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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in February 2010.

Porta Fabrica (Book 1) (Map D2) (Day 8) (Rione Borgo)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view
Porta Fabrica
Cupolino del Vignola
The walls from Porta Fabrica to Porta Pertusa

The Plate (No. 17)

Porta Fabrica

The plate shows the high walls built by Pope Pius IV and Pope Pius V around the Vatican; a small gate was opened to allow the passage of the bricks needed by Fabbrica di S. Pietro (in Latin Fabrica Sancti Petri), the body in charge of building the new basilica and which today is responsible for its maintenance. Fabbrica is the Italian word for factory; the low building on the right side of the plate was a kiln where the bricks were made; they were marked with the letters A.U.FA. (ad usum Fabricae) in order to be exempted from duties.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Basilica Vaticana (S. Pietro); 2) Small Dome of Cappella Clementina); 3) Cavalry Barracks near Porta Cavalleggeri; 4) Hill of Sant' Onofrio, a section of the Janiculum. All topics are covered in more detail in other pages. The small map shows also: 5) Porta Fabrica.

Small ViewSmall Map


The area today
The view in January 2010 (the modern white building is 1971 Aula delle Udienze by Pier Luigi Nervi, a large Audience Hall which seats 8,000)

Porta Fabrica was closed in 1870 when Pope Pius IX retired to the Vatican after the Italian troops had entered Rome. The gate was walled; because the ground was raised in order to build a modern road leading to new developments along Via Aurelia, today only its upper section is barely visible (at the far left side of the photo above).

Porta Fabrica

The Gate
(left) The site of the former gate; (right) coat of arms of Pope Clement XI

Porta Fabrica was not protected by towers or bastions and only a damaged coat of arms indicates its location.

Cupolino del Vignola

The dome
Side view of Basilica di S. Pietro

The plate shows one of the two small domes which were built before the completion of the main dome. The construction of the new basilica started in 1506; in 1564 when Michelangelo died the four gigantic pillars and the drum they supported were completed; Jacopo Barozzi, known as il Vignola replaced Michelangelo as Chief of Fabbrica di S. Pietro, but rather than working at the completion of the dome he preferred to concentrate on two small domes, as a sort of test for developing the appropriate construction technique for the main one.

The dome
(left) The two domes; (right) "cupolino" (small dome) of Cappella Clementina

Michelangelo had planned to use a round arch for the main dome and Vignola followed this approach in the design of the cupolini, whereas Giacomo Della Porta who in 1587-89 completed the main dome used a slightly pointed arch which enhances its vertical thrust. This is very evident when looking at the two domes in the same picture (more on the construction of S. Pietro).

The Walls from Porta Fabrica to Porta Pertusa

The Walls
Section of the walls near the highest point of Monte Vaticano

The street along the walls is very steep and it offers nice views over the main dome of S. Pietro.

The Walls
(left) Torre di S. Giovanni; (right) Torre della Radio Vaticana

The XVIth century fortifications of the Vatican included two circular towers which can be seen behind this section of the walls; one of the towers was used in the early XXth century for radio broadcasting. Today Radio Vaticana is broadcasted from S. Maria di Galeria.

The Walls
(left) Gate for the railway; (right) bastion near Porta Pertusa

In 1929 an overall agreement (Patti Lateranensi) was reached between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy in order to settle the issues arising from the 1870 events; one of the provisions of the agreement established the construction of a short railway to link Vatican City to the Italian net; inside the Vatican a small railway station was built and the walls were opened at this location to allow the track to reach it. This line is very rarely used; on October 4, 1962 Pope John XXIII started from this station the first railway journey of a pope since 1857; he visited Loreto and Assisi.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Porta Fabbrica
Perchè in questa valle hanno trasportato i moderni Fornaciari la fabbrica de' mattoni, tegole, ed altre opere di creta, quivi fu aperta questa porta per comodo della fabbrica della città Leonina, e della Basilica Vaticana, donde ne prese il nome; perchè alle dette fornaci corrisponde, ed è più vicino alla Basilica.

Next plate in Book 1: Porta Pertusa
Next step in Day 8 itinerary: Seminario di S. Pietro in Vaticano