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Porta Angelica (Book 1) (Map D1) (Day 8) (View C2) (Rione Borgo)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 The gate
 Palazzo Belvedere
 S. Anna dei Palafrenieri
 The Walls between Porta Angelica and Porta Castello

The Plate (No. 19)

Porta Angelica

This plate is one of my favourites. At sunset sharp lights and shadows hit the buildings, the shepherds and their sheep preparing for the night. 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) Casino di Belvedere; 2) Corridors linking the Casino with Palazzo Vaticano. 1) is shown in another page. The small map shows also: 3) Porta Angelica; 4) S. Anna dei Palafrenieri.

Small ViewSmall View


The view today

The line of the walls was modified after 1929, when an agreement was reached between Italy and the Holy See. In order to reflect the border of the Vatican City State a new wall was built between Porta Angelica and St. Peter's square, whilst the wall leading to Castel Sant'Angelo was pulled down including Porta Angelica, named after Pope Pius IV (Giovanni Angelo Medici) and dedicated to the Guardian Angel.

The Gate

The GateWhere it was

The angels and the coat of arms of Pius IV have been rearranged in Piazza Risorgimento, a large square named after the movement which led to the Italian unity. Pius IV had a great role in improving the access to Rome. In addition to Porta Angelica he built Porta Pia, Strada Pia, a straight road linking this gate with Palazzo del Quirinale and Strada Angelica another road linking Porta Angelica with Ponte Milvio and Via Cassia. This road is celebrated in inscriptions above an opening (the crossed box in the map) in the ancient walls of the Vatican (il Passetto) which allowed easy access to Porta Angelica and Strada Angelica. Urbanus VIII did not fail to add his coat of arms to that of Pius IV.

The inscriptions

Palazzo Belvedere

Palazzo Belvedere

The palace was built by Innocentius VIII (see inscription and coat of arms) in the form of a fortress (the walls were not there). In the late XVIIIth century it started being used to host the Papal Collections (what is now the Vatican Museum) and Pius VI opened a balcony to bring light to the octagonal courtyard and its famous sculptures, among which the Apollo Belvedere. Belvedere means nice (Bel) seeing (vedere) and it is the name of the Palace which commands a fine view.

S. Anna dei Palafrenieri

S. Anna dei Palafrenieri

Porta S. Anna is the commercial entrance to the Vatican. Every morning a flow of civil servants get to work under the scrutiny of a Swiss guard. The Swiss guards have their barracks and stables opposite the church.
Palafrenieri is just a pompous word for grooms. The church was built in 1575 most likely by Giacinto Barocci, son of Jacopo Barocci il Vignola, but it was given a baroque flavor by Alessandro Specchi who (in the early XVIIIth century) added the portal, the balustrade and the bell towers. The modern entrance to the Vatican was built under Pius XI, whose heraldic symbols (an eagle on top of three pills) are sculpted in "lictorial" style on top of the pillars ("lictorial" is called the style prevailing in the late 1930s in Italy).

The Walls between Porta Angelica and Porta Castello

The walls between Porta Angelica and Porta Castello

On the left the modern coat of arms of Pius XI which celebrates the completion of the new wall. A Pius IV's coat of arms of the old walls can be seen in the courtyard of a building in Via Stefano Porcari.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Chiesa di s. Anna de' Palafrenieri
La confraternita de' Palafrenieri, perchè aveva anticamente una cappella dedicata a s. Anna nel tempio vecchio di s. Pietro, e restandone privi per la nuova fabbrica nell'an. 1575. edificarono questa chiesa col disegno di Giacomo Barozzio, eseguito però da Giacinto suo figliuolo.
Porta Angelica
Fu questa una di quelle fatte da s. Leone IV. e si chiamava Porta s. Petri, sebbene l'antica Porta s. Petri, prima di s. Leone stesse presso la chiesa di s. Gio. de' Fiorentini: ma dipoi essendo nell'anno 1563. rinnovata da Pio IV. si disse Angelica, non per gli Angioli, che si vedono scolpiti in marmo nelli stipiti laterali, ma perchè Angelo si chiamò quel Pontefice prima di essere eletto Papa.

Next plate in Book 1: Porta Castello
Next step in Day 8 itinerary: Chiesa di S. Maria delle Grazie

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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