Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta
The piazza was designed by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the famous copper engraver, in 1765.
Military trophies, obelisks, heraldic symbols, cypresses and the coat of arms of the Order of Malta form a unique ensemble. Through the keyhole of the gate to the villa of the Priory of the Order of Malta, one is supposed to be able to look into paradise.
The size and the layout of the square recall the Armilustrium, the festival in honor of Mars in October, when the Roman army was purified before quartering for the winter.
The prior of the order Giovanni Battista Rezzonico, commissioned Piranesi to build the church of Santa Maria del Priorato, to design the garden and the piazza. This is at the same time the only construction by Piranesi, since many of his designs were considered impractical. His design for the renovation of the apse of San Giovanni in Laterano was not realized.
The entire complex dates back to a 10th century Benedictine monastery. The original church building was dedicated to St. Basil.
The villa, church and gardens can be visited only with special permission, as they are treated as exterritorial territory of the sovereign Order of Malta.
Giovanni Battista Piranesi was buried in the present church of Santa Maria del Priorato.