All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in July 2010.
Porta Angelica (Book 1) (Map D1) (Day 8) (View C2) (Rione Borgo)
The etchings by Giuseppe Vasi were aimed at accurately depicting the monuments of ancient and modern Rome; in this plate however, probably because the design of Porta Angelica was not regarded as being very interesting, Vasi focussed on the light effects of the sunset behind Casino di Belvedere. In the vision of Pope
Pius IV who opened the gate in the new walls surrounding the Vatican, Porta Angelica should have become a primary gate by being an alternative to Porta del Popolo as access to Rome for travellers coming from the north. Therefore he opened Strada Angelica, a new road going from the gate to Ponte Milvio; Vasi's view was published in 1747 and it shows that the pope's project was not successful: the two small side entrances were walled up, the bridge over the moat had a reduced size and the access of carriages was blocked by a small column.
The development of Prati, a new quarter north of the Vatican, led in 1888 to the decision of filling the moat along the walls and of pulling down Porta Angelica; today most of the traffic coming from the western suburbs of Rome is channelled along the walls and the site could not be more different from the peaceful atmosphere of Vasi's plate.
The coat of arms on the corner of the walls belongs to Pope Pius XI and it was placed there in the 1930s.
The statues portraying two angels, the coat of arms and the inscription which decorated Porta Angelica were rearranged
along the busy road leading to the Vatican Museums. Pope Pius IV was born Giovanni Angelo de' Medici; he gave his papal name to Porta Pia and his personal name to Porta Angelica (he also commissioned the redesign of Porta del Popolo); the pope stressed the association of the gate with the angels by placing an inscription with a sentence taken from Psalm 91: Angelis suis mandavit de te ut custodiant te in omnibus viis tuis (He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways).
Fornice is an arched opening in a wall which Pope Pius IV made in the old medieval walls which protected Borgo; he did so because Porta S. Pellegrino, the existing gate, was not in a straight line with Porta Angelica. The inscription celebrates the opening of Strada Angelica; the upper coat of arms belongs to Pope Urban VIII who covered the first section of Passetto, the secret passage inside the old walls. At the time of its opening the fornice directly led to Piazza S. Pietro, as Bernini's colonnade was built a century later.
In the last book of etchings covering the monuments of ancient and modern Rome Giuseppe Vasi dedicated a view to the imposing niche of Casino del Belvedere, while in this plate he showed the older part of the building.
In the late XVIIIth century Pope Pius VI rearranged the old casino in order to house the papal collections of ancient sculptures there; the decoration of the rooms was entirely renovated, but the original references to Pope Innocent VIII were not erased, although we now see them inside later frames.
Palafrenieri is just a pompous word for grooms, palafreno meaning in Dante's Italian a horse for parades. S. Anna dei Palafrenieri was built in 1565-73, most likely by Giacinto Barocci, son of Jacopo Barocci il Vignola, but it was given a baroque flavor by Alessandro Specchi who added the portal, the balustrade and the bell towers at the beginning of the XVIIIth century. The church is now inside Vatican City, but access to it is usually allowed without formalities.
The Walls between Porta Angelica and Porta Castello
The perimeter of the walls was modified after 1929, when the territory of Vatican City State was agreed by Italy and the Holy See. In order to reflect the new border
a wall was built between the site of former Porta Angelica and Fornice di Via di Porta Angelica; the section of the walls leading to Porta Castello was pulled down.
Next plate in Book 1: Porta Castello
Next step in Day 8 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Maria delle Grazie