Ponte Fabricio Rome

The Ponte Fabricio connects the Via di Ponte Quattro Capi on the Isola Tiberina (rione Ripa) to the Lungotevere de’ Cenci in the rione Sant’Angelo and is the oldest Roman bridge still in existence.

Ponte Fabricio Rome

Ponte Fabricio
Ponte Fabricio

It was built in the year 62 BC by Lucius Fabricius, the “caretaker of roads”, as can be read on inscription in red letters on both sides of the bridge’s travertino marble arches. Fabricio’s bridge was made from blocks of tufa, a typical Roman kind of clay, and replaced the original wooden version that had existed since 192 BC.

The Ponte Fabricio has also been known as the Ponte dei Quattro Capi (because of the two marble pillars with the two-faced God Janus) or the Pons Judaeorum (from the time when the Jewish community in Rome was forced to move into what is now known as the Ghetto).

The Pons Fabricius is almost 60m long and almost 6m wide. It consists of two big arches. Two smaller arches close to each bank are now underground and cannot be seen anymore.

Ponte Fabricio – Rome

Sant’Angelo District Rome

The Sant’Angelo District is the 11th rione of Rome. It is the smallest one of all the riones and more or less comprises the area just north of the river that used to be known as the Jewish ghetto. The quarter still has a distinctive Roman feel to it. Especially the part that used to be the ghetto is full of trattorie (still run by Jewish people).

Sant’Angelo district Rome

The name Sant’Angelo comes from the main church in the area, Sant’Angelo in Pescheria, or Sant’Angelo in Foro Piscium (“Sant’Angelo in the Fish Market”).

During the days of the Roman Empire Sant’Angelo was part of the district Circo Flaminio and many monumental buildings stood in the area. One of these was the Circo Flaminio, which was torn down however, to create space for the construction of new monuments. These monuments in turn came to be used as fortresses after the fall of the empire.

Though important thanks to its strategic position near the Tiber (and more important after the first century AD when construction of the Ponte Cestio and the Ponte Fabricio connected the area to the Isola Tiberina and the rione Trastevere) the area outside the Servian walls. Especially after the goths had destroyed the aqueducts the quarter became essential since the vicinity of the Tiber ensured the availability of drinking water.

Just like the adjacent districts Ripa and Regola, Sant’Angelo used to be a workers’ neighbourhood, but in the 16th century important and wealthy families started moving there. Families like the Savelli‘s and the Mattei‘s ordered the construction of many palazzi, in case of the Mattei‘s even a whole block, which came to be nicknamed Isola dei Mattei.

In the century before that the Jews, who originally had settled mostly in Trastevere, started leaving there to go and live in other parts of Rome. In 1555, however, Pope Paul IV took all their civil rights away and ordered that they were only allowed to live in the ghetto from then on. Christians who owned property in the Ghetto kept their houses, but were not allowed to kick the Jews out or raise the rent. The churches in the ghetto were deconsecrated and the wall around the area was closed at night.

In 1798 the gates were opened, only to be closed again after Napoleon‘s fall. In 1848 Pope Pius IX ordered that the walls should be torn down and from 1870 onwards the Jews were not considered to be second rate citizens anymore.

Sant’Angelo was often flooded during high tide, so a new wall was built along the banks of  the Tiber, in order to keep the tide out. Unfortunately in order to do this many old and beautiful houses had to be torn down. The unhealthy environment necessitated another reorganization and in 1885 a big part of the area was destroyed and rebuilt around the new synagogue.

In the fascist period other parts of the area were destroyed, but some monuments were also restored. The Teatro di Marcello was repaired and excavations brought other old Roman ruins to light.

Rione Sant’Angelo (R. XI), Roma