The monumental Porta del Popolo (once known as the Porta Flaminia), which stands on the site of an ancient Roman gate, was originally built by Pope Sixtus IV (r. 1471-84) for the Jubilee Year of 1475.
At the behest of Pope Pius IV (r. 1559-65), the gate was rebuilt by the Florentine architect Nanni di Baccio Bigio (c. 1512-68), apparently to a design by Michelangelo. The inscription proclaims: PIVS IIII PONT MAX / PORTAM IN HANC AMPLI / TVDINEM EXTVLIT / VIAM FLAMINIAM / STRAVIT ANNO III (Pius the Fourth, Pontifex Maximus, elevated the gate to its present grandeur, and paved the Via Flaminia, in his third year).
In 1638 the two statues of St Peter and St Paul, the work of the sculptor Francesco Mochi (1580-1654), were added to the Porta del Popolo.
The inner face of the gate was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) for Pope Alexander VII (r. 1655-67) in honour of the arrival of Queen Christina of Sweden (a recent convert to Catholicism), who made her official entry to Rome (December, 1655) dressed as an Amazon warrior! Bernini added the armorial bearings of Alexander VII, a pyramid of six hills and an eight-pointed star, and the inscription: FELICI FAVSTOQ INGRESSVI / ANNO DOM MDCLV (To a happy and auspicious entrance, the year of our Lord 1655).
In 1887 the two lateral archways were opened, after the demolition of the projecting towers flanking the gate. The two inscriptions above the side gates read: ANNO MDCCCLXXIX / RESTITVTAE LIBERTATIS X / TVRRIBVS VTRINQVE DELETIS / FRONS PRODVCTA INSTAVRATA (In the year 1879, the tenth since the restoration of liberty, with the demolition of the towers on each side, the facade was extended and restored) and SPQR / VRBE ITALIAE VINDICATA / INCOLIS FELICITER AVCTIS / GEMINOS FORNICES CONDIDIT (The Senate and the Roman People, in the light of Italy's appropriation of the city, and the happy increase of the population, built the twin arches).
The Porta del Popolo stands on the north side of Piazza del Popolo.
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.
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