Piazza Navona. Attached to this palace there is the so called Tower of the Monkey (or Tower of the Scapucci, or of the Frangipane). Of medieval origin and perhaps owned by the Frangipane family, this tower then passed to the Scapucci family around the sixteenth century. It is characterized by a characteristic battlement dating back to the fifteenth century.

The Tower of the Monkey owes its particular name to a popular legend, immortalized by the American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne in his travel notes in Italy and in the more famous novel “The Marble Faun”. In his pages, Hawthorne tells that the tower was inhabited by a nobleman, who had an only son and a monkey, a pet. One day, however, the unthinkable happened: in a moment of playfulness, the animal took the child in his arms, went out the window and climbed to the top of the tower.

Immediately, panic broke out. The nobleman, in desperation, went out into the street, among the shouting crowd, and without taking his eyes off the animal, with his heart in his throat, he entrusted all his prayers to the Madonna.
Legend has it that the monkey meekly descended and returned the child to his crib.

The crowd gathered shouted the miracle and the nobleman from that day, as a testimony of grace received, wanted that on top of the tower burned perpetually a lamp.
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