Piazza del Popolo
The Piazza del Popolo is located adjacent to the northern gate of the
Aurelian Wall, a protective bastion that once guarded ancient
Rome. The Piazza holds a number of unique treasures and is a
popular destination with travelers.
The Pincian Hill to
the east of the Piazza was once the burial place of Nero and residents
of the area had long felt that the tyrannical emperor was still haunting the neighborhood
centuries after his demise. At the
end of the 11th century, Pope Pasquale (Pashcal) II disinterred Nero's grave and had the remains dumped into the
Tiber for disposal. In turn, he commissioned a chapel for the Piazza (presumably to banish the ghost of Nero), which was later enlarged and modified into the church
now known as Santa Maria del Popolo.
centerpiece of Piazza del Popolo is the Obelisk of Rameses II (Obelisco Flaminio - 13th
century BC), which was
brought to Rome by Augustus Caesar after the conquest of Egypt and was originally
located at the Circus Maximus. It was moved to the Piazza
in the 16th century by then Pope Sixtus V and crowned with his
Piazza is located at one of the northern gates of the city and
was once the main entrance to Rome from the Roman Road Via Flaminia.
The gate was redesigned and renovated by Bernini in the 17th
century in anticipation of an important state visit.
The landmark church Santa
Marie del Popolo to the right of the entrance gate gave its name to the Piazza and
contains a magnificent collection of artistic decorations including
statues by Bernini, designs by Raphael, Bregno, and
paintings by Caravaggio, Pinaturicchio and
others. The church also hosts the Chigi Chapel, designed by
Raphael and finished by Bernini, which plays a role in
the popular fictional work Angels & Demons.
Two other Baroque churches make the southern edge of the Piazza their home. The
adjacent Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto were
constructed sequentially during the last half of the 17th century.
Similar in size (one is slightly larger) and design, the two
churches face the Aurelian Wall across the piazza