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Borgo (rione of Rome)

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Borgo (rione of Rome)

Coat of arms of the rione
Location of the rione

Borgo (sometimes called also I Borghi), is the 14th historic district (rione) of Rome, Italy. It lies on the west bank of the Tiber, within Municipio I, and it has a trapezoidal shape. Its coat of arms shows a lion (after the name "Leonine City", which was also given to the district), lying in front of three mounts and a star. These - together with a lion rampant - are also part of the coat of arms of Pope Sixtus V who annexed Borgo as fourteenth rione to the city of Rome.

The Borgo is bordered by Vatican City (Saint Peter's Square) to the west, the Tiber to the east, Prati to the north, the quartiere Aurelio to the southwest and Trastevere to the south.

The territory of the quarter includes a level part, which is made of the alluvial sands of Tiber, and a hilly zone, which coincides with the clay-laden slopes of the Vatican hill.

In administrative terms, the Borgo, following the city decree n.11 issued on 11 March 2013, became part of the Center (I Municipio). [1] Before then, he was part of the XVII Municipio, together with the rione of Prati (also moved to the I Municipio in that occasion) and the quartieri Trionfale and Della Vittoria (around Piazza Mazzini).

The main roads run east-west and (with the noteworthy exception of the modern Via della Conciliazione) are not named Vie, but Borghi.

Although heavily transformed during the first half of the 20th century, the Borgo maintains its historical importance as a forecourt to Saint Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Palace.


  • History 1
    • Roman Age: Ager Vaticanus 1.1
    • Middle Ages: Civitas Leonina 1.2
    • Renaissance Age 1.3
    • XIV Rione of Rome 1.4
    • 1936-1950: the destruction of the Spina 1.5
    • Today 1.6
  • Main sights and landmarks, past and present 2
    • Squares 2.1
    • Roads 2.2
    • Buildings 2.3
    • Churches 2.4
    • Gates 2.5
    • Bridges 2.6
    • Walls 2.7
    • Fountains 2.8
  • Notes 3
  • Sources 4
  • External links 5


Roman Age: Ager Vaticanus

Hadrian's Mausoleum still makes up the core of Castel Sant'Angelo. The tuff blocks visible in the lower part of the cylinder are Roman.

The territory of the Borgo during the Roman age was part of the fourteenth Regio, Transtiberim, and was named Ager Vaticanus,[2] after the auguries (vaticinii), which were taken there by the Etruscan Augures. Since it lay outside the Pomerium (the religious city border inside which burial was forbidden), and was plagued by malaria, this territory was used as a burial place. Some tombs reached notable proportions: among them, the so-called Terebinthus Neronis, which was a round tomb surmounted by a narrow tower;[3] while the Meta Romuli (a pyramid similar to that still standing near Porta San Paolo), was demolished only in 1499.

At the foot of the Vatican Hill, two roads started: the Via Cornelia, which joined the Via Aurelia near Tarquinii,[4] and the Via Triumphalis (Triumphal Road), which met the Via Cassia a few kilometers north.[5] The latter was so named because, beginning with Titus, the Roman Emperors used it to enter the city when celebrating their Triumphs.

At the beginning of the Imperial Age, magnificent Villae (country houses) and Horti (Gardens), such as those owned by Agrippina the Elder, wife of Germanicus and mother of Caligula (Horti Agrippinae), and by Domitia Longina, wife of Domitianus (Horti Domitiae), were built near the slopes of the Gianicolo and Vatican hills.

Emperor Gaius (also known as Caligula) built on the Vatican a circus (Circus Gaianus), which was then enlarged by Nero (Circus Neronis).[6] The obelisk standing today in St. Peter's Square was erected along its raised median (the spina). The circus was connected to the city through an archway (Porticus). Nero also substituted the timber bridge of the Via Triumphalis with a stone bridge, (whose ruins can still be seen in the Tiber during the minimum flow periods) named after him Pons Neronianus or Triumphalis. Emperor Hadrian built near the Tiber his huge Mausoleum, which he connected to the left bank of the river with another Bridge, the Pons Ælius (today's Ponte Sant'Angelo).

But what changed forever the destiny of the zone was the martyrdom of St. Peter at the foot of the Vatican hill in 67, during the first persecution of the Christians. The saint was buried nearby, and this turned the Vatican into a place of pilgrimage. Above the tomb of the saint, Pope Anacletus built an oratory, which in 324 Emperor Constantine turned into a huge basilica devoted to the prince of the Apostles.[7] This church, known today as Old Saint Peter's, soon became (until its destruction in the 16th century, when the new Saint Peter's was erected in its place) one of the centers of Christianity.

Middle Ages: Civitas Leonina

During the early Middle Ages the bridge of Nero fell into ruins, while the Mausoleum of Hadrian was converted into a stronghold (Castel Sant'Angelo), the possession of which ensured control of the city. Despite the wars and invasions that plagued Rome during those centuries, the flood of pilgrims to the tomb of the apostle never stopped. Pilgrims of the same nationality gathered together in associations named Scholae,[8] whose task was to host and to aid men and women of the same nation coming to Rome. The most famous were those of the Franks, Saxons, Frisians and Lombards. Each Schola had its own hospice and church.[9] One of the first – the Schola Saxonum - was built during the 8th century by Ina, king of the Saxons.[10] That hospice became the core of the future Hospital of Santo Spirito, one of the oldest and largest in Rome, founded by Pope Innocent III in 1198. Near the hospital was erected the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. The German pilgrims gave the zone around their Scholae the name Burg (fortified town),[11] which, italianised, became the name of the quarter.

The Hanno the elephant), and Saint Peter's dome are in the background.

Since it lay outside Saracens who landed in Porto,[12] and devastated by fires (that of 847 was immortalized by Raphael in a fresco painted in the stanze vaticane).

Finally, Totila during the Gothic War,[13] still exist between the Vatican and the Castle, where they bear the name of Passetto. This constitutes a covered passage, which could be used – and actually has been used several times - by the Pope as an escape route from his residence to the Castle in case of danger.

A contemporary miniature portraying pilgrims reaching Rome during the Jubilee of 1300. They are approaching the Leonine City from N (Prati di Castello). The hills in the background are (from right to left) Monte Mario, Vatican and Gianicolo.

In the Middle Ages, the quarter was not much populated, with sparse houses, some churches and a lot of vegetable gardens. There were also several brick furnaces, using the clay abundant in the Vatican and Gianicolo hills. A small harbor, the Porto Leonino, later used to deliver the travertine blocks needed to build the new Saint Peter's, existed south of the castle.

The pilgrims going to St. Peter's and coming from the left bank through Ponte Sant'Angelo, after entering a

  • Borgo at Google Maps
  • Artistic Guide of Borgo (from, in English)
  • Rione Borgo (from, in Italian)

External links

  • Baronio, Cesare (1697). Descrizione di Roma moderna (in Italian). M.A. and P.A. De Rossi, Roma. 
  • Adinolfi, Pasquale (1859). La portica di S. Pietro ossia Borgo nell’Età di Mezzo (in Italian). Roma. 
  • Borgatti, Mariano (1926). Borgo e S. Pietro nel 1300 - 1600 - 1925 (in Italian). Federico Pustet, Roma. 
  • Ceccarelli, Giuseppe (Ceccarius) (1938). La "Spina" dei Borghi (in Italian). Danesi, Roma. 
  • Benevolo, Leonardo (1973). Storia dell'Architettura del Rinascimento (in Italian). Laterza, Bari. 
  • D'Onofrio, Cesare (1978). Castel Sant'Angelo e Borgo tra Roma e Papato (in Italian). Romana Società Editrice, Roma. 
  • Cederna, Antonio (1979). Mussolini Urbanista. La distruzione di Roma negli anni del consenso (in Italian). Laterza, Bari. 
  • Cambedda, Anna (1990). La demolizione della Spina dei Borghi (in Italian). Fratelli Palombi Editori, Roma. 
  • Gigli, Laura; Zanella, Andrea. Guide rionali di Roma (in Italian). Borgo (I-V). Fratelli Palombi Editori, Roma. ISSN 0395-2710. 
  • Coarelli, Filippo (2006). Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.  


  1. ^ Deliberazione n. 11 - 11/372013 - Roma Capitale
  2. ^ itinerari per Roma (from
  3. ^ Borgatti, 5
  4. ^ Borgatti, 2
  5. ^ The site where the two Viae crossed is at about the middle of the present day Via della Conciliazione. Municipio 17 - Profilo storico
  6. ^ Borgatti, 3
  7. ^ Borgatti, 11
  8. ^ Borgatti, 19-21
  9. ^ The church of the Schola Frisonum, San Michele e Magno, still existes at the top of a long staircase in front of the S Colonnade of Saint Peter. Climbing this staircase gives to the pilgrims the same privileges as mounting the Scala Santa in Lateran. Santi Michele e Magno
  10. ^ Borgatti, 42
  11. ^ Borgatti, 13
  12. ^ Borgatti, 14
  13. ^ D'Onofrio, 3rd chapter, passim
  14. ^ The first mention of the existence of the Portica in the Middle Ages comes from Procopius (De bello gothico, Ch. 22); the last from the anonymous author of the life of Cola di Rienzo
  15. ^ Borgatti, 15
  16. ^ Inferno, XVIII,28-33:
    "Come i Roman per l'essercito molto,
    l'anno del giubileo, su per lo ponte
    hanno a passar la gente modo colto,
    che da l'un lato tutti hanno la fronte
    verso 'l castello e vanno a Santo Pietro,
    da l'altra sponda vanno verso 'l monte."
  17. ^ A proof that Borgo Vecchio was built where the Portica was is given by its width, which was constant almost everywhere with a value of 6.90 m. Borgatti, 61
  18. ^ Krautheimer, Profile, 327 passim
  19. ^ The balcony of Palazzo dei Convertendi, designed by Carlo Fontana, was considered the most beautiful in Rome. Ceccarelli, 21
  20. ^ He came from Corneto, and was titular of the Basilica di San Clemente. Ceccarelli, 21
  21. ^ This is its modern name. In that time it was named after its first owner, Cardinal Domenico Della Rovere. Ceccarelli, 21
  22. ^ a b Ceccarelli, 8
  23. ^ Giovanni Burcardo (Johannes Burckardt from Strassburg, Master of Ceremonies of the Pope), records thus the opening of the new road in his diary (Liber Notarum): "Hodie peracto prandio completa est ruptura vie nove recta a parte Castri Santi Angeli ad portam Palatii Apostolici". Ceccarelli, 6
  24. ^ The most famous cortigiane living in Rome in those years were Fiammetta (mistress of Cesare Borgia), Giulia Campana, Penelope and (some years later) Tullia d'Aragona. The House of Fiammetta can still be seen near Via de' Coronari, in Ponte. Roma segreta
  25. ^ Ceccarelli, 9
  26. ^ Traspontina means "beyond the Bridge", which in this case is Ponte Sant'Angelo
  27. ^ Ceccarelli, 10
  28. ^ In a first version of the coat of arms, the Lion protected a treasure chest, alluding to the three millions golden scudi, which the Pope accumulated in the Castle San Angelo. The coat of arms bore the motto "Vigilat sacri thesauri custos". Baronio, 2
  29. ^ Baronio, 10
  30. ^ Krautheimer, Alexander VII, Ch. IV passim
  31. ^ The block (Isola in Italian) was named Isola del Priorato after the Priorship of Malta, held by the Knights of St. John Hospitaller.
  32. ^ Roma artigiana
  33. ^ The pilgrims could recognize an hostaria because of the coloured pennon bearing its sign. The most famous during the renaissance were those named all'elmo, al sole (whose innkeeper was Vannozza dei Cattanei, mistress of Alexander VI), all'angelo, del bordone, della donzella. During the 19th century, the most popular were those named della vecchietta, alla rosetta, alla fontanella, al lepretto, della sirena, del moccio. Ceccarelli, 3
  34. ^ The most famous headsman of papal Rome is Giovanni Battista Bugatti, nicknamed Mastro Titta, who took up his second profession (officially he was an umbrella painter) in 1796, and cut his last head in 1864. He executed, all in all, 516 persons. His house was in Borgo Nuovo. Curiosità romane
  35. ^ Ceccarelli, 28
  36. ^ Borgatti, 64
  37. ^ Its demolition in 1937 brought to light vaulted structures belonging to Palazzo Caprini. Ceccarelli, 21
  38. ^ Cambedda, 22
  39. ^ In the book of Ceccarelli there are drawings and detailed surveys of the spina, by Lucilio Cartocci
  40. ^ Benevolo (1973), pp.638-41
  41. ^ Cederna (1979), p.236
  42. ^ In the days after the election, a banner was hung on the façade of Santa Maria in Traspontina. It contained the following sentence in Roman dialect: Auguri ar Papa borghiciano, nostro parrocchiano (English: "Greetings to the Pope from Borgo, our parishioner")








  • Via Alberico II
  • Borgo Angelico
  • Via dei Bastioni
  • Vicolo del Campanile
  • Lungotevere Castello
  • Via dei Cavalieri del Santo Sepolcro
  • Viale G.Ceccarelli Ceccarius
  • Via della Conciliazione
  • Via dei Corridori
  • Via dell'Erba
  • Via del Falco
  • Vicolo del Farinone
  • Via delle Fosse di Castello
  • Via delle Grazie
  • Vicolo dell'Inferriata
  • Via del Mascherino
  • Via degli Ombrellari
  • Vicolo d'Orfeo
  • Via dell'Ospedale
  • Via Padre P.Pfeiffer
  • Vicolo delle Palline
  • Via Paolo VI
  • Via dei Penitenzieri
  • Borgo Pio
  • Via Plauto
  • Via S.Porcari
  • Via di Porta Angelica
  • Via di Porta Castello
  • Via di Porta Santo Spirito
  • Galleria Principe Amedeo di Savoia
  • Via Rusticucci
  • Borgo Sant'Angelo
  • Salita dei Santi Michele e Magno
  • Via San Pio X
  • Borgo Santo Spirito
  • Lungotevere in Sassia
  • Via Scossacavalli
  • Via della Traspontina
  • Via dei Tre Pupazzi
  • Lungotevere Vaticano
  • Via G.Vitelleschi
  • Borgo Vittorio


  • Piazza Adriana
  • Piazza A.Capponi
  • Piazza del Catalone
  • Piazza della Città Leonina
  • Piazza Della Rovere
  • Piazza Pia (destroyed in 1937)
  • Piazza Pio XII
  • Piazza del Risorgimento
  • Piazza Rusticucci (destroyed in 1937)
  • Piazza Scossacavalli (destroyed in 1937)
  • Piazza del S.Uffizio
  • Piazza delle Vaschette


Main sights and landmarks, past and present

South of the Passetto the quarter houses only some offices (mainly belonging to the Vatican), an Auditorium, and the huge complex of the Hospital of Santo Spirito.

[42] (the name by which the inhabitants of the Borgo are called in Borghiciani Since 1950, the remaining


During the 1930s extensive demolition affected also the NW part of the rione (Via di Porta Angelica e Via del Mascherino). These were officially undertaken in order to better define the border between Italy and the new State of the Vatican City.

[41][40] Judgement about the whole undertaking, controversial since the beginning, appears now to be largely negative. In fact, besides the destruction of many ancient edifices and, above all, of a whole social tissue, what was lost forever was the "surprise" (typical of the

Besides a few drawings,[39] no scientific documentation of the old quarter was taken. Most of the inhabitants, whose families have been living and working in Borgo for centuries, were deported to the outskirts in the middle of the Campagna, as Acilia. That happened because no new apartment houses were built, but only offices, mainly used by the Vatican.

All the others were either pulled down and rebuilt with their fronts on the new roads (like Palazzo dei Convertendi, rebuilt on Via della Conciliazione,[37] and the houses of Febo Brigotti and Jacopo da Brescia, whose façades were assembled again on the new Via dei Corridori), or, like the small churches of San Giacomo a Scossacavalli and Sant'Angelo ai Corridori, built respectively on Piazza Scossacavalli and along the Passetto, simply demolished and never rebuilt.[38]

Vicolo del Campanile di Borgo in a Graffita of the Renaissance.

The result was that almost all the houses of the Rione south of the Passetto were demolished, and a new grand avenue emerged: the Via della Conciliazione (named after the Treaty of 1929 between Italy and the Holy See). A few major buildings (Santa Maria in Traspontina, Palazzo Torlonia, Palazzo dei Penitenzieri) were spared because they were more or less on axis with the new road.

Due to World War II, the work was interrupted. In the aftermath of the war, although the political and cultural climate had changed, the government and the Vatican decided to finish the project. Two Propylaea were built in front of Saint Peter's Square (inside that on the south side was enclosed the ancient church[36] of San Lorenzo in piscibus), and two others at the beginning of the road. The road was finished in time for the Jubilee of 1950, by putting along it two rows of obelisks (which the Romans quickly christened "the suppositories").

This situation changed forever in 1936. In that year the project of the demolition of the spina, by the Roman architects Marcello Piacentini and Attilio Spaccarelli, was approved by Mussolini and Pius XI and put in execution. An agreement between the two leaders had been possible because of the new climate of collaboration between the State and the Church, which followed the signing of the Lateran Treaties ("La Conciliazione" in Italian) in 1929. On October 23, 1936 (the day after the anniversary of the March on Rome), the Duce himself, standing on a roof, gave the first stroke of the pickaxe. On October 8, 1937 (less than one year later), the spina had ceased to exist, and Saint Peter was freely visible from Castel Sant'Angelo.[35]

Via della Conciliazione at dawn with Castel Sant'Angelo in morning haze. The picture has been taken from the Palazzo dei Penitenzieri, so named after the priests who were in charge of confessing the foreign pilgrims in Saint Peter, and offered Absolution touching them with a rod. They acquired the palace in 1655.

1936-1950: the destruction of the Spina

After 1870, the walls of Pius IV, which bordered the Rione to the N, were pulled down, together with the Porta Angelica, to ease communication with the new Rione of Prati. Between 1886 and 1911 a new bridge, Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, located slightly north of the ruins of Nero's Bridge, connected the new avenue of Corso Vittorio Emanuele with Borgo.

During the Italian Pius IX, who preferred to declare himself a prisoner of the Italian State and seclude himself in the Vatican complex.

Things began to change again for the Borgo during the French occupation under Napoleon. The Préfet of Rome, Camille de Tournon, started the demolition of the spina, but the project had to be interrupted shortly after it began due to a lack of funds.

The most important yearly event for the rione was the spectacular procession of Corpus Domini, which started and finished in Saint Peter's, and was led by the Pope himself together with the Cardinal Dean, during which each building was dressed with flags and standards.

Another profession peculiar to the men of the Borgo was that of headsman ("boia"). In fact, the executioner was forbidden to live on the left bank, and even to go there (Boia non passa Ponte, in English: "the headsman cannot cross the bridge", was a Roman proverb), but had to stay in the Leonine City.[34]

Many sellers of religious goods, named Paternostrari or Coronari (osterie, where Romans and pilgrims could eat and drink wine.[33]

During the 18th and the early 19th centuries, the Borgo kept its characteristics. The bourgeoises abandoned the rione for the new settlements in Campo Marzio, and Borgo became a quarter inhabited by simple people (artisans or workers at the Vatican), very devoted yet always open to new ideas, and men of the church, who appreciated the vicinity to the Holy See.

Pope Alexander VII, after the completion of the beautiful colonnade designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (built between 1656 and 1665),[30] ordered the demolition of the first block in front of it.[31] He created so the Piazza Rusticucci, the vestibule to Saint Peter's Square. Among the other buildings, which then went lost, there was Palazzo Branconio.

At the beginning of the 17th century Pope Paul V restored the Aqua Traiana, an ancient Roman Aqueduct, and had several fountains built in the Rione (among them, that designed by Carlo Maderno in Piazza Scossacavalli,[29] now placed in front of the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle).

[28] represents a Lion (representing the Leonine City), and three Mounts and a Star (taken from the coat of arms of Pope Sixtus).coat of arms Its [27] On December 9, 1586 (the year when

Borgo in 1779 (Map printed by Monaldini). The seven roads that radiate from the Castle are, from N to S: Borgo Angelico, Borgo Vittorio, Borgo Pio, Borgo Sant'Angelo, Borgo Nuovo, Borgo Vecchio, and Borgo Santo Spirito.

XIV Rione of Rome

which lay directly next to the Castle. A new church bearing the same name was built in 1587 in the middle of Borgo Nuovo. [26],Santa Maria in Traspontina. Pius IV also demolished several old churches and monasteries: Among these, in 1564, the old Church of Civitas Pia In order to boost the new settlement, he gave tax privileges to the Romans who choose to build their houses here. New Walls, and a new monumental gate (Porta Angelica), were built to protect the new area, which in honor of the Pope was named [25] Despite this disaster, the quarter was able to recover quite quickly. Paul III restored the walls, erecting three new

All this came to an abrupt end on May 6, 1527, when the soldiers of Charles V entered the Leonine City and mercilessly plundered it, so starting the Sack of Rome. Clement VII barely escaped capture, running through the Passetto in his night dress and locking himself within Castel S. Angelo, while all the Swiss Guards, except those defending his escape, were killed near the obelisk.

Piazza Scossacavalli (destroyed in 1937) shown in an XVIII engraving by Giuseppe Vasi. In the background are shown the church of San Giacomo and on the left side Palazzo Giraud. In the middle stands the fountain of Carlo Maderno, now re-erected in front of Sant'Andrea della Valle, in Sant'Eustachio.

The golden Age of the Borgo reached its apogee during the reign of the two Cortigiane, decent prostitutes, who were the lovers of high prelates and noblemen.[24]

Santa Maria in Traspontina, the work of G.S. Peruzzi, is the only church in Rome whose dome has no drum. The lower height allowed the Castle's gunners (who owned a chapel there) to practise their shooting skills on the Gianicolo.

In order to solve the traffic problem, a new road, the Via Alexandrina or Recta, later named Borgo Nuovo, was opened during the Jubilee of 1500 by Pope Piazza Scossacavalli. A recurrent theme of Roman city planning, were the various projects contemplating the demolition of the spina: starting with, that of Carlo Fontana in the late 17th century; and ending, in 1936, when, under Benito Mussolini and Pius XI, this task was finally accomplished.

[22]. These buildings, whose tradition came from stufe The Leonine City at that time was also renowned in Rome for its

Also wealthy bourgeoises, such as Febo Brigotti and Jacopo da Brescia, the doctors respectively of Paul III and Leo X, had their houses built in the Borgo.

Drawing of Palazzo Branconio dell'Aquila, demolished in the 17th century to open the new piazza Rusticucci, so called after the eponymous palace.

Under Palazzo Branconio dell'Aquila, designed by Raphael; the Palazzo Caprini by Donato Bramante (a house that Raphael chose to buy, and later became part of the Palazzo dei Convertendi[19] ); Palazzo Castellesi, built by Cardinal Adriano Castellesi,[20] attributed to Andrea Bregno or Bramante and a small-scale copy of the Palazzo della Cancelleria, and Palazzo dei Penitenzieri,[21] perhaps designed by of Baccio Pontelli. The last three palaces faced a small square, Piazza del Cardinale di S. Clemente (later Piazza Scossacavalli), which became the most important in the Borgo.

The recovery began with the end of the Western Schism and the beginning of the Renaissance. By that time, the center of gravity of Rome began to shift from the zone around Campidoglio, where medieval Rome had developed, to the Campo Marzio plain. At the same time, the Popes abandoned finally the Lateran complex for the Vatican, which now became the new center of power in Rome.[18] The large amount of building activity and above all the rebuilding of Saint Peter, which was the ultimate result of this translocation, attracted several artists to the Borgo, while the renewed flood of pilgrims boosted commerce.

Cesare Borgia, lived in the Leonine City.
Renaissance Age During the

During the first Jubilee, which took place in 1300 under Boniface VIII, the Leonine City, as remembered by Dante in its Commedia [16] was visited by an enormous number of pilgrims.

because of its vicinity to the Vatican Gardens). Viridaria (also named Porta San Pellegrino, entered through Via Francigena) following the monte Mario and, finally, the pilgrims coming from the north ([15]),Porta Santo Spirito (today's posterula Saxonum used the Via della Lungara along the route that would later become Trastevere Those coming from [14]

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