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Porta S. Spirito (Book 1) (Map C2) (Day 6) (View D3) (Rione Trastevere)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 The gate
 Towards Ospedale di S. Spirito
 Villa Barberini
 Cimitero di S. Spirito

The Plate (No. 15)

Porta S. Spirito

After the 1527 Sack of Rome by the mercenary troops of the emperor Charles V, pope Paulus III (1534-50) decided to strengthen the ancient walls of Rome (Mura Aureliane) and those of the Vatican (Mura Leonine). Antonio da Sangallo Junior was charged with this task (see also Bastione del Sangallo). On the site of the old Gate of the Saxons in the walls of Leo IV, Sangallo designed a new gate protected by a high rampart. Sangallo died before completing the gate.
Porta Santo Spirito, (like Porta Settimiana) became meaningless in the XVIIth century when Urbanus VIII built new walls on the Gianicolo which linked the walls of Trastevere with the Vatican ones.
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) Bell tower of S. Spirito in Sassia; 2) Casino della Villa Barberini; 3) Street leading to S. Onofrio. The small map shows also: 4) Porta S. Spirito; 5) Cimitero di S. Spirito. The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Borgo (upper part) and Rione Trastevere (lower part).

Small ViewSmall View


The view today

The gate is still a way to access Borgo. The walls on the left are unchanged, whilst the small houses on the right have been replaced by an addition to S. Spirito hospital.

The Gate

The Gate

The design of the gate is simple but it conveys a sense of power in some ways increased by the empty niches. The upper part of the gate was added in the XXth century thus limiting the view of the very fine bell tower of S. Spirito in Sassia. In the street leading to the church there is a little bust dedicated to Bernardino Passeri, a goldsmith who died in 1527 fighting against the Imperial troops (the Lanzichenecchi), who eventually sacked Rome. The decision of Paulus III to strengthen with a new gate the access to the Vatican was a direct consequence of the events of 1527.

Towards Ospedale di S. Spirito

Towards S. Spirito

The Hospital of S. Spirito in Sassia was enlarged by several popes whose initiatives are celebrated by inscriptions and coats of arms. Alexander VII is celebrated by a very lengthy inscription above one of the lateral entrances to the hospital. The etching by Giovanni Battista Falda shows the site a few years after the gate was built. Next to the gate there is a 1655 madonnella: under the glass there are some silver hearts, ex-voto offered in pursuance of a vow.

Villa Barberini

Villa Barberini

Up the gate and beyond the walls one can see a small part of the Casino of Villa Barberini. It is decorated with bees, the Barberini heraldic symbol. Today it is part of the new Collegio di Propaganda Fide built on the hill of S. Onofrio. The whole Casino can be seen (at a distance) from Ponte degli Angeli. The Casino was built by Giovan Battista Contini in 1667-71.

Cimitero di S. Spirito

Cimitero di S. Spirito

In 1744 pope Benedictus XIV in order to provide a proper burial ground for those who died in Ospedale di Santo Spirito commissioned to the architect Ferdinando Fuga the design of a cemetery near S. Onofrio. The cemetery was closed in 1891 and later on its area was used for the erection of a complex of modern buildings (Collegio Urbano) hosting the offices of Collegio di Propaganda Fine, the institution founded by Urbanus VIII to coordinate missionary activities. Today only the shape of the external walls and the cypresses hint at the former use of the area. The 1781 Map of Rome by Giuseppe Vasi provides a sketch of the cemetery design.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Porta s. Spirito
E' questa una delle porte della città Leonina, la quale fu rinnovata da Giulio II. quando drizzò la bella strada della Lungara, e prese il nome dal mentovato spedale, che le sta accanto. Fu principiata con disegno del Sangallo, e poi proseguita dal Bonarroti; ma nata fra essi competenza, rimase imperfetta, come si ravvisa. Sopra i baluardi, che quì si vedono fatti da Urbano VIII. per difesa della porta, e città Leonina, evvi il
Casino e Giardino Barberini
Molto delizioso è questo casino per le rarità, che lo adornano, ed ancora per l’altezza del colle, su cui risiede insieme con un amenissimo giardino.
Perchè questo piccolo colle dagli antichi si disse Palatiolum; ciò ha fatto credere, che quì sia stato il palazzo di Nerone, da cui godeva le uccisioni, che si facevano nel Circo di Cajo, detto ancora di Nerone, il quale era, come diremo, dove è la basilica Vaticana.

Next plate in Book 1: Porta Cavalleggeri 
Next step in Day 6 itinerary: Convento di S. Onofrio

Go to    or to  Book 1 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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