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January 15, 2005 additions

In plate 15: Porta di S. Spirito
Towards Ospedale di S. Spirito

Towards S. Spirito

The Hospital of S. Spirito in Sassia was enlarged by several popes whose initiatives are celebrated by inscriptions and coats of arms. Alexander VII is celebrated by a very lengthy inscription above one of the lateral entrances to the hospital. The etching by Giovanni Battista Falda shows the site a few years after the gate was built. Next to the gate there is a 1655 madonnella: under the glass there are some silver hearts, ex-voto offered in pursuance of a vow.

In plate 28: Campo de' Fiori
The Enlargement of Campo dei Fiori

Coat of arms of Alexander VI

In 1473, in order to facilitate the orderly flow of pilgrims between the two sides of the Tiber in the forthcoming 1475 Jubilee, Pope Sixtus V built on the ruins of an ancient bridge, Ponte Sisto. The bridge increased the importance and the real estate value of Campo dei Fiori and in 1483 the pope promoted the cleaning and redesign of the area. An inscription, now at the beginning of Via dei Balestrari (crossbow makers), celebrates the initiative.
A few years later Alexander VI enlarged Via del Pellegrino (Pilgrim's street also known as Via Florea) which linked Campo dei Fiori with Ponte S. Angelo. A coat of arms of the pope at the corner with Piazza della Cancelleria celebrates the enlargement. It was an early case of conflict of interest, because the pope's mistress, Vannozza Cattanei, lived in Via del Pellegrino.

In Plate 28 ii: Piazza di Pescheria
Case dei Fabi

Casa dei Fabi

The northern side of the street leading from Piazza di Pescheria to Piazza Giudia is flanked by Renaissance houses. A recent restoration has given emphasis to the original architectural design of two buildings belonging to the Fabi family, who pretended to descend from the Gens Fabia a family who played a major role in Ancient Rome during the Republic. The buildings were embellished by a decorated loggia, closed at a later stage to obtain some more rooms.

In plate 40: Piazza di Spagna
Vasi's Second Plate

The Column

The "target" of the 10 books published by Vasi between 1746 and 1761was not the travelling foreigner, but rather the faithful pilgrim: this explains why in his view of Piazza di Spagna he chose to show Palazzo di Propaganda Fide, one of the most important Roman Catholic institutions, rather than the Spanish Steps. Mariano Vasi, who continued to sell his father's books and etchings, realized that his customers were mainly foreign travellers, in some cases even despisers of the Roman religious institutions. The original view of Piazza di Spagna was replaced by Scalinata (steps) in Piazza di Spagna an etching falsely attributed to Giuseppe Vasi, because the obelisk at the top of the steps was erected in 1789, while Vasi passed away in 1782. January 15, 2005

In plate 41: Basilica di S. Pietro in Vaticano
Porta S. Pellegrino

Porta S. Pellegrino

The Vatican was not included in the walls of Ancient Rome: in 846 a Saracen raid caused enormous damage to the basilica and the adjoining buildings. Pope Leo IV in 849-52 erected a fortified wall around the basilica and the narrow strip of land between it and Castel Sant'Angelo. It is uncertain whether there were any gates in these walls when they were initially built. Anyhow at one point the popes decided to open a gate allowing access to the Vatican from the north through Via Trionfale. The gate was mainly used by pilgrims and the street leading to the gate became known as Via del Pellegrino and eventually the gate itself was named after a church dedicated to the pilgrims.
The gate was also known as Porta Viridaria, after the viridarium the papal garden which once was in the site now occupied by Palazzo Apostolico.
The gate was entirely rebuilt by Pope Alexander VI in 1492 (he also rebuilt Porta Settimiana). With the enlargement of the Vatican walls in the XVIth century, Porta S. Pellegrino lost its role and it was replaced by Porta Angelica; in the next century it was hidden by Bernini's Colonnade of Piazza S. Pietro.
The image above shows: a) a view of the outer gate taken from a XIXth century print (which also shows part of Bernini's Colonnade); b) the inner gate as it is today; c) the coat of arms of Alexander VI.
Currently the gate is open only on special occasions.

SS. Martino e Sebastiano degli Svizzeri

SS. Martino e Sebastiano

SS. Martino e Sebastiano degli Svizzeri was built by Pope Pius V in 1568 to serve as chapel for the Swiss Guards, whose barracks were located next to Porta S. Pellegrino: the upper part of the church can be seen from Piazza S. Pietro immediately below Palazzo Apostolico.

In plate 108: S. Simeone Profeta
The southern side of Via di Tordinona was spared by the quaying of the Tiber. Its old and decaying buildings were occupied by squatters in the 1970s and only very recently municipal authorities were able to recover and restore these houses, some of which still retain their Renaissance features and in particular the positioning of the windows in order to provide space for mural paintings. The squatters made use of this space and one of their mural paintings which portrayed a flying donkey was spared.

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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.