Outside the Ospedale di Santo Spirito in Sassia, an ancient hospital near St Peter's Basilica, is the Ruota degli Esposti (Wheel of the Exposed), evidence of a practise that was once all too prevalent in Rome.
Protected by an ornate wrought-iron grille, the wooden wheel was the place where, for centuries, unwanted babies were anonymously deposited. A baby was placed on the wheel, the wheel was turned and the baby was taken into the care of the hospital.
It is thought that the first wheel was set up by the founder of the hospital, Pope Innocent III (r. 1198-1216). According to legend, the Pope kept having troubling dreams, in which he saw the corpses of babies being fished out of the river Tiber.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
Search Walks in Rome: