The Forte Michelangelo is situated close to the harbor of Civitavecchia. This well preserved 16th century fortress contains Roman ruins as well as the so-called Crypt of Santa Fermina. It is now the headquarters of the port captaincy.
Forte Michelangelo Civitavecchia
Address: Calata Cesare Laurenti, 5 – 00053 Civitavecchia. Phone: +39 0766 19431. It is only allowed to visit the central square of the fortress. Opening hours: Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 16:00 to 19:00. Admission: Free.
History and description
Pope Julius II Della Rovere commissioned construction of the Forte Michelangelo in the 16th century. The reason the fortress needed to be built was the rampant piracy on the coast outside the city’s harbor.
The first architect working on the project was Bramante, but it was completed by Michelangelo. In-between, Antonio da Sangallio the Younger and Giuliano Leno also made some contributions.
An inscription near the entrance claims that Julius II himself laid the first stone. The symbol of the oak on the inscription was part of the coat-of-arms of the Pope.
By the time construction was finished, in 1535, Pope Paul III Farnese was Pope. The last part of the complex still to be built was the so-called Maschio. This was a huge octagonal tower, taller than the other ones. The Maschio was the work of Michelangelo, who thus also got to give his name to the complex.
The other four towers are square and are all named after saints.
Underneath the Tower of St. Sebastian there is a secret passage into the city.
The Tower of Santa Ferma contains a small chapel named after the city’s patron saint Santa Fermina. She used to find refuge in a cave in the exact spot where the tower was constructed.
Between the Maschio and the west tower you can still see the pulley that was used to pull up the drawbridge.
Inside the fortress the remains of a Roman villa have been excavated, of which a mosaic pavement with a geometrical design has been preserved.