Michelangelo Porta Pia

Porta Pia      Top      G.B. Falda surrounding 1676

We take bus 82 or 90 from the Piazza dei Cinquecento towards the Sant Agnese fuori le Mura with the catacombs, the Santa Costanza and the Porta Pia. On our way to the Sant Agnese, we head past the Via XX Settembre to find the famous Porta Pia by Michelangelo at the Via Nomentana. We’ll have another look at this city gate on our way back: the Porta Pia by Michelangelo.

G.B. Falda Map Rome, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Porta Pia

Porta Pia Rome
photo: 4.0 Internazionale
Porta Pia Rome
photo: Dietmar Rabick
Scipione Pulzone 'Pius IV' (Medici) c. 1560s

Scipione Pulzone ‘Pius IV’ (Medici) c. 1560s

Pope Pius IV commissioned this city gate, as the description on the fronton explains. In 1561, Pius IV wished to strengthen his legacy by leaving behind some streets with a gate that would have his name, Pia. The old street, Via Pia, which passed through here, wasn’t exactly straight. Pius IV wanted a nice, straight and important connection from and to his summer palace on the Quirinal Hill, the San Marco and the bridge at the Via Nomentana. The street that ran underneath the Porta Pia was formerly located in one of the most sparsely populates areas in Rome. Pius IV’s idea that streets with adjacent buildings should be seen as a whole was a real innovation at the time. Via Pia (now Via Quirinale and Via XX Settembre) and the Porta Pia with the Via Nomentana behind it c. 1590. Michelangelo was inspired by Serlio with his city gate designs. What is remarkable with the Porta Pia is that the gate is more focussed on the city itself rather than the one who enters it.

Pirro Ligorio ‘Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae: Plan of Ancient Rome’ 16th century MET museum


Central doorway front and back

Michelangelo Buonarroti was mostly interested in the gate itself. The design is reminiscent of the decors that Serlio designed for theatres. With his design, Buonarroti deviates strongly from the architectural norms of that time. There are all kinds of details that seem to mock the zeitgeist of that period. Just like you’ve learned in class, the Roman person Vitruvius with his work ‘An Architect’s Handbook’ of c. 30 B.C. was  very important for the Renaissance. Vitruvius’ way of building become the decree for any post-1400 architect. Michelangelo, however, ignored this. One clear example is the Dorian order used by Michelangelo in his city gate. Going against established grounds, the capitals received gigantic gutta. Even the fronton is ‘out of place’.

Porta Pia  Central doorway Michelangelo
Michelangelo study drawing door Porta Pia

Michelangelo main portal

Once we arrive, I’ll explain and demonstrate where Buonarroti deviates even further from Vitruvian rules. There are quite some sketches by Michelangelo that have survived, including his sketch for the central doorway.

End of day one
Continuation Rome day 2: Hadrian’s Villa Intro and overview