Porta del Popolo

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Coordinates: 41°54′41.63″N12°28′33.54″E / 41.9115639°N 12.4759833°E / 41.9115639; 12.4759833

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Porta del Popolo (Rome): inner facade. On the right, the church of Santa Maria del Popolo Bernini-Porta del Popolo-Inner face-Rome-1.jpg
Porta del Popolo (Rome): inner façade. On the right, the church of Santa Maria del Popolo
Porta del Popolo, outer facade Porta del Popolo Octavian.JPG
Porta del Popolo, outer façade

Porta del Popolo is a gate of the Aurelian Walls in Rome (Italy). The current Porta del Popolo was built by Pope Sixtus IV for the Jubilee Year 1475 on the site of an ancient Roman gate which, at that time, was partially buried.

Aurelian Walls Roman city walls

The Aurelian Walls are a line of city walls built between 271 AD and 275 AD in Rome, Italy, during the reign of the Roman Emperors Aurelian and Probus. They superseded the earlier Servian Wall built during the 4th century BC.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Italian Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. The country covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

History

The previous name was Porta Flaminia, because the consular Via Flaminia passed, as it passes even now, through it (in ancient times, Via Flaminia started at the Porta Fontinalis, close to the current Vittoriano). In the 10th century the gate was named Porta San Valentino, due to the basilica and the catacomb with the same name, rising at the beginning of Viale Pilsudski.

Via Flaminia Ancient Roman Roman road

The Via Flaminia was an ancient Roman road leading from Rome over the Apennine Mountains to Ariminum (Rimini) on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, and due to the ruggedness of the mountains was the major option the Romans had for travel between Etruria, Latium, Campania, and the Po Valley. Today the same route, still called by the same name for much of its distance, is paralleled or overlaid by Strada Statale (SS) 3, also called Strada Regionale (SR) 3 in Lazio and Umbria, and Strada Provinciale (SP) 3 in Marche. It leaves Rome, goes up the Val Tevere and into the mountains at Castello delle Formiche, ascends to Gualdo Tadino, continuing over the divide at Scheggia Pass, 575 m (1,886 ft) to Cagli. From there it descends the eastern slope waterways between the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and the Umbrian Apennines to Fano on the coast and goes north, parallel to Highway A1 to Rimini.

Porta Fontinalis building in Rome, Italy

The Porta Fontinalis was a gate in the Servian Wall in ancient Rome. It was located on the northern slope of the Capitoline Hill, probably the northeast shoulder over the Clivus Argentarius. The Via Salaria exited through it, as did the Via Flaminia originally, providing a direct link with Picene and Gallic territory. After the Aurelian Walls were constructed toward the end of the 3rd century AD, the section of the Via Flaminia that ran between the Porta Fontinalis and the new Porta Flaminia was called the Via Lata ("Broadway").

Altare della Patria monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy

The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, also known as the Vittoriano, Il Vittoriano, or Altare della Patria, is a monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy, located in Rome, Italy. It occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill. It's currently managed by the Polo Museale del Lazio, the Italian Ministry of Defense and the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento Italiano.

The origin of the present name of the gate, as well as of the piazza that it overlooks, is not clear: it has been supposed that it could derive from the many poplars (Latin: populus) covering the area, but it is more likely that the toponym is connected with the origins of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo (Saint Mary of the People), erected in 1099 by Pope Paschal II thanks to a more or less voluntary subscription of the Roman people.

Piazza del Popolo square in Rome, Italy

Piazza del Popolo is a large urban square in Rome. The name in modern Italian literally means "People's Square", but historically it derives from the poplars after which the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in the northeast corner of the piazza, takes its name.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Santa Maria del Popolo church in Rome, Italy

The Parish Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo is a titular church and a minor basilica in Rome run by the Augustinian order. It stands on the north side of Piazza del Popolo, one of the most famous squares in the city. The church is hemmed in between the Pincian Hill and Porta del Popolo, one of the gates in the Aurelian Wall as well as the starting point of Via Flaminia, the most important route from the north. Its location made the basilica the first church for the majority of travellers entering the city. The church contains works by several famous artists, such as Raphael, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Caravaggio, Alessandro Algardi, Pinturicchio, Andrea Bregno, Guillaume de Marcillat and Donato Bramante.

Considering the importance of the Via Flaminia, Porta del Popolo had, since the beginning of its existence, a prevalent role of sorting of the urban traffic rather than a defensive use. This brought to a never confirmed conjecture that the gate was formerly built with two archways (as well as two cylindrical side towers) and that only during the Middle Ages, as a consequence of the decrease of traffic due to the demographic fall, it was reduced into a single archway. At the age of Sixtus IV, the gate was half-buried and victim of a centuries-old negligence, damaged by time and medieval sieges; a shallow restoration was limited to a partial reinforcement of the structure.

The gate rises still today about a metre and half above the ancient ground level. The debris carried by the river during its desultory floods and the slow but continuous flaking of the Pincian Hill had lifted the surrounding ground, so that the elevation of the whole gate could no longer be procrastinated. This need had already been felt during the restoration carried out in the 5th century by emperor Honorius, but the intervention was not carried out.

Tiber river in Italy

The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flowing 406 kilometres (252 mi) through Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, where it is joined by the river Aniene, to the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Ostia and Fiumicino. It drains a basin estimated at 17,375 square kilometres (6,709 sq mi). The river has achieved lasting fame as the main watercourse of the city of Rome, founded on its eastern banks.

Pincian Hill hill in Rome, Italy

The Pincian Hill is a hill in the northeast quadrant of the historical center of Rome. The hill lies to the north of the Quirinal, overlooking the Campus Martius. It was outside the original boundaries of the ancient city of Rome, and was not one of the Seven hills of Rome, but it lies within the wall built by Roman Emperor Aurelian between 270 and 273.

Honorius (emperor) Roman emperor (395-423)

Honorius was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of Arcadius, who was the Eastern Emperor from 395 until his death in 408. During his reign, Rome was sacked for the first time in almost 800 years.

The present aspect is the result of a rebuilding carried out in the 16th century, when the gate had again gained a great importance for the urban traffic coming from north. The outer façade was commissioned by Pope Pius IV to Michelangelo, who in turn assigned the task to Nanni di Baccio Bigio: he erected the gate between 1562 and 1565, taking inspiration from the Arch of Titus. The four columns of the façade come from the former St. Peter's Basilica and they frame the single, great archway, overlooked by the stone commemorating the restoration and by the papal coat of arms sustained by two cornucopias; the former circular towers were replaced with two powerful square watchtowers and the whole building was garnished with elegant battlements. In 1638, two statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, sculpted by Francesco Mochi, were inserted between the two pairs of columns: the statues had been rejected by the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls and given back to the sculptor without payment.

Pope Pius IV Pope from 1559 to 1565

Pope Pius IV, born Giovanni Angelo Medici, was Pope from 25 December 1559 to his death in 1565.

Michelangelo Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, known best as simply Michelangelo, was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance born in the Republic of Florence, who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered by many the greatest artist of his lifetime, and by some the greatest artist of all time, his artistic versatility was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his rival, the fellow Florentine and client of the Medici, Leonardo da Vinci.

Nanni di Baccio Bigio, a pseudonym of Giovanni Lippi, was an Italian architect of the 16th century.

The inscription on the central stone, remembering the restoration carried out by Pius IV, says:

PIVS IIII PONT MAX
PORTAM IN HANC AMPLI
TVDINEM EXTVLIT
STRAVIT ANNO III

The inner façade was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Pope Alexander VII and it was released on the occasion of the arrival in Rome of the abdicant queen Christina of Sweden, on December 23, 1655: the occurrence is commemorated by the inscription carved on the attic of the inner façade together with the coats of arm of the Pope's family (the six-pieces mount under the eight-rays star, the emblem of the House of Chigi.

FELICI FAVSTOQ(ue) INGRESSVI
ANNO DOM MDCLV

The positioning of the inscription - on the inner façade instead of the outer one, where it would have been visible while accessing the town - and the quite short text itself, are nonetheless singular; Cesare D'Onofrio deduces that probably the Pope would hold off the intrusiveness and the lively personality of the newly converted former queen, together with all the relevant diplomatic involvements. The visit was nonetheless a memorable event for Roman people, both for the profusion of pomp and splendor and for the annoyance of merchants and peddlers, which were forced to suspend for some days their activities, in order to allow the cleaning and to maintain the decency all along the itinerary of the cortège from Porta del Popolo to St. Peter's Basilica. [1]

Other spectacular cortèges had already passed through the gate: the most impressive was the one of the French army of Charles VIII, which on December 31, 1494 paraded for six hours, giving am uncommon demonstration of military power; but also che processions of the cardinals, gathering into consistory with the Pope in the lead, aroused the enthusiastic and respectful admiration of the people.

Due to the increase of the urban traffic, in 1887 the two lateral archways were opened, after the demolition, in 1879, of the towers flanking the gate; the works costed 300.000 lire). On that occasion, some remains of the ancient structure of the age of Aurelian and of the cylindric towers were discovered: these proved to be very important for the historic recreation of the gate. The works were commemorated with two stones on the outer façade, to the sides of the façade of Pius IV; the inscription on the left is about the first intervention:

ANNO MDCCCLXXIX
RESTITVTAE LIBERTATIS X
TVRRIBVS VTRINQVE DELETIS
FRONS PRODVCTA INSTAVRATA

The one on the right is about the second intervention:

S P Q R
VRBE ITALIAE VINDICATA
INCOLIS FELICITER AVCTIS
GEMINOS FORNICES CONDIDIT

Close to the gate, one of the "duty stones" placed in 175 AD was discovered. Similar stones were discovered in different times nearby other important city gates (the Porta Salaria and the Porta Asinaria); they marked a kind of administrative border, where the "customs offices" rose. These offices formerly collected the duties on the incoming and outcoming goods, but during the Middle Ages were also assigned to the collection of the toll for the transit through the gates, some of which belonged to rich lairds or contractors. The first statements of this institution, that was in effect at least until the beginning of the 15th century, [2] date back to the 5th century. In the 9th century (when the Popes, clashing with the Municipality of Rome, held the administrative control on the duties of almost all the gates), Pope Sergius II granted the proceeds of the toll of the Porta Flaminia to the cloister of San Silvestro in Capite.

Notes

Etching by Giuseppe Vasi, showing the side towers destroyed in 1879 Roma.Porta del Popolo incisione.jpg
Etching by Giuseppe Vasi, showing the side towers destroyed in 1879
  1. The diarist Giacinto Gigli wrote: ”On the 21 day a Ban was published, that the following day all the shops should have been kept closed, and nothing should not be sold, …, and the streets through which the Queen, from Porta del Popolo to St. Peter, should be ornamented, but then in the evening the feast was intimated, and in the streets the notice ran, that the ride had been deferred to the next day.”
  2. In the period 1467-68 the price for the tender of the Porta del Popolo had been established in florins 39, bol. 3, den. 6 for sextaria (=biannual payment).

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