Update Jan 17, 2014. I just finished reading The lost symbol by Dawn Brown. Lovely book. Now it's difficult not to think to a connection between this building and the freemasonry. Could that be a hand of mysteries?
In one of the two long sides of Circo Massimo, the ancient chariot racing stadium, there's an old street called via dei Cerchi. I come here often to park my car, as it's the only place in the center where it's easy to find a spot. The name of this street comes from the corruption of the name of the stadium: originally called via del Circo Massimo, it bacame via del Cerchio (circle), and then via dei Cerchi. A curious hidden gem of Rome is located here.
Reach via dei Cerchi and go to towards the side which is near the Mouth of Truth (follow the direction of the cars). Before you reach the corner, you'll notice some old buildings on the right. Among them there is a bizarre building with a flat facade, lying to the structure as a mask, decorated as a cake, perforated and concluded in the top by a big hand with the index pointing to the sky. The same hand is replicated on the frame of one of the windows surrounded by baroque curls. This definitely a curious construction. And why that hand?
Today, in the shade of this stony facade built in the late 600, there are the Olivetani monks of Siena and the convent of Santa Anastasia, ancient church that you can find just behind the corner. But back in time, we have the Palatine, the hill with the palaces of the roman emperors, and the area of the hill that the Farnese family, in particular Alessandro, nephew of pope Paolo III, turned into vegetable gardens. In fact, we can see the lilium flower from the Farnese arms in the decorations.
The hand has another story: this is a plaster cast (the original has been lost) of a big marble hand with a raised finger, probably an ex voto, that was held in the church Santa Maria de Manu, demolished here in 1939. People used to call it the hand of Cicero, and the tradition wants that in the 500 it indicated the price of the wine: "one bajocco per fojetta" (bajocco = old currency, fojetta = half a liter).
The church Santa Maria de Manu held an image of the Virgin that was very venerated, and the legend says that it started to cry after it was scarred by some jewish people. Once the news became popular the Madonna became destination for religious pilgrimage, and a lot of people came here to ask for a grace. To avoid further damages, it was decided to build an oratory, where the Madonna dei Cerchi (as she was called) could have been venerated safely. The place hosted the congregation of Madonna dei Cerchi and Jesus Nazarene, which existed until the church itself existed here.
The building with Cicero's hand today is property of the Olivetani benedictine monks of Siena, and it is sided with few smaller ancient buildings of medieval aspect, that separate the street from the church of Santa Anastasia behind.