“Ciambella” in Italian means doughnut. The “doughnut” the name of the street refers to comes from the ancient roman ruin we can still admire nowadays, and which is the only part left standing of Emperor Agrippa’s baths. It coincides with half of the big round room, heart of the whole complex.
Until the VII century the round room was almost intact and it was commonly called “lo Rotulo”, “lo Tondo” or “lo Torrione” (all of them being Italian words suggesting a circular appearance): getting to the name “Ciambella” was then a very short step.
Even the arch (“Arco”, in Italian) overlooking the street belonged to the same baths, but it disappeared in 1621, when Gregorio XV ordered some city planning works in the area.
The Thermal baths built by Marco Vipsanio Agrippa, between 25 and 19 b.C., are the most ancient public baths in Rome. They used water coming from the Virgin Aqueduct, which also formed a small artificial lake called “stagnum Agrippae” which was used as a pool.
The system was arranged on two axis crossing in a big round room covered by a dome, around which all the areas sprawled.
The baths featured systems for providing hot air and water, and they were magnificiently garnished with frescos, statues and other artworks: here in fact was also situated Lisippo’s Apoxyomenos. When he died, in 12 b.C., Agrippa left the whole thermal complex to public and free usage to Roman citizens, whom for a long time preserved it as a precious good.
The baths were severely damaged by the fire of 80 A.D. and then restored by Tito and most importantly by Domiziano. Between 120 and 125 A.D. they were once again restored by Adriano, together with the Pantheon and all the surrounding area. More interventions were then made by Settimio Severo, Massenzio and in 345 A.D., at the time of Costanzo and Costante, Costantino’s sons.
Evidence is available that around the V century they were still in use, but then they were abandoned (probably around the VII century) and soon, as it often happens with other monuments, they were regularly ravaged to use materials for new buildings.
Under the left section of the “doughnut” there is a fine marble tabernacle of the Renaissance with a IXX century copy of “ Mary of the Rosary”, particularly venerated because in 1796 she miraculously moved her eyes for three weeks. The shrine is completed by a wooden canopy with notched edges, by a shelf with two lanterns on both sides and by a kneeling stair over which there is a gravestone. The shrine belonged to the Capparucci family, whom, every first Sunday of October, held a solemn celebration decorating it with lights and myrtle fronds, until they moved carrying the image with them. Some years later a carpenter commissioned the current copy to the painter Pietro Campofiorito: it represents Mary holding the Infant and, in her right hand, a rosary.