Set Current Location
Near Via Cola di Rienzo in the district of Prati there is a small, circular and rundown square known as Piazza Quiriti that has been chosen as a refuge by a number of street people. In the first half of the 20th Century the square had a fountain that was one of five erected in Rome during the 1920s to embellish the city. But this one was severely criticised for its obscene female figures, positioned right in front of the church of San Gioachhino ai Prati. The result was a flood of curious sightseers to this relatively unknown area.
The fountain in Piazza dei Quiriti was built using a design by Attilio Selva around 1924. His project was chosen in a national competition to build fountains in many of the piazzas in Rome to improve the look of the city. His design was thought of as scandalous by many Catholics, in particular by the parish priests of the church of San Gioacchino ai Prati who believed it was an insult to morality. The fountain features four female figures who are prostitutes. The priests argued that the poses of the figures were indecent. They used to cover the figures with sheets during the Corpus Domini processions.
A legend exists that tells of the apparition of Archangel Michael on the Mole Adrianea (today the Castel Sant'Angelo) when Rome was hit by the plague. It is said that the angel had a sword in his hand but then he placed it in his sheath as a sign of a good omen and the end of the plague. Consequently, the statue of the angel was commissioned and placed on the highest and most visible point of the castle by Pope Boniface IV. Rome is peppered with statues of angels, such as the series that adorn the Sant'Angelo Bridge in front of the castle, but the Archangel Michael is without doubt the most famous of these. Originally it was to be made completely from bronze but it was later decided to make the body from marble and leave the wings in bronze.
Moving away from St Peter's along Via Crescenzio, you come to Piazza Cavour. It is surrounded by buildings, including the massive Palace of Justice, the theatre-auditorium Adriano, and the Valdese church. The square is decorated with flowers and palm trees and has become more popular over recent years as a result of the annual book fair which was moved here from Castel Sant'Angelo. The monument in the center, dedicated to the famous statesman, Camillo Benso, Count Cavour, was inaugurated in 1895 in the presence of the royal family.
The small fountain in Piazza delle Vaschette was originally behind the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Porta Angelica. The church was demolished to make way for the present day Piazza del Risorgimento. It was for this reason that the fountain was moved to its present location in the 1930s. The fountain was designed and built by Francesco Buffa at the end of the nineteenth century. It used to contain Aqua Angelica and this is noted on a plaque on a lintel which can still be seen to this day. The fountain is now in a rather unusual position. It inside a cavern which is reached by two semicircular stone staircases which take you down to around 1.20m below street level. The fountain leans again a brick wall which supports it. The fountain is made up of a small and very old basin which is in all likelihood the original. The basin is set in a marble niche. Sadly, the fountain is in a state of disrepair and has not been well-looked after. However, it still works as it should.
There are ten statues representing illustrious men of law (lawyers and judges) on the façade of the Palazzo di Giustizia. It is known as the Palazzaccio (ugly building) that stands near the Piazza Cavour opposite the Umberto I Bridge. The statues carry books in their arms. The men are Lucius Licinius Crassus (a Roman consul and politician), Julianus Salvius (a Roman jurist) and the famous jurist Modestinus. The other six statues are of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great Roman orator, Papinanus, another Roman jurist, Romagnosi, a jurist and philosopher, Giambattista Vico, the historian, jurist and critic, Bartolo da Sassoferrato, one of Italy's greatest jurists, and the law student Gianbattista De Luca.
The statue of St Catherine of Siena stands in a flowerbed in the gardens around Castel Sant'Angelo. It was designed in 1961 by Francesco Messina who also created the Dying Horse in front of the RAI television offices in Viale Mazzini. The saint was proclaimed one of the two patron saints of Italy by the Pope in 1939 along with St Francis of Assisi. The statue is made entirely from white marble and stands wrapped in a long cloak - St Catherine has a charitable and good-humoured look that matched her habit of helping the poor and sick. The monument includes four bas reliefs with scenes from her life.
The splendid fortress of Castel Sant'Angelo was originally built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian in 139 CE. In the 10th Century CE it was transformed into a castle, then, 500 years later, into the elegant residence of Pope Alexander VI Borgia. Michelangelo designed the marvelous main court for Pope Leo X and many of the rooms inside are decorated with frescoes of great beauty. It is also been used to house prisoners, including the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. The terrace offers a fine view of the river Tiber and opera lovers will know that this was where the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Tosca (1900) took place. The building is now a museum with a fine collection of suits of armor which is open to the public.