All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in January 2010.
Ponte Quattro Capi (Book 5) (Map C3) (Day 5) (View C9) (Rione Ripa)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Ponte Quattro Capi or Fabricio
The Plate (No. 93)
Gaspar Van Wittel (1653-1736) was a Dutch landscape painter who spent most of his life in Rome; his vedute, large-scale highly detailed paintings, influenced Giuseppe Vasi; Van Wittel (whose son Luigi Vanvitelli became an important architect) painted several vedute del Tevere, including a downstream view of Isola Tiberina (you may wish to see it in an external link) which is very similar to the 1754 etching shown above.
Vasi called Ponte Quattro Capi (Four Heads) the combination of two Roman bridges (Ponte Fabricio and Ponte Cestio) because together they had four heads; however in his Guide to Rome which he published in 1761 Vasi gave a more traditional explanation of the name: Ponte Fabricio is called Quattro Capi because of the two four-headed herms which are placed at its entrance from the city (they are shown in another plate covering Spedale di S. Giovanni Calibita)
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Isola Tiberina; 2) Ponte Fabricio; 3) Ponte Cestio; 4) Ponte S. Maria (Ponte Rotto); 5) Mill. 3) is covered in more detail in another page which shows an upstream view of Isola Tiberina.
A new bridge (Ponte Palatino) built immediately downstream from Ponte Rotto allows a point of view very close to Vasi's one. The overall view is pretty much the same, but the many actions taken to prevent floods in the late XIXth century have modified the river banks and lowered the average level of the water, so that Isola Tiberina is usually surrounded by a platform; a major drainage of the river bed led to finding many small terracotta reproductions of parts of the human body. They were ex-votos and they came from the Temple to Aesculapius, the god of medicine, which stood where now is S. Bartolomeo all'Isola (you may wish to see a collection of similar ex-votos which have been found in Corinth).
In the foreground the image shows the only remaining arch of Ponte S. Maria, the bridge built by Pope Gregory XIII in 1575 and which became known as Ponte Rotto (broken bridge) after it partially collapsed in 1598.
Ponte Quattro Capi
The bridge was built in 62 BC by Lucius Fabricius, a curator viarum i.e. the officer in charge of street maintenance. The bridge has two arches and a minor opening to allow a larger flow of water when the level of the river grows: the inner structure is made up of blocks of tufa and peperino (a black kind of tufa); the facing with travertine was in part replaced with bricks in the late XVIIth century.
Lucius Fabricius was perhaps a conceited man because he had his name and title written four times on the bridge, but he definitely was an experienced engineer and a scrupulous one because he personally supervised the testing of the new construction.
Learn more about Roman inscriptions.
This bridge is covered in more detail in a small etching which Vasi dedicated specifically to it.
Learn more about the Tiber floods.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 5: Anticaglie presso il Ponte Palatino
Next step in Day 5 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Giovanni Calibita e Spedale de' Benfratelli
Next step in your tour of Rione Ripa: Chiesa di S. Bartolomeo all'Isola