On Saturday we were making our way to Piazza Navona and stumbled upon a couple of interesting places at the corner of Via della Scrofa and Via dei Portoghese, which is so named because the Portugese national church is there. An old fashioned barber shop first caught our eyes.
And then we gazed above to the medieval tower known as the Torre della Scimmia, the Tower of the Monkey.
Georgina Mason in her Companion Guide to Rome gives this account of the legend connected with this tower.
"According to an old story, the owners once had a monkey which climbed to the top of the tower, carrying their baby in its arms. The anguished father returned home to find his neighbors in the street praying to the Virgin for the safety of the child. Uttering a short prayer himself, he called the animal with his customary whistle, and after carefully rewrapping the baby in its swaddling clothes, it climbed down and entered one of the windows. As a thank offering for this miraculous escape, the father raised a statue of the virgin on top of the tower and vowed that a lamp should be kept burning in front of it in perpetuity. Electricity has made this vow easier to keep."
Across the street, the doors to the church of San Antonio dei Portughesi (17th century) were open, so we went inside. We encountered a baroque interior with walls covered in many different kinds of marble. There were several chapels with interesting altarpieces and an 18th century guilt organ. It was a feast for the eyes!
A Portugese national church would not be complete