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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in June 2009.

Porta S. Lorenzo (Book 1) (Day 2) and (Day 3) (Map A3) (Rione Monti)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 The gate
 S. Bibiana
 The Walls between Porta S. Lorenzo and Porta Maggiore

The Plate (No. 6)

Today very few Romans would associate Via Prenestina with Porta S. Lorenzo, because now Via Prenestina starts immediately outside Porta Maggiore, whereas Via Tiburtina begins at Porta S. Lorenzo, which is therefore best known as Porta Tiburtina, its old name. The reference to S. Lorenzo is due to the fact that the gate is not far from S. Lorenzo fuori le mura.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below which shows: 1) Porta S. Lorenzo; 2) S. Bibiana.


The view in May 2006

The gate is unchanged, but the level of the street is higher so that it cannot be used any longer. The area outside the gate was chosen for building houses for railwaymen (the central railway station is very close to the gate). Unfortunately a poor town planning allowed these apartment blocks to be built at a few yards from the walls; for this reason it is difficult to properly show the gate and the nearby walls. Its design dates back to Emperor Honorius.

The inner Gate

Inner gate

The inner side of Porta S. Lorenzo is not a gate, but a triumphal arch built by Augustus to celebrate the entrance into Rome of three aqueducts (Acqua Marcia, Tepula e Giulia): it was restored by Titus and Caracalla. The gate was also called Porta Taurina (Taurus=bull) after the bull's head on the arch (see the image used as background for this page).

Inscriptions on the inner gate

S. Bibiana

(left) S. Bibiana; (right) statue of the saint

Termini railway station is now between Porta S. Lorenzo and the small church of S. Bibiana (Vivien), which was built on the site where the young martyr was tied to a column and lashed to death; Gian Lorenzo Bernini had already a solid reputation as a sculptor when in 1625 Pope Urban VIII commissioned him the restoration of this church. As an architect Bernini did not fare that well in S. Bibiana, but the statue of the saint is the first of a series of masterpieces. According to the traditional iconography she is portrayed with the symbol of her martyrdom: the column to which she was tied.

Fresco by Agostino Ciampelli

In the second half of the XVIth century the Popes issued guidelines on the decoration of churches and in particular on the subjects of paintings: the objective was to emphasize the role played by the ancient martyrs to promote the Christian faith. These guidelines led to some rather gruesome results.
The subjects commissioned by Pope Urban VIII for S. Bibiana followed these guidelines, but the general mood was no longer that of the Counter-Reformation and the frescoes by the Florentine painter Agostino Ciampelli are an elegant and colourful illustration of XVIIth century Rome, rather than the depiction of dramatic events. Ciampelli framed the paintings with lots of decorative elements, including the coat of arms of the pope.

(left) Fresco by Pietro da Cortona; (right) fresco by Agostino Ciampelli

Ciampelli was assisted by Pietro da Cortona, a young painter who became one of the key artists of Roman Baroque with Bernini and Borromini. He worked on three frescoes where he showed his talent and also his interest in ancient buildings; in the upper part of the scene where the saint is tied to the column he painted a reconstruction of Colosseo.

The Walls between Porta S. Lorenzo and Porta Maggiore

View of the walls to the south of Porta S. Lorenzo

High towers rebuilt by Pope Nicholas V characterize this section of the walls, but there are coats of arms showing restorations and improvements made at a later period.

(left) Tower restored by the Senate of Rome; (right-above) coat of arms of Pope Clement XI and inscription explaining that the restoration was paid for by the City of Rome; (right-below-left to right)) coats of arms of Cardinal Carafa, Cardinal Farnese and Pope Sixtus V (the first is among the very few coats of arms of the Carafa which one can see in the streets of Rome, because at the death of Pope Paul IV Carafa many of them were destroyed)

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Chiesa di S. Bibbiana
Dalla santa matrona Olimpia fu eretta questa chiesa appresso il palazzo Liciniano, ove abitando la s. Titolare, aveva seppellite s. Dafrosa sua madre, e s. Demetria sua sorella martiri; e poi nell'an. 362 vi fu portato il suo corpo da Giovanni Prete, levato dal luogo detto Forum tuari. Da Simplicio Papa fu consagrata, e da Onorio III. riedificata insieme col monastero delle suore Domenicane, e fu detta ad ursum. pileatum. Da Urbano VIII. fu ultimamente rinnovata col disegno del Bernini, il quale scolpė l'ammirabile statua della Santa, il corpo della quale, insieme con quello della sua sorella, e di sua madre, sta custodito sotto l'altare maggiore, entro una preziosa urna di alabastro orientale. A piede della chiesa evvi la colonna, cui legata fu flagellata s. Bibbiana, e sotto la chiesa corrisponde il cimiterio di s. Anastasio Papa, nel quale furono seppelliti 3266. martiri, non comprese le donne e i fanciulli. Le pitture a fresco sul cornicione a destra sono di Agostino Ciampelli quelle a sinistra di Pietro da Cortona.

Next plate in Book 1: Porta Maggiore
Next step in Day 2 itinerary: Villa Altieri
Next step in Day 3 itinerary: Basilica di S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura
Next step in your tour of Rione Monti: Rovine del Tempio di Ercole Callaico