Palazzo Belloni, also known as the Cantelli House, is located at 13 de' Gombruti Street on the corner of Barberia Street. The apparent plainness of the building’s external appearance contrasts greatly with its internal opulence and especially with the majestic staircase leading up to the main floor, built by Giuseppe Antonio Torri and later decorated by statues and frescoes, including those made by Giovanni Gioseffo dal Sole, Giovanni Girolamo Bonesi, Giovanni Antonio Burrini and Giacinto Garofalini, on the occasion of a stay in Bologna by Giacomo III Stuart, a claimant to the throne of England.
THE BELLONI’S DYNASTY The palazzo was built at the behest of Giovanni Angelo Belloni, the third son of the wealthy mercantile Belloni family from Codogno, who moved from Lombardy to Bologna inevitably changing the economic life of the city. In just a few years after settling in the city, around 1677, the social and economic ascent of the merchant and banker from Codogno earned him the nickname the “great rich man”. His commercial fortune was sustained by many other initiatives that included not only the banking practice of “exchange”, investments in the production and sale of silk, but above all the monopolistic sale of tobacco, an activity that Giovanni Angelo began in 1690 and which led to enormous earnings for the Lombard entrepreneur. Coinciding with these business accomplishments, the “great rich man” Giovanni Angelo initiated a policy of land and real estate investments, purchasing terrain and property surrounding the city, thus consolidating the personal prestige of the family in comparison with the local city authorities. This precise context led to the inevitable need for the entrepreneur to acquire a residence representative of his elevated social status and the subsequent purchase of a vast area of buildings in the city and more specifically of a city block located in the heart of the urban area on ‘de Gombruti Street, between Barberia Street and Tintinaga Lane (now Mario Finzi Street).
PALAZZO BELLONI AND THE VISITS BY THE ROYAL STUARTS The fortune and the historical importance of Palazzo Belloni is due, in addition to the obvious beauty of the building, to the innumerable visits made by Giacomo III Stuart between 1717 and 1726, leading to the Palazzo’s fame to spread well beyond the confines of Bologna. The King’s first stay, in particular, dates back to March 13th, 1717, when he stayed for two nights. At that time the royal apartment was made up of a hall and four rooms decorated with red velvet, paintings and rich damasks clad in gold. It was here that Giacomo III received a visit by the Papal Legate and the Papal Vice-Legate, the Archbishop of Bologna, as well as Don Carlo Albani (Pope Clemente XI’s grandson). In memory of King Giacomo’s first stay at the Palazzo, Giovanni Angelo Belloni had an imposing commemorative marble plaque placed right in the middle of the staircase. This plaque hangs over the sandstone statue of Hercules and Orpheus made by the Ferrarese sculptor Andrea Ferreri, and bears the following incision in Latin: JACOBO. III. MAGNAE BRITANNIAE REGI FIDEI VERE DEFENSORI QVOD RELIGIONIS ET JUSTITIAE CAUSA PROFUGUS A CLEMENTE. XI. P. M.ECCLESIASTICAE DITIONIS TERRIS MUNIFICENTISSIME EXCEPTUS ANN. AE. CHR. MDCCXVII. AB EIUS ADVENTU PRID. ID. AD IDUS MART. PRAESENTIA ET MAJESTATE SUA HAS AEDES MAGNUS HOSPES IMPLEVERIT JOANNES ANGELUS BELLONUS D. D. D. FACILEMQUE AC FAUSTUM AD AVITA REGNA REDITUM PRECATUR
Giacomo III returned to Bologna for a three-week stay from October 15th to November 9th, 1718, waiting for his future wife, Princess Clementina Sobieska, who had however been arrested in the meantime on orders of the Sacred Roman Emperor. In May of 1719 he returned to Bologna and it is supposed that it was precisely at Palazzo Belloni where his wedding with Clementina was held. In October of 1722 Giacomo and Clementina returned to Bologna together to celebrate the Saint Petronian holiday and they once again stayed at Palazzo Belloni on this occasion.
Giacomo III’s stays, however brief and fleeting, were important developments both for the city of Bologna as well as for the Belloni banking family, which after being randomly selected in 1717 to host a prince on a short stopover on his way to Pesaro, became forever tied, from that moment forth, to the happenings of the British royals even becoming the bankers for the Royal British family during the entire XVIIIth century.