Let's discover the millinery story of Piazza del Popolo, loved by the Roman people
If you are walking around Rome, you can't miss Piazza del Popolo, one of the most loved by Roman people and tourists.
It rises under the park of the Pincio, near the Tiber, surrounded by the most famous shopping avenues of the city: Via del Corso, Via del Babuino and Via Ripetta. In the past it hosted terrible executions, but today is the setting of concerts and shows. The origins of the name of the public square are uncertain.
Some people say the term "popolo" comes from the Latin term "populus", that means "poplar", concerning the little Poplar tree wood near Nero tomb. A legend tells this place was the setting of Nero suicide, honoured by a walnut tree. The spirit of the emperor, according to the people, fluttered on the public square that became cursed.
Pope Pasquale II ordered three days without food; in that occasion, he saw the Virgin Mary inviting him to cut the tree, to disenter the rests of Nero, to burn both of them and throw their ashes in the Tiber.
The Pope did it and ordered the built of the church Santa Maria del Popolo. The public square would have taken its name because the works were paid by the people's money.
This place has been modified many times during the years, and its current structure is by Giuseppe Valadier.
The BASILICA DI SANTA MARIA DEL POPOLO and the PORTA DEL POPOLO
This religious place - situated in the northern corner of square with the same name - is adjacent to the Porta Flaminia. The building has a three navies plant, with four chapels per side, a transept, a dome and a presbytery.
The chapels in the right navy are: Presepio, Cybo, Costa and Basso della Rovere. The last one is dedicated to Saint Agostino, and the painting decorations are by Pinturicchio and his assistants.
In the left navy, there are the following chapels: Cybo Soderini, Mellini, Chigi and the baptistry. In the transept, there are two altars, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, with four chapels facing on them.
The presbytery there is an altar, commissioned by Antonio Maria Sauli, in 1627. The chorus - with a quadrangular plant and a sail vault - is one of the most important spaces, and the vault - characterized by the Virgin crowning theme - was decorated by Pinturicchio.
The church hosts also other artists works, such as Raffaello and Caravaggio. The latter made the “Crocifissione di San Pietro”, between 1600 and 1601, and the “Conversione di Saulo”, 1601.
The Porta del Popolo, near the Basilica, is also known as Porta Flaminia. The external part was commissioned to Michelangelo, who decided to designate Nanni di Baccio Bigio, because he was too old.
The inner part was by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
This door has a peculiarity on the top of the central fornix: it is an inscription on the stone, telling about the welcome of Queen Cristina of Sweden, arrived in Rome in 1655, and lately converted to the Catholic religion.
The OBELISCO FLAMINIO
If you are in Piazza del Popolo, you will surely see the majestic obelisk, there from 1589. Its name comes from Via Flaminia, one of the 10 consular streets, connecting in Rome to Rimini.
It is 23.91 metres - 36.43 if we consider also the basement - and it is just shorter than the Vatican and the Lateranense obelisk.
The monolith was extracted by the granite caves in Aswan, during the reign of Sethi I (1304-1290 b.C.). The hieroglyphic incisions you can see on the borders were ordered by Sethi I, and completed by Ramses II. The obelisk remained about 13 centuries in Eliopoli, but Emperor Ottaviano Augusto ordered to move it to Rome, to testify the Egypt Conquest, in 30 b.c.
It was an epic gesture: the monolith arrived from Alexandria by sea, and the ship has been exhibited in Pozzuoli for a long time. So it was put in the middle of the Circo Massimo, and it collapsed in the 6th century, during the Goths invasion.
The fragments were recovered during Sisto V pontificate: the monolith should have been put in San Paolo abbey, but then in the church of Santa Croce in Jerusalem.
The Pope finally ordered to put it in Piazza del Popolo. The task was entrusted to the architect Domenico Fontana who managed to complete the work in twelve hours, thus avoiding to be beheaded.
On the basement you can see two inscriptions: the first - by Augusto - is dedicated to the Sun God, and second says that the obelisk is finally happy, because it is situated in front of the Virgin, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo. Watching towards the sky, you can admire the Pope coat of arms under a Cross.
The TWIN CHURCHES IN PIAZZA DEL POPOLO
This square hosts three churches: the Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo, and the twin churches Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli, but built in the second part of the 17th century.
Observing them carefully you will see some differences.
The first one was designed by Carlo Rinaldi and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The building, whose bell tower was added in the 18th century, has an elliptic plant and I do the dodecagonal dome.
Until 1825, it was of property of the Carmelitani and later on it became the Basilica Minore, by Pope Leone XII.
It is famous from 1953, as the Chiesa degli Artisti, and from June to October, a mess is celebrated in the honour, every Sunday.
The second one has a circular plant, and the dome is octagonal.
The internal part was designed by Antonio Raggi, and the cardinal monuments by Carlo Fontana.
Do you want to stay in Rome?
For this location we recommend Hotel Regno, ideal for discovering Rome thanks to its strategic location.