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Bill Thayer

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A Piece of A Roman Gate

[image ALT: a stone arch, only the actual archway remaining, about 3 meters tall. Two parked cars in front of it, a postwar apartment complex behind it. It is the Porta Montanara in Rimini, Emilia-Romagna (central Italy).]

[image ALT: a three-quarters view of a small stone archway, about 3 meters tall. It is the Porta Montanara in Rimini, Emilia-Romagna (central Italy).]
Of this small isolated arch in the parking lot behind the Tempio Malatestiano, the TCI Guide to Emilia-Romagna merely has this to say: "Near the left side of the church, in the area of the remains of the Franciscan convent, original lapidary material has been used to reconstruct one of the two arches of the so‑called Porta Montanara or Porta S. Andrea, which was the southern entrance thru the walls of the Roman city."

An ambiguous statement: was this particular gate Roman or merely a gate built at a later time? It certainly looks Roman. A statement, too, that omits a good deal: how do we know there were two arches? Where is the other one? When and why was this "reconstructed"? Where did the gate originally stand?

My interim guess was that the gate had made it down to the 20th century OK, in its original location; that it was bombed to smithereens along with so much else in the last war — 82% of the city's structures were flattened — and that you have before you what could be salvaged: probably not where it first stood.

But guesses are not good enough, so, since I'd found no better information anywhere else online, on this page for over six years there sat one of my plaintive bleats for further details from anyone who might know them. Patience is a virtue, though, and so is helpfulness: thanks to Dr. Giovanni Assorati, a student of ancient history, here they are. The Porta Montanara was the western gate of the Roman city, built in Sulla's time (around 80 B.C.); of that gate's two arches the other was damaged in the bombings of 1944, and its remains outright demolished by a bureaucrat who decided they weren't worth keeping! but this one survived both bombs and bureaucrat because over the centuries it had become incorporated in the fabric of a block of houses.

In 2004, since my last visit, the Porta Montanara was disassembled, restored, and moved to a new location, a place of honor at the end of the via Garibaldi: I'm really pleased, since the gate deserved better than an apartment house parking lot. An excellent website has also since appeared, covering Rimini's monuments in detail; its page on our gate provides further information and illustrations: as elsewhere on my site, see the footer bar below for the offsite link.

Every ruin from Antiquity is a triumph: between the making of beautiful or useful things and the forces of destruction, every ruin shows that there is not a strict balance, thank goodness, but that the former has still, for the time being, prevailed. 
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Page updated: 25 Apr 06