Saturday, June 28, 2008

Retracing Merton’s steps: The Piazza Barbarina (more Roma Photos from Jim Forest)

Photos by Jim Forest - Piazza Barbarina and Bernini's Tritone Fountain, Roma
When 18-year-old Merton was in Rome in 1933 he stayed at a pensione at the intersection of Via Sistina and Via Tritone – the Piazza Barbarina. Jim guesses that the pensione that Merton stayed is the ochre one to the left in the photo above. It overlooks the Bernini “Tritone Fountain” that Merton mentioned in Seven Story Mountain.

In an unpublished early novel "Labyrinth," Merton writes:
“I found a place to live, a pension for Italians, people who worked in offices, not tourists. It took up a floor of a building on the corner of the Via Sistina and the Via Tritone. It was cheap and its windows caught all the sun. From my room I could look out on the Piazza Barberini where Triton blew his wreathed horn sending a thin stream of water high up into the warm air. On the other side of the Piazza, over some low buildings, cedars and cypresses lifted their head in the gardens of the Barberini palace. Outside the street door, on Via Sistina, both directions led uphill on one side to the obelisk in front of Santa Trinita dei Monti, on the other where the street came to the top of the Quirinal at Piazza Quattro Fontane. If I walked up there, I would look down another hill, and up another rise over toward the two towers of Santa Maria Maggiore.”

You can see more of Jim’s photos of the Piazza Barbarina here. To go to the next photo, just click on the right-hand-most thumbnail at the side. In the Piazza Barberini series, there are 11 or 12 images in all.

The main focus of Jim’s Pilgrimage to Rome is on the ancient churches of Rome, the ones Merton searched for so avidly during his stay in 1933, when he notes he first crossed the border from tourist to pilgrim. The complete set of photos is here.
Thank you again, Jim and Nancy, for so generously sharing your journey and your photos! They add a wonderful dimension to louie, louie especially for those who use the site to research Merton.


  1. Yes wonderful photos - wish I could visit - there's a town named Magisano in the south which is where my last name comes from.

    How did you find a quote from his unpublished book?


  2. Hello Max the Spoon ... the quote from the unpublished "Labyrinth" comes from Jim Forest. He's an insider and has access to a lot of Merton material, published and not.

    However, if you go here:

    You might be able to figure out how to read it yourself.


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.