Passetto del Borgo Rome

The Passetto di Borgo is a defensive wall connecting the Vatican City and the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. The wall was built in the 13th century. It is 800 meters long and often served as an escape route for the popes when the Vatican was under siege.

Passetto del Borgo Rome

History and description

Passetto del Borgo Rome
Passetto del Borgo

Also called the Corridoio del Borgo, the Passetto del Borgo is the longest surviving section of the wall that Pope Leo IV had built in the mid-9th century to resist attacks by the Saracens.

The construction of the wall created a citadel, named after the pope himself, Città Leonina.

The famous covered corridor that runs through the Passetto was realized only centuries later, when repair work was needed anyway.

This corridor begins in the Apostolic Palaces and ends in the Castel Sant’Angelo.

It is not nown who started the construction of the passageway. Theories range from Nicholas III, who was pope in 1278, to Alexander VI, who held this office from 1492 to 1503.

The passage was actually intended only as an escape route for the popes in case the Vatican was under siege. However, it was also often used to move prisoners who were not to be seen to the Castel Sant’Angelo.

Strategically, the Passetto was important because from the weather corridor it was possible to keep the neighborhood under control.

Porta San Pellegrino

The Porta San Pellegrino is the gate closest to St. Peter’s Basilica. It is now almost entirely hidden from view by Bernini’s Colonnade around the square and is located between two crenelated towers. Under a small window is the coat of arms of Pope Alexander VI. Other names by which this gate is known are Porta San Pietro, Porta degli Svizzeri (behind the gate is the barracks of the Swiss Guard), Porta Viridaria (because it gave access to the Vatican Gardens) and Porta dei Nibbi (in the 17th century, red kites took up residence on the temporarily bricked-up gate).

Largo Colonnato

At the Largo Colonnato, there are two arches in the wall. The oldest one was opened by in 1562, at the same time as a number of other gates opening onto the Via del Mascherino, Vicolo del Farinone, Vicolo delle Palline, Vicolo d’Orfeo, Vicolo del Campanile and Via di Porta Castello. These arches provided connections between the old and the new Borgo, which was called Civitas Pio.

The other arch opened in 1933, while two others were added in 1950 at the Via del Mascherino and Via di Porta Castello.


Near the Vicolo d’Orfeo is a beautiful 18th century Madonnella, consisting of an aediucla containing a painting depicting the “Madonna Addolorata”. It is known as the Madonna del Dito (“Madonna of the Finger”), since only one finger of the lady can be seen.

Another Madonnella is located between the two arches near Via di Porta Castello. This “Madonna della Misericordia” has been here since 1953.

Via di Porta Castello

The Via di Porta Castello is so called because there used to be a gate here with this name. However, it was destroyed towards the end of the 19th century when the area was redeveloped. The Porta Castello was opened in 1563 by order of Pius IV Medici. It was through this gate that kings and emperors who came to Rome to be crowned in St. Peter’s Basilica entered Vatican City.

Piazza Pia

At the Piazza Pia, two arches were opened to direct traffic. Eight arches span the moat and gardens of the Parco Adriano to reach the Castel Sant’Angelo via the Bastion of San Marco.

In 1494, Pope Alexander VI Borgia had to flee through the Passetto when Rome was attacked by the French king Charles VIII. In 1527, the same thing happened when Clement VII had to flee when the Landsknechts began the Sack of Rome.

Passetto del Borgo, Rome

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