All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in January 2010.
Porta S. Pancrazio (Book 1) (Day 6) (Map D3) (Rione Trastevere)
When Rome was founded on the Palatine the opposite bank of the River Tiber was controlled by the Etruscans; it was only during the early Republican period that the Romans were able to expand their city to Trastevere (Lat. Transtiberim, across the Tiber). They fortified it with walls which started along the river and reached the top of the Janiculum, a long hill behind the new regio, the name they gave to the quarters of the city. The western gate of the walls became known as Porta Aurelia, because it was the starting point of Via Aurelia, the road linking Rome with the coast of the northern Tyrrhenian Sea and from there with France. In the XVIIth century, during the pontificate of Pope Urban VIII, Porta Aurelia was replaced by Porta S. Pancrazio, a new gate named after the nearby Basilica di S. Pancrazio. It was protected by two massive bastions.
Porta S. Pancrazio and the new walls surrounding Trastevere were built by Pope Urban VIII in just two years (1642-44), because he feared an imminent attack on the city by the Farnese and their allies; as a matter of fact this threat did not materialize. When eventually in 1849 a foreign army attempted to enter Rome through this gate, it was not that of an enemy of the pope, but the French troops sent by President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte to restore Pope Pius IX at the head of the Papal State.
The new gate was designed by Virginio Vespignani (also the architect of the external side of Porta Pia); it lacks the elegance of the previous building; only the coats of arms of the popes (Pius IX and Urban VIII) follow XVIIth century patterns (see the coat of arms of Pope Innocent X by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in Piazza Navona).
Giuseppe Garibaldi is the most popular Italian national hero; he won the admiration of the Italian and international public opinion by his 1860 conquest of Sicily and southern Italy at the head of a thousand volunteers and also because he refused to be involved in petty politics. There is not a major Italian town without a monument to him; in Rome the area near Porta S. Pancrazio was thought to be the most appropriate location for a monument because Garibaldi played a major role in the 1849 defence of Rome.
The monument was built at the centre of a large terrace which commands an excellent view over Rome; it corresponds to the point from which Giuseppe Vasi designed his Grand View of Rome; the bronze group in the front of the monument portrays an episode of the 1849 defence of Rome: Luciano Manara at the head of a regiment of Bersaglieri attacking the enemy at Villa Corsini.
The whole Janiculum (which is not one of the historical seven hills of Rome) retains memories of the fierce fight which preceded the entrance of the French troops. Busts of officers and soldiers who fought with Garibaldi were placed along the alleys leading to the monument (the bust shown in the image used as background for this page portrays Luciano Manara).
Learn more about these events by reading excerpts from George Macaulay Trevelyan's "Garibaldi's Defence of the Roman Republic".
You can see some more pines of the Janiculum in The Pines of Rome.
The casino of Villa Spada is located near the fountain
of Acqua Paola; when the French troops made their way inside the city through a breach in the walls, the casino was the site of the last resistance by the Bersaglieri of Luciano Manara who was mortally wounded.
Walls between Porta S.
Pancrazio and Porta
The walk along the walls towards Porta Cavalleggeri offers fine views over the Vatican.
This section of the walls retains at least ten small coats of arms of Pope Urban VIII and probably there were more of them when the walls were built. They are all different from one another and they constitute a sort of catalogue of the different patterns which were used at the time.
A small monument celebrates a very obscure event; in 1848 one of the most cherished relics kept in S. Pietro, a fragment of the head of St. Andrew, was stolen; it was found a few months later outside the walls near Porta S. Pancrazio. Pope Pius IX built a monument which is almost identical to that built by Pope Pius II near Ponte Milvio.
In many parts of Rome the historical walls are surrounded by modern blocks of flats; luckily town planners have forbidden building on the former farms located outside this section of the walls; the rule has known some exceptions, but overall it has been complied with.
The last section of the walls has a large coat of arms of Pope Pius V who completed the walls around the Vatican.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 1: Porta Settimiana
Next step in Day 6 itinerary: Casino e Villa Corsini