The Porta Pia is one of the most impressive gates in the Aurelian Walls in Rome. It is named after Pope Pius IV and can be found at the beginning of the Via Nomentana.
Porta Pia Rome
History and description
The gate was meant to be a replacement for the Porta Nomentana, which was closed at the same time the Porta Pia was constructed.
Porta Pia was designed by Michelangelo, who did not live to see his creation finished, in 1565. After his death, Giacomo del Duca (who also built Porta San Giovanni) finished the work.
According to Vasari Michelangelo presented the Pope with 3 different designs and the Pope chose the cheapest one.
In order to create a more picturesque effect Michelangelo had chosen to build the gate a little bit behind the Aurelian Walls, so that two lateral sections of wall needed to be added in order to connect Porta Pia to those walls.
Around 1575 a second gate was built in order to facilitate the flow of traffic.
The facade facing the Via Nomentana is of more recent origin and was added in 1869 by the neo-classicist architect Virginio Vespignani, who appears to have followed some of Michelangelo‘s original designs. It has two statues in niches, representing the saints Agnes and Alexander (as requested by Pope Pius IX). There are 4 columns and the inscription is meant as a memorial for Pius‘ brush with death when the audience chamber at the Sant’Agnese Convent collapsed.
In September 1870 the Bersaglieri entered Rome through the Porta Pia-breach, a hole close to the gate itself, which their artillery had managed to create in the wall. This led to the Unification of Italy.
There is a monument where the breach was made and across from the gate, outside the city walls, stands the Monumento al Bersagliere, which was commissioned by Mussolini and created by Publio Morbiducci (1932).
The building between the two arches, initially the customs office, now houses the Historical Museum of the Bersaglieri and the tomb of Enrico Toti.