11 Remarkable Things You Didn't Know About Piazza del Popolo
Jul 7, 2021
Piazza del Popolo, one of the most renowned squares of Rome, holds utmost importance too. The large oval-shaped pedestrian square boasts of a history dating back to 3rd century AD.
The pretty churches, monuments, and magnificent fountains make it up for its popularity.
The name literally means ‘people’s square’. It is also said to have derived from the Latin word ‘populus’ for poplar tree. The square didn’t exist between 37 AD and 68 AD as the whole area was covered by a poplar forest.
Piazza del Popolo Facts
It was called Porta Flaminia by Emperor Aurelianus initially. It was then called Porta San Valentino after the nearby Catacomb. In the middle ages, it was also known as Piazza del Trullo. Finally, Porta del Popola was finalized.
The square is the starting point of the most important route to the north, Via Flaminia. The north part of the square, Porta Flaminia or Porta del Popolo was constructed in 220 BC as the main entrance to Rome during the Roman Empire.
There is an old obelisk, Obelisk of Ramesses II or the Flaminio Obelisk, in the center area of the square – Circus Maximus. It is from the Egyptian city of Alexandria and commemorating the conquest of Augustus in 10 BC.
The Santa Maria del Popolo church completed in 1477 is the oldest of the 3 churches that surround the square. It boasts of artwork of masters like Bernini, Raphael, Pinturicchio, and Caravaggio.
The Church was said to be built on the site where Emperor Nero was buried. His spirit was said to be trapped in a walnut tree at that exact spot. Later, the area was exorcised to ward off the spirits.
The twin churches may look the exact same but they have their differences. The smaller Santa Maria di Montesanto has an oval dome and the larger Santa Maria dei Miracoli has a circular dome.
Fontana della dea di Roma, located at bottom of the Pincio Gardens, depicts the Goddess of Rome and two figures depicting the Tiber and Aniene rivers. On the west side, the Fontana del Nettuno depicts the God Neptune with his triton and two dolphins.
Swedish Queen Christina came to Rome in 1655. Major work was done to the Piazza as it was the first view of the city. Bernini restored the interior of the ancient gate. Her arrival was so well-felicitated that the Queen fell in love with the city and never left.
The Roman architect Valadier was commissioned to redesign the square in 1816 and the work lasted till 1824. The main structures like the churches and obelisk were untouched and the fountains were added then.
Piazza del Popolo is said to be the last Pope’s contribution towards the magnificent Roman architecture.