Pope Innocent XII

Sea Customs House at Ripa Grande

Bronze, 95.3 mm Ø, 300.4 g
By Peter Paul Borner, 1695.
Obverse:  Bust of Innocent XII facing left, wearing tiara and cope decorated with a scene of Christ blessing a group of poor. Around, INNOCENTIVS · XII · PONT · M · A · IIII (Innocent XII, Supreme Pontiff, In His Fourth Year). Under the bust, PP · BORNER F .
Reverse:  View of the new customs house at Ripa Grande, with a road in front traveled by numerous people, including men pulling a cart and a horse-drawn wagon, and gardens in the foreground to the right. To the left, a staircase, and beyond that the river Tiber with ships, including one docked. Around, EGENORVM · SVBSIDIO · ET · PVBLICO · MERCIVM · COMMODO (for the relief of the poor and to provide goods for the public).

This medal illustrates the new sea customs house built at the port of Ripa Grande on the Tiber Rive, designed by the architect Mattia de' Rossi. Smaller boats which could traverse the Tiber would dock here to bring supplies to Rome, and duties would be paid on the goods that they brought. A portion of this revenue went to the neighboring Ospizio di San Michele, which housed orphans and the marginalized. A similar view of the customs house can be seen in an engraving by Alessandro Specchi from 1699:

The Ospizio di San Michele was originally a small building constructed during the reign of Innocent XI and commissioned by his nephew Monsignor Carlo Tommaso Odescalchi. Innocent XII would greatly expand the complex, and further additions were made later during the eighteenth century. The portion of the medal's reverse inscription indicating "for the relief of the poor" refers to the functions of this building and the funding it received from the customs duties collected.

During his papacy (1691-1700), Innocent XII would make moral reforms to the Church, notably forbidding the practice of nepotism. He had a great love for the poor and underprivileged, which he called "my grandchildren", and aid for them was a major concern of his. He would also regularly receive delegations of the people who would express their needs. The decoration on the cope the pontiff is wearing on the medal's obverse, showing Christ blessing a group of the poor, further reinforces this interest.

Published:

Illustrated in Calveri 1999, no. 76 (Francesco Calveri collection).

Provenance:

Morton & Eden 93, 27 June 2018, lot 135.

Numismatica Ars Classica 53, 7 November 2009, lot 682.

References:

Calveri 1999, no. 76

Miselli 2001, no. 317

Alteri 2004, p. 183, fig. 19