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January 22, 2005 additions

In plate 8: Porta S. Giovanni
Porta Metronia

Porta Metronia

Roman car drivers who live in the highly populated modern quarters built along Via Appia and Via Latina know very well Porta Metronia. But the arches in the walls which are usually called Porta Metronia were opened in the 1930s. The historical gate, a posterula a minor opening in the walls, is mainly under the current ground level and only its upper part (a walled arch) is visible in a tower at the center of the modern gate.
One of the inscriptions above the gate has a special importance in shedding some light on a very obscure period of the history of Rome: "Anno MCLVII incarn(a)t(ionis) D(omi)ni n(ost)ri IHV (Iesu) XPI (Christi) S. P. Q. R. hec menia vetustate dilapsa restauravit senatores ..." followed by a list of names of Roman senators. In the mid of the XIIth century the authority of the pope was challenged by the attempts of the Romans to establish the independence of the city from both the Pope and the Emperor.
In 1143 the ancient Roman Senate was revived and in 1145 the pope (Lucius II) was killed by a stone thrown during a riot.
The Senators decided to celebrate the restoration of Porta Metronia by putting an inscription, something which had not been done for centuries. The inscription shows a total lack of skill, although the monuments of Ancient Rome provided plenty of examples of perfectly designed inscriptions. Another interesting aspect is the absence of a reference to the reigning pope.

In plate 12: Porta Portese
Castello della Magliana

Castello della Magliana

A short digression from Via Portuense, the road linking Rome to Porto, its ancient artificial harbour, leads to a hunting lodge initially built by Sixtus IV. Innocentius VIII, Julius II and Leo X enlarged it with the advice of Giuliano da Sangallo and Bramante. Later on Pius IV added a large fountain at the center of the courtyard. Because of its unprotected location the lodge was fortified and from the outside it has the appearance of a castle.
While during the Renaissance no one objected to the fact that a pope spent his time hunting, in the following centuries this pastime was no longer regarded as appropriate for a pope and the lodge was abandoned. Today it is part of a hospital run by the Knights of Malta.

In plate 29: Piazza Giudia
Tempietto del Carmelo

Tempietto del Carmelo

"She warned him that he must next pass the Island of the Sirens, whose beautiful voices enchanted all who sailed near. ... 'Plug your men's ears with bees-wax' advised Circe" (Robert Graves - The Greek Myths). It is said that the Jews followed Circe's advice when they were forced to listen to sermons delivered from within this XVIIIth century building attached to the house of Lorenzo Manilio.
The small temple was recently restored after it had been used as a shop window for many years. The pink building behind the temple is part of Palazzo Costaguti.

In plate 37: Piazza alli Monti
Cappella di S. Benedetto Giuseppe Labre

Cappella di S. Benedetto Giuseppe Labre

On April 16, 1783 Benedict Joseph Labre, a French monk who was leading a very penitential life in the streets of Rome, sleeping on the ground and eating very little, lost consciousness on the steps of S. Maria ai Monti. He was brought to a house belonging to the Portuguese church of S. Antonio, where he passed away that same day. Later on the room where he died was transformed into a small chapel (more on him).
The narrow street behind the house is named after a Roman relief showing a griffin, a mythological animal often portrayed on the minor sides of sarcophagi.

In plate 43: Chiesa di S. Paolo alle Tre Fontane
Santuario del Divino Amore

Santuario del Divino Amore

In 1744 a man attacked by stray dogs prayed for help before an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the main gate of Castel di Leva, once a fortress of the Orsini. He was miraculously spared by the dogs and the image soon became popular and other miracles were attributed to the intercession of the image called Madonna del Divino Amore. In 1744 a sanctuary was erected to preserve the image. The location of Castel di Leva (between Via Appia and Via Ardeatina) can be seen in a map showing the environs of Rome (click here: Castel di Leva is to the left of the letter G). The sanctuary became extremely popular in 1943 when Pope Pius XII entrusted the safety of Rome to Madonna del Divino Amore.

In plate 100 ii: Basilica di S. Paolo fuori le Mura
The Fire

The fire

The following description of the fire is contained in Jeremiah Donovan's 1842 Rome Ancient and Modern and the image is an illustration from the same book by Gaetano Cottafavi: "The year 1823 forms a memorable epoch in its history. Repairs were then being made on the outside of the basilic by order of Pius VII, who had made his religious profession in the adjoining monastery, when, very early in the morning, the whole roof was discovered to be in flames, and soon after descended with an awful crash, carrying with it a considerable portion of the walls, and burying in its smouldering ruins calcined pillars, detached mosaics, paintings, and statues; and, in the short space of five hours, the work of ages was reduced to little more than bare walls. Even the columns of porphyry, notwithstanding their extreme hardness, were shivered to pieces; and the large bronze door of the portico was partly melted by the violence of the conflagration. The origin of the fire remains a secret; but the ruin which it has left serves to explain the manner in which many of the edifices of ancient Rome fell before the same destructive element."

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All images © 2005 by Roberto Piperno. Write to romapip@quipo.it (alternative e-mail address at romeartlover@katamail.com)