Piazza del Popolo is a harmonious oval square situated near the Borghese Park. Three churches border the square but the eye-catcher is an ancient obelisk from Heliopolis, Egypt.
Piazza del Popolo
On the north side the square is dominated by the Porta del Popolo, which leads to the Via Flaminia. The Via Flaminia was built in 220 BC to connect Rome with the Adriatic coast and was one of the most important roads leading to Rome. Hence many travellers entered the city from the Via Flaminia, passing through Piazza del Popolo.
Porta del Popolo
In 1562 pope Pius IV commissioned architect Nanni di Baccio Bigio to construct a large gate, the Porta Flaminia, to impress the pilgrims who entered the city via the Via Flaminia. In 1655, on the occasion of Queen Christina of Sweden’s arrival in Rome, the inside of the gate was decorated by Bernini on pope Alexander VII’s request. The gate was later renamed Porta del Popolo.
Obelisk at the Piazza del Popolo
In 1589, pope Sixtus V had the Egyptian obelisk of Sety I moved from Circus Maximus to the center of the square. The 23.2 meter (73ft) tall obelisk was originally built around 1300 BC and stood at the Sun Temple in Heliopolis. In 10 BC the Roman Emperor Augustus had the obelisk transported all the way to Rome. The obelisk was erected at the Circus Maximus to commemorate the conquest of Egypt.
In 1815 to 1816 Giuseppe Valadier redesigned the Piazza del Popolo by adding walls around the square, giving the piazza its current oval shape. He also added the central fountain and the four Egyptian lions around the obelisk. The walls are adorned with statues of sphinxes, created by the Italian sculptor Giovanni Ceccarini.
It is thought that Valadier also designed two fountains that were integrated into the walls around the Piazza del Popolo. Ceccarini was again responsible for the creation of the marble sculpture groups and he worked on the statues from 1818 to 1824.
The fountain on the western end of the square is the Fontana del Nettuno (Neptune Fountain) and shows Neptune accompanied by Tritons.
The fountain opposite the Neptune Fountain, at the foot of the Pincio Gardens, is known as the Fontana della dea di Roma (Fountain of the goddess of Rome). The central figure is the goddess Rome, flanked by allegorical figures representing the rivers Tiber and Aniene. Below the goddess is a statue of a she-wolf, suckling Remus and Romulus, founder of Rome.
At the southern end of the square are two symmetrical churches on either side of the Via del Corso, a street leading straight through the heart of Rome to Piazza Venezia. The churches, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli and the Santa Maria in Montesanto were commissioned by pope Alexander VII in 1658. They were both designed by Carlo Rainaldi.
The churches are not identical since the surface area of the plot provided for the Santa Maria in Montesanto (on the left) was smaller. In order to give the impression of symmetry, Rainaldi created an oval dome for this church and a circular dome for the Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
Santa Maria del Popolo
There’s yet another church at the Piazza del Popolo, the Santa Maria del Popolo. It is located right near the Porta del Popolo where it was built in 1477 at the site of an eleventh-century chapel.
The church contains many impressive works of art, including Rome’s oldest stained-glass windows and two famous paintings by Caravaggio. The Chigi chapel – created by Raphael – and the Della Rovere chapel – embellished with fifteenth-century frescoes – are particularly noteworthy.
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Plaza del Popolo
Ubicada junto a la puerta norte de la ciudad, la Piazza del Popolo (Plaza del Pueblo) es una de las plazas más populares de Roma. La plaza se encuentra situada al comienzo de la Vía Flaminia y constituía la entrada a la ciudad en tiempos del Imperio.
Actualmente continúa siendo un importante cruce de caminos. Mirando en dirección sur, desde la plaza nacen tres importantes calles; a la izquierda la Vía del Babuino, a la derecha la Vía di Ripetta y en el centro la Vía del Corso, una de las principales arterias comerciales de la ciudad.
Qué ver en la plaza
En el centro de la plaza se sitúa un obelisco egipcio de 24 metros dedicado a Ramsés II, conocido como Obelisco Flaminio. Ubicado en el Circo Máximo desde el año 10 a.C., fue trasladado hasta la Plaza del Popolo en 1589.
Gran parte de los turistas que se acercan hasta la Piazza del Popolo lo hacen para visitar la Iglesia de Santa María del Popolo, en la que se pueden ver dos magníficas obras de Caravaggio además de interesantes obras renacentistas.
En la plaza se encuentran además las iglesias de Santa María dei Miracoli y Santa María in Montesanto, dos templos aparentemente gemelos que ocultan algunas diferencias.