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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in April 2010.


Porta Pertusa (Book 1) (Map D2) (Day 8) (View C1) (Rione Borgo)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 Porta Pertusa
 Villa Alberici
 S. Maria del Buon Riposo
 Villa Carpegna
 Casale di S. Pio V
 The Walls between Porta Pertusa and Porta Angelica

The Plate (No. 18)


When Pope Pius IV decided to build new walls around the Vatican, some of his advisers suggested not including in the new curtain the western end of the Vatican hill, in order to contain costs. The pope however preferred to follow the advice Sangallo the Younger had given to his predecessor Pope Paul III and the new walls reached the top of the hill as the walls built by Pope Leo IV in the IXth century had done. The circular tower behind the gate was the western limit of the medieval walls, where a gate called Porta Pertusa already existed.
Probably Pope Pius IV had in mind to develop the area between S. Pietro and the walls, as he had done in Borgo Pio, but neither he nor his successors did it and the gate at the top of the hill was eventually closed because there was not a road leading to it from the city. This explains why in his etching Giuseppe Vasi showed Porta Pertusa closed.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below (left) which shows: 1) Dome of S. Pietro; 2) Porta Pertusa and 3) Villa Alberici. The 1883 map (right) shows 4) Madonna del Riposo (S. Maria del Buon Riposo); 5) Villa Carpegna; 6) Casale di S. Pio V.


Today

The view in March 2010

The walls have been raised (most likely by Pope Gregory XVI) and the dome of S. Pietro is no longer visible; the tower, which is named after St. John, was restored by Pope John XXIII and it is used to host distinguished guests of the popes.

Porta Pertusa

(left) Porta Pertusa and Torre di S. Giovanni; (right) detail of the gate

In his guide to Rome Vasi attributed the coat of arms on the gate to Pope Leo X, but in the text accompanying the etching he was less certain about it and he wrote that it was a Medici coat of arms. Pope Pius IV (Giovanni Angelo de' Medici) was not a member of the Florentine Medici family, but he was "allowed" to use their coat of arms.
The name of the gate means "pierced" and the word is thought to indicate that Porta Pertusa was opened in the medieval walls after they were built.


Villa Alberici

(left) Jars on a modified entrance to Villa Alberici; (centre) main portal; (right) former fountain

The Alberici were a minor noble family from Orvieto; their villa was made up of small buildings very near the entrance and it was located along Via delle Fornaci an alternate road to Via Aurelia (the two joined near Villa Carpegna); Villa Alberici was built in the second half of the XVIth century and it was modified before the death in 1622 of Pirro Alberici, whose name and portrait can be seen on one of the remaining buildings. At Vasi's time it belonged to the Penitenzieri.

(left) Coat of arms of the Alberici; (centre) small casino; (right) inscription and portrait of Pirro Alberici

S. Maria del Buon Riposo

(left) S. Maria del Buon Riposo; (right) former entrance to Villa Giraud (lost)

This little chapel was founded by Pope Pius IV, but it is mainly associated with Pope Pius V, his successor, who used to stop and pray here on his way to his summer residence on Via Aurelia. The words "buon riposo" mean good rest and they can be a reference to the chapel providing rest to travellers or more generally to death. This second meaning is confirmed by the inscription over the slit of the alms box which says "he who lives well, dies well".

(left) Interior; (right) alms box and coats of arms of Pope Pius V

Villa Carpegna

(left) Gate; (right) casino

Villa Carpegna was both a farm and a summer residence and its main building is an attempt to meet both objectives. It was most likely designed by Giovanni Antonio de' Rossi for Cardinal Gaspare Carpegna towards the end of the XVIIth century.

Former series of fountains

Villa Carpegna was located in a rather remote location far from the main itineraries of Rome; this explains why it did not attract the interest of painters or engravers. In the XIXth century its gardens were modified to adapt them to patterns in fashion at the time; in the XXth century the property was sold and divided up; this led to not properly maintaining the series of fountains which from the back of the main casino crossed a small valley and ended in a nymphaeum. In 1981 the City of Rome acquired the casino and a minor part of the gardens, but it has been unable to restore the fountains and their decoration.

Villa Carpegna

Casale di S. Pio V

(left) Entrance along Via Aurelia Antica; (right) alley leading to the main building

Pope Pius V built in the open countryside behind the Vatican walls a residence where he often went to rest. It was most likely designed by the Florentine architect Nanni di Baccio Bigio.

Main courtyard and its well

At the end of the XIXth century Casale di S. Pio V became (and still is) a house for the blind; this required several modifications to the building; nonetheless the main courtyard retains the original design.


The Walls between Porta Pertusa and Porta Angelica

(left-above) Coat of arms of Pope Pius IV; (left-below) coat of arms of Pope Pius V; (centre) coat of arms of Pope Gregory XVI; (right) coat of arms of Pope Paul III

In addition to many coats of arms of Popes Pius IV and Pius V, the Renaissance walls betwen Porta Pertusa and Porta Angelica retain many coats of arms of Pope Gregory XVI who raised the height of the walls. The last bastion before Porta Angelica was designed by Michelangelo and it was decorated with a gigantic coat of arms of Pope Paul III, which is very similar to that at Bastione del Sangallo.
The image used as background for this page shows a "posterula", a small opening in the walls near Porta Pertusa.

(left) Walls near Porta Pertusa; (centre) 1932 entrance to
Musei Vaticani by Giuseppe Momo; (right) detail of the 2000 entrance with the coat of arms of Pope John Paul II by Cecco Bonanotte

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:


Porta Pertusa
Nel più alto del colle Vaticano siede questa porta, la quale serviva solamente per comodo della Corte Pontificia, perchè nel giardino Pontificio corrisponde, e non nella Città. Prese un tal nome per l'antica sua piccolezza, ma Leone X. la ornò con buona architettura; resta però ancora chiusa e senza alcun uso. Appresso a questa si vedono le torri con le
Mura della città Leonina
Dal Pontefice s. Leone IV. fu cinto il Vaticano di mura e di torri, allora quando nell'an. 849. ebbe notizia, che dall'Affrica venivano i Saracini con una poderosa armata in danno di quest'Alma Città; onde sollecito ristaurò le antiche mura, e rinforzò le porte con nuove torri, facendo venire da tutto lo Stato Ecclesiastico operarj: e perchè la basilica Vaticana e li molti ospizj , e spedali restavano esposti agli insulti delle nazioni barbare, perchè fuori della Città, con animo grande cominciò a cingere tutto quel vasto sito di forti mura, sopra le quali egli molto vigilante e sollecito scorreva or per una parte, ed ora per un'altra, acciò l'opera si finisse presto e bene, non distogliendolo nè freddo, nè vento, nè pioggia, ne caldo. Dipoi impiegandovi i Saracini fatti prigioni nella sconfitta data loro nella spiaggia di Ostia, e col lavoro di 4. anni compì la grande opera formando una nuova Città, che dal suo fondatore si disse Leonina. Il medesimo Papa per lo stabilimento di essa ordinò, che tutti i Vescovi , Preti, Diaconi, e Chierici della Chiesa Romana, posciachè si fossero cantate le Litanie, e il Salterio, girassero seco insieme con Inni, e Cantici spi rituali intorno alle nuove mura, cori piedi scalzi, e con cenere in capo. Oltre a ciò ordinò che i Cardinali, e Vescovi facessero l'aqua benedetta, e nel passare aspergessero con essa le dette muraglie. E dopo il medesimo s. Pontefice recitò con lacrime, e sospiri sopra le istesse mura tre orazioni; una sopra la porta verso s. Pellegrino, l'altra sopra la porta Castello, e la terza sopra quella di san Spirito. Dopo di che il Papa con tutto il Clero, e Baronìa di Roma, andò processionalmente alla basilica di s. Pietro, recitando orazioni e laudi, e poi celebrò la Messa solenne per la salute del popolo, e conservazione della Città; il che successe il dì 27. Giugno dell' ottavo anno del suo Pontificato.

Next plate in Book 1: Porta Angelica
Next step in Day 8 itinerary: Giardino Pontificio