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vicolo dei Falegnami
vicolo dei Falegnami (Carpenters Lane)
one of the typical alleys of the district
NAME
Sant'Angelo is a name given after the tiny church of Sant'Angelo in Pescheria.
The district was formerly called Sant'Agnolo Pescivendolo ("St.Angel Fishmonger") due to the nearby fish market, located below the columns of the roman Porch of Octavia.
In the Middle Ages it was the tenth district, already known as Regio Sancti Angeli in foro piscium ("St.Angel by the fish market").


COAT OF ARMS
In some versions, the winged figure of a standing angel holds a balance with one hand and a sword with the other, while a second human figure lays naked on the ground, almost a Final Judgement scene. But the scales might have also been a reference to the fish market.
In other versions, instead, the angel holds a palm leaf, sign of peace. A third unusual version refers more explicitly to the old market, by featuring only a fish.
coat of arms of Sant'Angelo district
coat of arms of Sant'Angelo district

BOUNDARY
Largo Arenula; via Florida; via delle Botteghe Oscure; via dell'Aracoeli; via Margana; piazza Margana; via dei Delfini; via dei Cavalletti; via della Tribuna di Campitelli; via del Teatro di Marcello; via del Foro Olitorio; lungotevere de' Cenci; via del Progresso; piazza delle Cinque Scole; via Santa Maria del Pianto; via in Publicolis; via di Sant'Elena.


MAIN FEATURES
(the black numbers in brackets refer to the map on the right)
Sant'Angelo is the smallest among the rioni, but up to the late 1800s it was one of the most densely inhabited areas in Rome; this was partly due to the presence of the Jewish Ghetto, but even before the enclosure was established (i.e. prior to 1555) the district was rather crowded.
via del Portico d'Otttavia
surviving number plate of an old fish market stall
Sant'Angelo district's locator map
In fact, the large Jewish community, who originally dwelt on the western side of the river, in Trastevere, since the Middle Ages had started to move to this district, closer to the city center.

Historically, its surface includes the site where the large Flaminian Circus once stretched. When the arena and several other ancient buildings were no longer standing, new houses were built by using the many ruins; still today the wall texture of the oldest houses of the district features many fragments clearly datable to an ancient Roman age.
This was also an area with a particularly high number of temples, although very little of them is left.

At the northern end of the tiny district stands Torre Margana, one of the few medieval family towers extant in Rome, overlooking a network of typically winding lanes, which still give this part of Sant'Angelo a very genuine look. Roman fragments were used for the making of the building: the entrance to the courtyard of the house located at its back is framed with a beautiful ancient relief in white travertine, and a small ancient column can also be seen by the tower's door.
piazza Margana
Torre Margana


via del Teatro di Marcello
columns of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus
The southern part of Sant'Angelo comprises the old Jewish Ghetto [1] and most of the archaeologic features of the district.
As of the mid 1500s, the Church of Rome started replying to the spark of the Protestant Reformation, by giving a sharp turn of the screw on Catholic doctrine. The Jewish community was used as a scapegoat to reaffirm the pope's endangered authority: among the measures taken in several cities against the largest non-Christian community, was the institution of an enclosure called Ghetto, where the Jews were forced to dwell.
By effect of an act issued in 1555 by Paul IV, the southern half of Sant'Angelo district was turned into Rome's Ghetto (see Curious and Unusual page 6 for further details). Three gates, whose number was raised to five as of the late 1500s, were closed by huge doors, locked up at dusk, and opened again at dawn, on the following day. A further extension and a sixth gate were added in the first half of the 19th century. Segregation was not the only form of discrimination; all sorts of social restrictions kept burdening this community for over 300 years, up to the fall of the Papal State (1870). See also Curious and Unusual page 6 for more details.
via di Sant'Ambrogio
old houses in the Ghetto, piled one on top of the other

Within the Ghetto's walls, thousands of Jews had to cram in old and very small houses, almost randomly built one on top of the other, but but just outside its gates the rich families lived in elegant mansions.
One of them is Palazzo Costaguti, whose main entrance was originally located along via della Reginella. But since after the ghetto had been decreed, this lane led to the infamous enclosure, the owners walled up the doorway and opened another entrance round the corner, in the small piazza mattei, the square where the famous Fountain of the Tortoises [2] stands. More details about the story of this charming fountain can be found in Fountains, part III, page 5.

via della Reginella
the old entrance of Palazzo Costaguti
along the narrow via della Reginella
Opposite Palazzo Costaguti is Palazzo Mattei, whose owners once dwelt in Trastevere district; the large mansion, after which the square is named, actually consists of five different houses, built between the late 15th and the early 17th centuries, and joined together to form one large block.

Along the aforesaid via della Reginella, just beyond the old doorway, hung the last gate of the Ghetto, added in the early 1830s by Leo XII, a fanatical and reactionary pope who enforced even stricter laws upon the Jewish community, up to the point that several of its members had to flee from Rome.

Although most of the lanes that once belonged to the Ghetto disappeared by the end of the 19th century, replaced by few bulky and rather anonymous blocks, the street plan of the inner part of the district is still quite faithful to the original one.
via della Reginella
(↑ above) the ornate cornice of Palazzo Costaguti;
(↓ below) the Fountain of the Tortoises

piazza Mattei
Also the row of houses along the northern side of via del Portico d'Ottavia, dating back to an age ranging from the late 1400s to the mid 1500s, are very well preserved.

Among the interesting ancient Roman relics of this district are the remains of the Porch of Octavia [3], first built in the 2nd century BC and altered some 100 years later by emperor Octavian Augustus, who dedicated it to his sister Octavia.
Originally, the porch was a large rectangular plaza, surrounded on four sides by a gallery supported by a double row of columns: what survives today is only one of the four entrances of the porch (it had one on each side). This entrance stood at one end of the great Flaminian Circus, no longer extant, which stretched in north-western direction towards the house of the Cenci family (see Rione VII Regola), where traces of the other end were found.

The remains of the Porch of Octavia were then turned into a fish market, active since the Middle Ages. Some paintings of the late 1800s still show what the market looked like (see also Ettore Roesler Franz and Bygone Rome, page 5).
via del Portico d'Ottavia
A curious notice that still hangs on its right pillar bears a writing in Latin that reads:  the heads of the fish longer than this marble plaque are to be given to the city administrators, up to the first fins included .
On the left pillar, instead, is a smaller plaque that forbade street games.
via del Portico d'Ottavia
the plaque with the notice about the fish length

← the Porch of Octavia

Some parts of the original paving are left beneath the porch; they show how the ground level used to be much lower than today.

In the Middle Ages, a small church was built below the remains of the porch, named Sant'Angelo in Pescheria (i.e. St.Angel by the Fish Market). Next to the church is the small Oratory of the Fishmongers (late 1600s), whose front is decorated with a fine stucco work depicting St.Andrew and the Latin inscription "place of prayer of the fishmongers".

At the back of this complex are three tall columns belonging to the temple of Apollo Sosianus, originally called of Medical Apollo, dating back to c.430 BC; it was rebuilt in the late 1st century BC by a consul named Sosianus (whence the further name). A second temple, dedicated to Bellona, a goddess of war, stood by the first one, but today very few traces are left.
via del Portico d'Ottavia
frieze from the Oratory of the Fishmongers

via del Teatro di Marcello
(↑ above) the Theatre of Marcellus; (right →) detail from an etching
by G.B.Piranesi: the arches (highlighted in yellow) were used as shops
Just besides the temple stands a better preserved two-storey theatre, half of which is standing, built at the end of the 1st century BC and dedicated to Marcellus [4], the late nephew of Octavian Augustus (being son of Octavia, the emperor's sister), and at the same time also his son-in-law (having married Iulia the Elder, the emperor's daughter).

via del Teatro di Marcello - etching (late 1700s)

The theatre originally had three levels, but what is peculiar of this imposing ruin is that a whole mansion was built on top of it, taking the place of the uppermost (third) level, which in time had collapsed. In the 1100s, what was left of the theatre was turned into a fortress; since the 1300s it became a property of the powerful Savelli family. Then, around 1525, the renowned architect Baldassarre Peruzzi replaced the old fortress by building the aforesaid houses above the ruins; the bold project, still visible at the top of the complex, appears even more stunning if viewed from the side where the base of the theatre is completely missing, and very tall brick buttresses support the elevated mansion (see below). Finally, in 1712, the property was handed over to another important family, the Orsini; a pair of small bears, i.e. the family's device (Orsini = "small bears"), decorate the gates of the complex, at the end of via di Monte Savello.
via di Monte Savello
one of the bears on the pillars of the gates

via del Teatro di Marcello
(↑ above) the Savelli's mansion, seen
from where the theatre is no longer standing
(right →)
at the back of the mansion, the Theatre of Marcellus (right) faces
the archaeologic area by the Porch of Octavia, with the remains
of the Temples of Apollo Sosianus and of Bellona (left)
Up to the late 1800s, due to the risen ground level, the theatre's base used to be buried for about half the height of its first arches, which were used as shops (this can be clearly seen in old paintings and etchings, such as the one previously featured). When the excavations were carried out, the original ground level was unearthed and the arches were freed from any additional structure.
via del Portico d'Ottavia

Today a number of fragments of columns, capitals and cornices, found during the excavations, lie in the area between the theatre and the remains of the temples.

Next to the theatre, in the southernmost corner of the district, is the church of St.Nicholas by the Prison [5].
via Luigi Petroselli
St.Nicholas by the Prison
It was likely named after a nearby prison of Byzantine age, whose traces have completely disappeared.
The church was built over the site of the ancient Forum Holitorium (a vegetables and herbs market), where once three small temples stood very close to each other, all of them facing eastwards and aligned from north to south, in a fashion rather similar to the ones of the so-called Sacred Area (see Rione IX, Pigna). Their dedication remains uncertain, although it is believed that the northernmost one was sacred to Janus, the central and largest one to Juno Sospita and the southernmost (the smallest) of the the three was the Temple of Hope. They were likely built in the early 3rd century BC.
via Luigi Petroselli
floor plan of the three temples
overlapping the present church
()
The church, instead, was founded in the early Middle Ages, and was heavily refurbished in 1599. Its left side features some columns from the smallest temple with parts of the archtrave, the nave corresponds to the central temple (which was entirely replaced), while taller columns, from the northernmost temple, can be seen on the right side of the building; the stout belltower just before them was originally built for defensive purposes, as it belonged to a fortified family house (like the aforesaid Torre Margana); when the house was abandoned, the tower was annexed to the church.




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