Constantine had a church built on the Tomb of St. Peter, martyred in 64 A.D. in the Circus of Nero.
The five aisled basilica was completed in 349 A.D. and was a
centre of pilgrimage for over a thousand years.
In 1506 Pope Julius II decided to build a new basilica. A long period of design and construction ensued, lasting 120 years under
various popes and with work by various artists, the famous Fabbrica di S. Pietro.
The square, built by Bernini between 1656 and 1667, is surrounded by an impressive colonnade surmounted by statues of
saints. Standing on the left of the obelisk on a circular paving
stone we can see the perfect alignment of the four rows ot columns.
Going down Via della Conciliazione, opened up in 1930 after the
Lateran Treaty and along Lungotevere Castello, we reach Castel
Sant'Angelo with its National Museum.
The present-day castle, originally the Mausoleum of Hadrian, was
started by Hadrian in 121 as a resting-place for his ashes and
those of his family.
The structure, built on the left bank of the Tiber, was connected to
the other side by the Pons Aelius, later called Ponte Sant'Angelo.
When the Emperor Aurelian built the new walls of Rome in 271,
the Mausoleum was incorporated into the walls as a fortress and
renamed Mole Adrians.
For centuries it was used as a fortress and a refuge for the popes; in 1277 it was linked to the Vatican by a covered passage
over the walls of the Borgo, called the Passetto.
The Castle, which takes its present name from the bronze statue of the archangel Michael placed on the top in the 18th century,
was also the papal prison.
Via dei Coronari
Crossing Ponte S. Angelo, we continue along Via di S. Spirito,
turning down Via Arco del Curato, the start of Via Dei Coronari.
The coronari were merchants who sold rosaries to pilgrims directed to St. Peter's.
The street is lined by 15th and 16th century buildings and has many
antique shops, with a fair being held twice a year.
At Piazza S. Salvatore in Lauro, where there was formerly a
wood with laurel trees, there is a 16th century church to which M.
Salvi (the architect of the Trevi Fountain) added the bell-tower
The Renaissance cloister on the left and the fresoced refectory
are also worth a visit.
Going down Corso Rinascimento, parallel to Piazza Navona, we
reach Piazza S. Andrea della Valle.
The church, built by Carlo Maderno in 1622, has frescoes by Domenichino. Nearly we come to Piazza S. Eustacchio.
The original church dating from the early Christian period was a
centre for works of charity in the Middle Ages.
The Caff&ecute; Sant'Eustachio is also on the square, and has what is
considered to be Rome's most famous coffee. After this refreshment we can go to the nearly Piazza di Minerva, called after the temple to the goddess which formerly stood here. The
church has many fine tombs from the 13th-16th centuries; St.
Catherine of Siena, Beato Angelico and the popes of the Medici family are buried here. In the middle of the square there is a
sculpture with an elephant designed by Bernini. Via Pié di Marmo has a large marble foot.