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Rione XIV Borgo

Borgo is a corruption of the German word burg (E. borough) which was used to identify the Saxon burg a complex of buildings (church, hospice, hospital) in the area now occupied by S. Spirito in Sassia: also the streets of this district were called borgo. The borders of Borgo were first established by pope Leo IV who in 848-52 built walls around the Vatican hill and from there towards the river and Castel Sant'Angelo. Borgo was then called Cittą Leonina in honour of the pope.
In 1527 Borgo was devastated by the mercenary troops of the emperor Charles V. This event led the popes to the decision of building new walls able to resist artillery: the new walls were almost completed by pope Pius IV in 1563 and they included an additional area (Borgo Pio) to the north of the old walls.
Borgo was then regarded as a separate city with its governor, police and tribunal although for other aspects it was just an extension of Ponte. In 1586 pope Sixtus V "promoted" Borgo which became the fourteenth rione of Rome and he also gave to the new rione a coat of arms to a great extent similar to his own coat of arms.
For a map of the Roman quarters (Rioni) click here.

Coat of arms
Coat of arms of Rione Borgo

The symbol of Rione Borgo shows a lion, three mountains and a star, all elements of the coat of arms of Sixtus V. It is still popular in the rione and it can be seen even on a pub!

Coat of arms

Borgo was outside the city of Rome and therefore Hadrian could build there his Mausoleum (now Castel Sant'Angelo), the most imposing ancient monument of the Rione with the bridge built by the same Emperor. The obelisk now in Piazza S. Pietro was located at the centre of a nearby circus initiated by the emperor Caligola and completed by Nero; another Roman monument (lost) was a tomb similar to Piramide di Caio Cestio and called in the Middle Ages Meta Romuli, as it was thought to be the tomb of the first Roman king.
The history of Borgo is to a great extent the history of Basilica di S. Pietro, founded in the IVth century and which soon attracted pilgrims from all over Europe. But of its medieval past Borgo retains very little because in the early XVIth century the popes decided to build a new basilica and in a process which lasted some 150 years they gave to the Rione a Renaissance/Baroque appearance. In addition to the new basilica, the walls, the churches of S. Maria in Transpontina and S. Spirito in Sassia, the papal residences of Palazzo del Belvedere and Casino Pontificio and finally Palazzo Giraud all belong to this period.

Eagle of Paulus V in the Vatican Palace; head of an angel in Ponte S. Angelo; modern fountain
Eagle of Paulus V in the Vatican Museums; head of an angel in Ponte S. Angelo; modern fountain "Le palle di Borgo"near Porta Castello

Palazzo del Belvedere and the corridors which link it with Palazzo Apostolico, the current residence of the pope, are today known as Vatican Museums, a museum where the building itself with all its frescoes and decorations is an extraordinary work of art. The ecstatic angels of Ponte S. Angelo were meant as a spiritual introduction to S. Pietro. A modern fountain near Porta Castello is a reminder of the military role of Castel Sant'Angelo, the fortress where Clemens VII sought refuge in 1527 and was sieged for seven months.

Rione Borgo
1777 Map of Rione Borgo

2) S. Maria delle Grazie
3) Palazzo Accoramboni
4) S. Lorenzo in Borgo
5) Palazzo dei Penitenzieri
6) Palazzo dei Convertendi
7) Palazzo Giraud
8) S. Maria in Traspontina
9) Antico Ponte Trionfale
10) S. Spirito in Sassia
11) Obelisco di Piazza S. Pietro
12) Sacrestia di S. Pietro
13) Palazzo Apostolico
14) Palazzi Vaticani
15) Palazzina di Belvedere
16) Fontana del Sacramento
17) Seminario di S. Pietro
18) Palazzo del Cardinale Arciprete
19) Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio
20) S. Anna dei Palafrenieri
21) Fonderia (foundry) del Vaticano

Rione Borgo Porta Pertusa Fontana dell'Aquilone Fontana delle Torri Santo Stefano degli Abissini Giardino e Casino Pontificio Basilica di S. Pietro Palazzo Apostolico Piazza San Pietro Porta Fabrica Porta Cavalleggeri Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio Santi Michele e Magno Porta Santo Spirito Villa Barberini Giardino del Belvedere Palazzo del Belvedere Porta Angelica Sant'Anna dei Palafrenieri Santa Maria delle Grazie Porta Castello Borgo Pio Passetto Santa Maria in Traspontina Oratorio della Santisima Annunziata San Giacomo a Scossacavalli Palazzo Giraud Palazzo dei Penitenzieri Santo Spirito in Sassia San Lorenzo in Borgo Ospedale di Santo Spirito Castel Sant'Angelo Ponte Sant'Angelo
Main monuments of Rione Borgo

The areas within the red lines in the map show the major changes which occurred after 1777:
a) upper part of the map: the walls from Porta Angelica to Castel Sant'Angelo were pulled down at various moments together with several buildings from Porta Angelica to the walls of Passetto;
b) central part of the map: in a process started in the 1930s and completed in 1950 a new large avenue replaced a string of buildings in the heart of Borgo with the loss of S. Giacomo a Scossacavalli;
c) lower part of the map: in 1904 the buildings between Colonnato di S. Pietro and Porta Cavalleggeri (included) were pulled down to allow direct access to Borgo from the new quarters of Rome behind the Vatican hill.

The different colours group the monuments which are shown in the same page (the list includes a few minor monuments omitted in the map).

-Ponte S. Angelo-
-Castel Sant'Angelo-
-Porta Castello-
-Borgo Pio-
Chiesa di Santa Maria in Traspontina-
Oratorio per la Dottrina Cristiana-
Oratorio di Santa Maria Annunziata-
Chiesa di S. Giacomo a ScossacavalliLost
Palazzo dei Penitenzieri-
Palazzo Giraud (o Torlonia)-
Chiesa di Santo Spirito in Sassia-
Chiesa di San Lorenzo in Borgo-
-Ospedale di Santo Spirito-
-Porta Santo Spirito-
Villa Barberini-
Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Magno-
-Porta Cavalleggeri-
Palazzo del Sant'Uffizio-
-Porta Fabbrica-
-Sacrestia di S. Pietro-
-Fontana dell'Aquilone-
-Fontana delle Torri-
Chiesa di Santo Stefano degli Abissini-
-Porta Pertusa-
Basilica San Pietro-
Palazzo Apostolico-
-Porta S. Pellegrino-
Chiesa di SS. Martino e Sebastiano-
-Piazza San Pietro-
-Casino e Giardino Pontificio-
-Giardino del Belvedere-
-Fontana del Vascello-
Palazzo del Belvedere-
-Porta Angelica-
Chiesa di Sant'Anna dei Palafrenieri-
Chiesa di Santa Maria delle GrazieLost

You can have a tour of Rione Borgo by following the itinerary (Day 8) suggested by Giuseppe Vasi: first step Ponte Sant'Angelo.
You can also have a very close look at it from the Janiculum: Cupola di San Pietro, S. Onofrio, Palazzo del Belvedere, Piazza di S. Pietro, Borgo, S. Spirito in Sassia, Castel Sant'Angelo and S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini.

I - MontiII - Trevi
III - ColonnaIV - Campo Marzio
V - PonteVI - Parione
VII - RegolaVIII - Sant'Eustachio
IX - PignaX - Campitelli
XI - Sant'AngeloXII - Ripa
XIII - TrastevereXIV - Borgo

Go to or to The Coats of Arms of the Popes or to My Home Page on Baroque Rome or to My Home Page on Rome in the footsteps of an XVIIIth century traveller

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