First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…
FOLIO LVII verso and LVIII recto

The City of Rome is represented by a special woodcut (9" in height) extending across the verso and recto of Folios LVII and LVIII. From the standpoint of direction and the location of the various places of interest, this pictorial map involves considerable guesswork. We cannot get our bearings by assuming any particular compass-point. The upper part of the woodcut is certainly not north; nor will it submit to the test of being any one of the other three cardinal points. Both Republican and Imperial Rome were situated to the east of the Tiber, which although irregular in its course, has a general direction from north to south. But let us begin in the lower right-hand corner.

  1. Porta de Populo, a gate in the formidable wall at the lower end of the woodcut, is probably the old Portia Flaminia, by which the city was entered from the extreme north by the Flaminian Way.
  2. The Church of Santa Maria del Populo, to the left of this gate in the woodcut, is actually located beside the Porta Flaminia, and no doubt the gate has taken its name from the old church.
  3. Porta Pinciana, like the Porta Flaminia, also pierces the old Aurelian Wall and also gives access to the city from the north, but at a more easterly point. It was located on a hill of the same name, and such a hill is indicated in miniature, back of the gate, in the woodcut. It appears in the lower extremity of the illustration and to the left of the gate by which we decided to enter. Still further on to the left is another gate; but it remains unnamed.
  4. Porta Portula (Portese?), another gate, enters the wall at the upper center of the illustration. This I have not been able to identify with any of the gates listed by Smith.
  5. Castle St. Angelo (Castellum S. Angeli), the circular structure to the right, just across the Tiber (Tiberius Fluvius), is one of the massive remains of Imperial Rome, and none other than the Mausoleum of Hadrian, by which name it may be identified on the maps of the ancient city. In actuality it stands to the north of a bend in the Tiber where that river veers to the east for a short distance. It is located on the site where once were the gardens of Domitia, overlooking the undulating plains of the Campagna in its rear. The structure is surmounted by a bronze figure of the Archangel Michael, poised as if he had just alighted with outspread wings and flowing mantle, and had paused there in the act of sheathing his sword. The woodcut suggests this figure, but it has given the Archangel a more militant attitude. His wings are outspread, but his sword is in action as thought about to strike.

    Beneath this forbidding edifice flow the troubled waters of the Tiber into which it has cast its wavering reflection for over eighteen centuries. The structure leading to it across the river is the ancient Aelian Bridge, which has also changed its name and is now the Ponte St. Angelo.

    The Mausoleum was built by Hadrian in the latter part of the second century. It was constructed of brisk work and square blocks of peperino-stone laid with such care and exactness that lightning, war and earthquake have failed to shake its perfect solidity. Inside and out it was faced with courses of Parian marble. The basement was a square of about 340 feet each way and about 75 feet in height. This is not indicated in the woodcut. Above this rose a circular tower of some 235 feet in diameter and 140 feet high, divided into two or three stories and ornamented with columns. Above the circular tower there was originally a dome or curvilinear roof, which must have risen to a height of some 300 feet. Apparently the roof was originally crowned by a colossal group representing Hadrian in a chariot drawn by four horses. Rich friezes girded the building around. On each of the four sides of the basement was a massive door of gilt bronze, and at each of these doors were four horses. Between the doors were large tablets to be inscribed with the names and titles of the emperors who were to be buried within it. The walls were of immense thickness and of solid workmanship. In the center were two chambers in the shape of a Greek cross, one above the other, and here the ashes of the emperors were deposited.

    The magnificent Aelian Bridge, resting on massive arches, formed the avenue by which the Mausoleum was approached by the funeral processions that bore the ashes of the dead emperors to their final resting place. But after Severus no emperor was buried in this Mausoleum, his successors being interred in the tombs of their families.

    For centuries we have no glimpse of the Mausoleum in history, and as the curtain lifts, it is no longer a tomb but a fortress. We know that by the 6th century it had become part of the city's fortification, and was joined to its wall. As such it was assaulted and defended for centuries, and so we may readily understand how its character changed from Mausoleum to Castle.

    In 846 the Saracens invaded Italy, and Leo IV, a Roman by birth, undertook the fortification of Rome, and enclosed it with a wall that portion of it surrounding the Vatican, which has ever since been called after him the Leonine City. The wall commenced at the Castle St. Angelo, enclosed St. Peters, and extended into the river below the gate of Sancto Spirito (‘Holy Spirit'). The chronicler makes a brief reference to these facts in the text.

    How the Mausoleum received the name St. Angelo is another story. In the year 590 Gregory the Great was elected Pope. Rome was then at its lowest ebb of suffering and disgrace at the hands of the Goths under Totila. Its population had shrunk and it was no longer the seat of empire. Earthquakes and floods had added to the work of destruction. And now came famine and pestilence in the wake. Vainly the people implored he mercy of Heaven. It was in the midst of these horrors and calamities that, as Gregory was passing the Mausoleum at the head of a penitential procession, he looked up and beheld hovering over it the figure of the archangel Michael, who paused in the act of sheathing his flaming sword. This vision he interpreted as a token from heaven that the pestilence should cease. And so the plague diminished, and finally ceased altogether; and in celebration of that a chapel was later erected on the top of the Mausoleum by Boniface the Ninth, which was dedicated to St. Michael, and received the name of St. Angelo. It is from this course of events that the structure itself became henceforth known as the Castle of St. Angelo.

    Just how the Castle looked in the days when the Chronicle was written may be seen from a curious and interesting painting by Vittore Carpaccio, in the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. It represents the pope as coming forth with his train of cardinals from the Castle to receive Saint Ursula and her virgins, accompanied by the son of the King of England, who was betrothed to her. The span of Carpaccio's life was from 1465 to 1522, his artistic career covering the range from 1490 to 1519. In this picture is given a careful representation, by way of background, of the Castle St. Angelo as it was at this period. Above the circle of the ancient tomb rises a high machicolated square tower occupying almost its entire diameter, and again above this is a second and smaller tower, also machicolated, on the top of which is the figure of the winged angel, the whole surrounded by massive walls, with round towers at each corner. And so it appears in this woodcut.

    Just how Hadrian, his horses and chariot, left their dizzy height does not seem to be recorded. It would seem that after the vision of Gregory a great marble angel was actually placed there instead; for it is related that on October 29, 1497, four years after the Chronicle was published, a flash of lightning struck one of the magazines of the Castle, instantly exploding it, shattering to fragments the upper part of the fortress, blowing into the air the great marble angel on the top, and flinging pieces of it a considerable distance. Sixty persons were wounded by this explosion, but no one was killed. Under the pontificate of Clement II some improvements were made in the Castle. To replace the angel that had been thus blown to pieces another statue of marble was made by Raphael, representing the same subject. This was placed on the summit of the square tower. But as already stated, the present incumbent of the "high place" is of bronze, the work of the Flemish sculptor Verschaffelt. (It was set up in 1752 in the place of the marble angel of the 16th century.)

    The terrible history of human baseness, tyranny, hypocrisy, arrogance and misery which this once ancient tomb, originally intended as a final resting place, witnessed after it became a fortress, it is not possible to relate in this brief note. History will ever record the tragic story of Beatrice Cenci so closely connected by tradition with the Castle St. Angelo.

  6. The Antonine Column (Columna Antoniana). Let us return via the Ponte St. Angelo to this side of the Tiber, and proceed to the left. Here we find a huge column, inscribed by the woodcutter as parenthetically noted above. Although such columns were used chiefly to support buildings, either within or without, single columns were also erected in Rome commemorate persons or events. More often they were a monument to the dead. They varied in size even as monuments do in our day. They were surmounted with a statue of the deceased, and the pedestal was equipped with a door which led to a spiral staircase ascending to the summit. Light was admitted through various apertures in the column. Frequently a spiral bas-relief runs about the pillar pictorially recording the victories and other events in the life of the deceased.

    This particular column was erected to the memory of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, in the Campus Martius, and is still in existence. It is located to the east of the Tiber and almost due east of the Mausoleum of Hadrian, and not to the west as would appear by the woodcut. It will be found noted on any map of Imperial Rome. A similar column and in the same vicinity was erected to Antoninus Plus after his death. There is an interesting relationship between the three men under discussion. Hadrian, weary with the affairs of state, formally adopted Antoninus and passed the empire on to him upon condition that Antoninus would in turn adopt Marcus Aurelius and name him as his successor. And in that order these men followed one another as heads of the Roman state.

  7. The Colosseum (Coloseus), or Flavian amphitheater, appears at the extreme left of the woodcut, although in fact located a considerable distance to the east, and not to the west, of the Tiber. It was begun by Vespasian, on the site of part of Nero's famous Golden House, and inaugurated by Titus in 80 CE. It consisted originally of three arcaded stories of stone and an upper gallery, originally of wood, which was rebuilt of stone in the present form some time in the third century. The Colosseum probably seated between 40,000 and 50,000 people. It is elliptical in plan with its long axis 615 feet, and its short axis 510 feet. Its arena is 281 feet long and 177 feet wide. Its total height to the top of the third century stone screen wall is about 160 feet.
  8. The Papal Palace (Palatium Pape), appears in the far distance on a high elevation, and in its immediate vicinity St. Peter's is indicated.
  9. In the left foreground, beside the Antonine Column, appears the church of Santa Maria Rotunda (Maria Rotu(n)da), originally the Roman Pantheon begun by Agrippa in 27 BCE, probably as a rectangular building of the ordinary temple type. It was completely rebuilt by Hadrian, in its present circular form (110-125), the columns of the present front porch being probably those of the earlier building. Under Septimus Severus repairs and alterations were made; it is likely that at this time the rectangular coffers were cut on the inside face of the dome. The Roman Pantheon is remarkable, not only for its size, the dome being 144 feet in diameter, and for its elaborate brick construction, but also for its perfect preservation and the fact that for almost 2,000 years it has served continuously as a place of worship, having been dedicated in 609 CE as the church of Santa Maria Rotunda; and so it is designated on the woodcut, but no description of it is given in the text.

    The Pantheon was originally erected as a temple to ‘all gods' (the meaning of the Greek word ‘pantheon'), but its present form is almost certainly due to Hadrian. The porch has no very close relation to the rotunda, the entablature stopping short. Its high gable and large pediment are in strong contrast to the flattened Byzantine dome. The porch has sixteen great Corinthian columns. As has been observed, from the strictly aesthetic point of view the porch might have been dispensed with altogether. The dome, paneled in a receding perspective, soars upward to the saucer of light that is the sky, and a single shaft of light completes the artistic unity of the interior composition. The dome was likened by the Romans themselves to the vault of heaven. Niches in the interior contained great statues of the gods, who have been replaced by the tombs of the Renaissance, including the Tomb of Raphael, and by decorations which signal the conversion of the place into "Santa Maria Rotunda."

  10. Proceeding further to the left we note Castor and Pollux, leading their horses over a hill in the direction of the Coliseum. Castor and Pollux, according to Greek and Roman mythology, were the twin sons of Leda, who conceived them by Jupiter in the form of a swan. They were also known as the Dioscuri (Greek for "offspring of Zeus"), for such they were. Of the Temple of Castor and Pollux there remain but three beautiful Corinthian columns, with a piece of the entablature. The twin gods were adopted by the Romans in gratitude for their assistance at the battle of Lake Regillus, fought against Tarquin and the Latins in 496 BCE. Hardly any event in early Roman history has been more disguised by poetical embellishment and fiction, and it is impossible to decide what amount of historical character may be attached to it; but there is no reason to doubt the existence of the lake that was assigned as the scene of the combat. It is expressly described by Livy as situated in the territory of Tusculum. The twins brought the news of the victory to Rome, and watered their horses at the Fons Juturna. The demolition of the church of S.M. Liberatrice, in 1900, brought to light the original spring between the Temple of Vesta (the virgins being the custodians of water as well as fire) and the Temple of Castor and Pollux. In it was found a marble altar, with reliefs on the four sides of the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), Jupiter, Leda and the Swan, and a goddess, perhaps Vesta, and the fragments of two life-size marble horses of the best Greek workmanship.
  11. In the central background is indicated the Church of St. Peter. The Emperor Constantine I gave freedom to the Church in 313, and according to tradition, he began the construction of a splendid basilica on the Vatican hill over St. Peter's tomb. This was not completed until 349, in the reign of Constantius. Nothing unfortunately remains of Constantine's basilica, or of the splendid monuments with which it was adorned in the course of nearly twelve centuries, with the exception of a few remains preserved in the crypts of the present basilica. The church had the form of a structure that the Greek name (‘basilica') implies. It had five naves, and its walls were adorned with painting and mosaic, that were much admired by pilgrims. Its five doors opened on a great square atrium called Paradisus, which was surrounded by a colonnade and in which there gradually accumulated the tombs of all the popes, emperors, kings, and princes who expressed a wish to be buried near St. Peter's tomb.

    In the course of time this venerable edifice became so damaged that Pope Nicholas V determined on its reconstruction. The structure leaned so much to one side that it was deemed best to demolish it altogether, and to build a new one on the same site. On April 11, 1506 Pope Julius II laid the first stone of the new basilica; and it was not until 1603 that this was completed, according to the original plan in the form of a Greek cross. Just how the church looked in 1493 we do not know, but its appearance as vouched for by the present woodcut is confirmed by Breydenbach (Journey to the Holy Land, 1483-4). This view is almost identical with that of Breydenbach. It may be that in common with the earliest authentic view of Rome (that in P. Bergomensis, Suppl. Chronicarum, Venice, 1490), both examples were adapted from a woodcut, drawing, or painting earlier than 1490, not now in existence. Reconstructions of the Church of St. Peter, as it appeared in the Middle Ages, have been attempted, and good examples will be found in Die Stadt Rom zu Ende der Renaissance, by Ludwig von Pastor (Herder & Company, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1925). The illustration at pages 14-15, a reconstruction by Brewer and Crostarosa, shows a striking resemblance to the façade of St. Peter's in the woodcut before us.

  12. Almost in the center of the woodcut, slightly to the right, on the banks of the Tiber, appears the Hospital di Santo Spirito, so named in the Breydenbach woodcut of the city of Rome, but left unnamed here. Its colonnade very much resembles that of St. Peter's. It is a memento of Anglo-Saxon piety. Anglo-Saxons, converted by Gregory the Great, were among the earliest and most devout of pilgrims. Among these were the Saxon king Ceadwald (689). He was followed by Conrad of Mercia, and Offa, who cut off and consecrated their long hair at the tomb of St. Peter. Ina, King of Wessex, came in 717, and endowed there the Schola Anglorum, a hostel for the shelter, and school for the education, of his countrymen. The whole district between the Castle Angelo and St. Peter's was under the control of the Anglo-Saxon colony, and obtained the name of Burgus Saxonum, whence the word Borgo. In 847 occurred the great fire in the Borgo, when the portico of St. Peter's and the Saxon buildings were destroyed. This event was depicted by Raphael in the fresco of the Sala dell Incendio in the Vatican.
  13. In the upper right hand corner of the panorama of Rome, just within the walls, and on a high eminence, is the Belvedere, the name applied to the northern galleries of the Vatican Palace, which appears to the left. Why this was called the Belvedere is clear from the Latin derivation of the word (bellus = ‘beautiful'; videre = ‘to see').