The Lady who stole gold from the Pope’ Roman Badass of the week : Ep. 3

The Lady who stole gold from the Pope.
Welcome to the 3rd episode of Roman Badass of the week!
Each time, we talk about our favorite stories from Rome, focusing on the most audacious and interesting individuals who graced us with their presence in the Eternal City.
Every week on Friday, we post about a Roman Badass of our choice, that changed history.


Every year, on the 7th January, a Lady rushes out from Villa Pamphili with all the gold stolen from the Pope. She takes a seat in a carriage drawn by 4 black horses spitting fire and led by a headless coachman. They run over Sixtus Bridge to then disappear in the waters of the Tiber, where Devils are waiting to drag them to hell. During the ride, she is laughing in a terrifying way . Her laugh is nothing more, than her contempt for the population of Rome, which did not like her unrestrained ambition.
Who is the main character of this legend?

The lady who stole gold from the Pope


Olimpia Madalchini… the Papessa (female Pope), Once the Pope died in 1655, she took from under his bed, two cases full of gold and left. To all the ones asking her to contribute at the cost of Pope’s funeral, she answered “How can a poor widow contribute?”
Her nickname is due to the fact, that all the ones willing to speak to the Pope, had first to pass for Donna Olimpia. The worst rumors were, that she was the lover of her brother-in-law the Pope Giovan Battista Pamphilj… hence her name.
Due to her considerable asset, strong and powerful figure, she was able to promote and help the election of her brother-in-law as Pope in 1644.
Born 1592 in Viterbo, at the age of 16 she gets married with a rich old man from the middle-class. He died 3 years later, leaving her extremely wealthy. At 21, she got married to Pamphilo Pamphilj , not a very rich man but belonging to the Roman nobility. The marriage was a win-win. Olimpia became a member of one of the most important  families of Rome. Pamphilo took as wife a young rich woman, and in doing so he refilled the empty family coffers.
Olimpia was greedy for wealth and power, she was always able to impose her will. She had leverage over the Pope, who was grateful to her for making him conquer the Siege of Saint Peter.
Her fortune ended with the death of her brother-in-law the Pope Innocence X in 1665. She left Rome and went to San Martino al Cimino, where she died of plague in 1658 at 66.
During the 17th century, women only had a purpose:  to become good wives and mothers.
Donna Olimpia went out of the box. She became a “feminist of the 17th century”, though maybe not someone to look up to…
Marble bust by Alessandro Algardi, currently at the Ermitage in Saint Petersburg, Russia
Marble bust by Alessandro Algardi, currently at the Ermitage in Saint Petersburg, Russia
Go check Episode 1 and Episode 2 out!

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