Porta Santo Spirito Rome

The Porta Santo Spirito is located in Via dei Penitenzieri in Rome, on the south side of what used to be the Città Leonina, the area within the city wall built around the Vatican by Pope Leo IV.

Porta Santo Spirito Rome

History and description

Porta Santo Spirito Rome
Porta Santo Spirito

The Porta Sant Spirito was built on the site where the “Postern of the Saxons” (Posterula dei Sassoni) used to be. (A postern is a secondary, often concealed entry into a fortress).

The ancient city walls, under the personal supervision of Pope Leo himself, were completed in four years (from 846 to 850).

Fearing a Turkish invasion toward the beginning of the 16th century, Pope Paul III had the dilapidated walls restored by Antonio Sangallo il Giovane.

Sangallo had three bastions built between 1543 and 1545, one of which no longer exists because it was destroyed when the Santo Spirito Hospital had to be expanded.

Between the other two bastions was to be a large gate that would serve as an entrance to the Vatican City. Sangallo is said to have created a beautiful design, which Michelangelo, however, rubbished when asked for his opinion by the commission supposed to decide on the work. The latter was then commissioned to complete the work himself, but according to legend, to belittle Sangallo, he purposely made a bit of a mess.

The Porta Santo Spirito is flanked by four Doric columns. The niches between the columns were probably intended to hold statues of saints.

Porta Santo Spirito, Rome