Porta Castello (Book 1) (Map C2) (Day 8) (View C3) (Rione Borgo)
On a fine day the Romans flocked in the Prati (Meadows) di Castello
to play and dance or just walk around. The Villas (with the exception of Villa Borghese) were not open to the public and so the large area
north of Castel Sant'Angelo, was the public garden of Vasi's Rome. 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) Castel Sant'Angelo;
2) Corridors leading to Palazzo Vaticano. 1) is shown also in another page. The small map shows also: 3) Porta Castello; 4) Borgo Pio.
The area outside Porta Castello was the first real estate development outside the walls: it was called Prati and in 1921 it became a rione. In the 1930s the walls between Porta Angelica and Castel Sant'Angelo were pulled down to allow easier access to the new quarter. Today Porta Castello is just the name of the street which led to the gate.
Castel Sant'Angelo is covered in two Books. Plate 86 shows Castel Sant'Angelo from the river, this plate shows it from the opposite part. Both in the plate and in the picture the link between Castel Sant'Angelo and the corridor inside the old walls is clearly identifiable. In this way the Pope could seek refuge in the Castle directly from the Vatican (in the background the sentry-box watching over the corridor).
Today Castel Sant'Angelo is a museum where one can visit the fine loggia of the papal apartment built by Paulus III with its rich decoration.
In addition to the angel at the top of Castel Sant'Angelo (shown in Plate
86) there are other angels to be seen: the Angel by Raffaele da Montelupo which was put on the top of the castle in 1536 and the angels
which stood at the sides of the (erased) coat of arms of Alexander VI (a coat of arms of this pope can be seen on a fine well).
Castel Sant'Angelo was used for centuries as a fortress and a prison. A chapel on the ground floor provided religious services to the garrison. Next to the chapel a little square was used for executions by shooting, but for the sake of a gran finale Puccini set the shooting of Mario Cavaradossi on the top terrace so that Tosca could kill herself by jumping from it. The papal apartment had its own chapel built by Leo X: the fine Madonna is a work by Raffaele di Montelupo.
The Passetto (small passage) is the name given to the old walls which protected the Vatican. They were reinforced by Alexander VI. With the new line of walls built in the second half of the XVIth century they lost their defensive purpose (apart from granting a direct link between the Vatican and the Castle, hence Passetto) and so Pius IV opened them at several points to allow movement between the old Borgo (inside the old walls) and the new Borgo (called Borgo Pio after the Pope's name) between the old and the new walls.
On the left a coat of arms of Alexander VI and on the right one of Pius IV.
Borgo Pio was and still is inhabited by people who work in the Vatican.
Unlike Old Borgo it does not have churches or palaces, but it has retained its old
appearance made of low buildings which once belonged to brotherhoods (inscription in the middle of the above image). The image shows also an inscription below a sacred image which details
the rules set by Pius VI for securing 200 days' indulgence and a house embellished by a little Roman relief discovered in its foundation.
Next plate in Book 1: Map of the Walls of Rome
Next step in Day 8 itinerary Casino Sacchetti
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.