You may wish to see a map of the region and a short introduction to this section first.
The walls of Viterbo were built between the XIth and the XIIIth century; they surrounded three hills, the southern one being the site of the Cathedral. In order to strengthen the fortifications of the town some towers were built at key locations outside the walls.
Torre della Bella Galliana was built in 1296 by Corrado Branca who was podestÓ of Viterbo; podestÓ were the chief magistrates in many medieval Italian towns; usually they came from another town in order to ensure their impartiality; Torre della Bella Galliana protected the access to Porta di Valle (more on Bella Galliana in page four).
Torre Biele is a massive construction near Porta Romana; it was built in 1270 as part of an enlargement of the walls at the peak of Viterbo's development; the original name of the gate was Porta di S. Michele.
These two gates retain their medieval aspect; Porta di Valle was closed in 1568 when a new gate (Porta di Faul) was opened a short distance away; the two gates retain the upper structure from which an additional vertical door was lowered in case of attack.
Porta S. Pietro and Palazzo di Donna Olimpia
This gate was protected by a small castle which was turned into a more elegant residence by Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini (Pope Pius III for 26 days in 1503). The palace was eventually acquired by Donna Olimpia Maidalchini, sister-in-law of Pope Innocent X, who lived in nearby S. Martino al Cimino.
The Farnese, the family of Pope Paul III came from Canino, a small town between Viterbo and the sea and they acquired many fiefdoms which practically surrounded Viterbo. Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, grandson of the Pope, opened Porta di Faul in 1568; the gate was officially named Porta Farnesiana, but because it gave access to a depression called Faul between the hill of the Cathedral and that of SS. TrinitÓ, the official name was soon forgotten.
Porta Romana is the most important gate of Viterbo because it is the entrance to town for those who arrive from Rome; it was opened in 1643 when it replaced a smaller gate inside a tower and it was decorated for the 1650 Jubilee Year; it was redesigned in 1705 and for this reason it bears the coats of arms of two popes; the statue at the top of the gate portrays St. Rose of Viterbo, the patron saint.
(left) Porta della VeritÓ; (right) Porta Fiorentina
Porta della VeritÓ (Truth) has this name because it was located opposite S. Maria della VeritÓ, a church outside the walls; the gate
was redesigned in 1728 and decorated with the coat of arms of the reigning pope (Benedict XIII).
Porta Fiorentina is the last historical gate of Viterbo; it was built in 1768 and it replaced a previous gate; also in this case it was decorated with the coat of arms of the reigning pope (Clement XIII); two side openings were added in the late XIXth century.
(left/centre) Bell tower and apse of S. Sisto near Porta Romana; (right) coat of arms near Porta della VeritÓ
The apse of S. Sisto was spared by the 1944 bombings which destroyed the fašade; it was built at the beginning of the XIIIth century and although it
was visible only from outside the walls it was finely decorated.
A very short section of the walls is decorated with coats of arms very similar to those on the loggia of the Papal Palace.
(left) Coat of arms of Viterbo at Porta S. Pietro; (right-above) inscription at Torre della Bella Galliana (left)
and coat of arms of Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini at Palazzo di Donna Olimpia (right);
(right-below) statue of St. Rose between the coats of arms of Pope Clement XI (left) and
Pope Innocent X (right) at Porta Romana
The sun was setting as we drove down the long descent of the Ciminian forest, and entered Viterbo, and over the
gate the great figure of Santa Rosa holding her crucifix stood
out stern and grey against the opal sky.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Days near Rome - 1875
The lion in the coat of arms of Viterbo is a symbol of the Guelph faction (supporters of the pope) and perhaps also a reference to Hercules to whom a temple was dedicated in antiquity. The palm was the symbol of Ferento, a rival town north of Viterbo which was conquered and destroyed in 1172.
Santa Rosa was not a professed nun, but a member of the Third Order of S. Francis. In the thirteenth century she was as conspicuous for her eloquence as for her charity, and for the extraordinary moral influence she exercised over the people of Viterbo. Hare
The Macchina di Santa Rosa is an imposing construction that is carried on the shoulders of about 100 porters through the streets of the historic centre of Viterbo on the evening of September 3 of each year, the eve of the feast of Santa Rosa. The transport moves from Piazza San Sisto, near Porta Romana, where the machine was assembled in the previous weeks. The height of the structure varies according to the projects but is still around thirty meters and the weight about five tons. The first reliable information about the machine dates back to the end of the XVIIth century. At that time similar structures were popular in Rome to celebrate a new pope or other events (see some drawings of ephemeral arches in Piazza del Campidoglio).
Torre dell'Orologio and Palazzo del PodestÓ
While the towers along or outside the walls protected Viterbo from external attacks, its inhabitants built many towers to protect themselves from their fellow citizens; several of them can still be seen by wandering about especially in the southern section of the town which best retains its medieval aspect.
(left) Torre di Borgognone; (centre) tower in Via Saffi; (right) Torre degli Alessandri