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Ignatian Rome: Palazzo Delfini

Location: Via dei Delfini, 16

This building stands on the site of the house of Antonio Frangipani, which was the third residence of Ignatius and his companions (October 1538 to February 1541).
An anonymous document of 1584 says that, when the present building was put up, such was the veneration of the owner Mario Delfini for Ignatius that he preserved the room where the holy man had lived. On the ground floor there are two small rooms dating back to the 14th or 15th century.
Father Simon Rodriguez said that people did not want to live in this haunted house, and that, as a matter of fact, during their first days there the companions heard strange sounds at night such as knocking at the doors and the breaking of plates and crockery.
At the end of November, 1538, it seems, while the first companions lived here, they presented themselves to Pope Paul III in fulfillment of their vow at Montmartre "so that His Holiness might make an assignment of them for the greater glory of God, in conformity with their intention to go about the world, and if they did not find the desired spiritual fruit in one place, to pass from one place to another, seeking the greater glory of God and help of souls" (Constitutions). Paul III accepted their offer, but for the time being he wanted them to remain in Rome and to go about preaching in the city.
The winter of 1538-1539 was extraordinarily cold. In addition, there was a food shortage in Rome and in the area roundabout. Poor persons died of cold and hunger in the streets. Living off alms themselves, the companions began bringing the poor to this house and sharing their food, hearth and straw bedding; the few beds were reserved for the very ill. In addition to material sustenance they gave their guests instruction in Christian doctrine. The number of poor persons assisted rose to 200, 300, and almost 400 a day; the total reached 3,000--in a city of 40,000 inhabitants. The charity of the companions made an impression on the townspeople. "Some leading persons not only gave alms to meet the expenses but also came themselves with lamp in hand at night to see the charity with which the poor were served" (Polanco).
In the spring of 1539 this house was the setting of the famous "Deliberations of the First Fathers" in which the group of companions considered whether they should become a religious order. In a first series of sessions, they decided to remain united as a body under religious obedience. They confirmed this decision at a Mass celebrated by Father Pierre Favre on April 15. In the second series, completed June 24, they defined some key points of the new foundation, and drew up the Rule or Formula which they were to submit for papal approval.
This house was also the scene of St. Francis Xavier's leavetaking of his dear friend, Ignatius. The two were among the closest of friends among the companions, but never saw each other after Xavier went off to the Indies to be the first provincial and founder of Jesuit missionary activity in the lands between India and Japan.