It is one of the few survivors of the more than 300 towers that defined the skyline of medieval Rome, although at the time it was embedded in the urban fabric and did not appear as strangely isolated as it does today. The tower stands at the edge of the archaeological complex of the Sacred Area of Largo di Torre Argentina, but it is not the tower after which the square is named: the real Torre Argentina is in fact now incorporated into the 16th-century, Gothic-German style building known as Casa del Burcardo and is no longer visible from the outside because it was reduced in height.
On the origin of its name there is no certainty: some link it to the memory of Antipope Anacletus II Pierleoni (1132-1138), the opponent of Pope Innocent II and nicknamed “Papetto” because of his short stature, and some claim it derives from the Papareschi family, who allegedly lived here in the 14th century. Later the tower passed first to the families of Boccamazzi and then to the Cesarini, who built a grand palace nearby, which was demolished in the early 20th century to unearth the temples of the Sacred Area. In 1941, the buildings leaning against the tower were also demolished, and during the restorations directed by Antonio Muñoz, at the time inspector general of Antiquities and Fine Arts, the two doors on the ground floor were closed and some of the windows were eliminated, trying to restore the tower to what was thought to be its original appearance.
Next to the tower, a small portico was built in medieval style, reusing some columns and capitals that were part of the courtyard of a house attached to the tower, demolished for the widening of Via delle Botteghe Oscure. The interior of the tower was divided into three floors; inside the first floor three coats of arms were walled in, including that of the Cesarini family and that of the Boccamazzi family, as well as architectural fragments from the church of San Nicola de' Calcarario, which had been built at Temple A of the Sacred Area and of which only parts of the apse and transept area remain today. Another coat of arms of the Boccamazzi family is walled up outside, near the entrance gate.
The tower is visible only from the outside
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