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mail: Bill Thayer 
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The Roman Gates of Hispellum


[image ALT: A stretch of old wall, about 5 m high, 10 m long, and continuing beyond the edges of the photograph on either side. It is of regular masonry of small rectangular stone blocks, although a few shrubs have taken hold in some of the interstices; and it is pierced by a single large arched doorway. It is the Porta Urbica in Spello, Umbria (central Italy).]

The purest example in town is the Porta Urbica.


[image ALT: The lower portion of Spello's main gate, the Porta Consolare: a large central arch flanked by two smaller arches.]

[ 1 page, 3 photos ]

The Porta Consolare is the impressive main gate into town, today as in Roman times, and as you might therefore expect, has evolved over the ages. Partly ruined and buried by soil processes and neglect, then added to and refortified with a tower in the Middle Ages, it has also seen houses and a stone horse trough attached to it. In the 20th century archaeologists had at it, with mixed results.


[image ALT: A three-arched gate flanked by two twelve-sided towers.]

[ 2 pages, 5 photos ]

The handsome Porta Venere is even more striking, with an air of Roman mise en scène about it; and sure enough, there's a reason for that.


[image ALT: A stretch of old wall, about 5 m high, 10 m long, and continuing beyond the edges of the photograph on either side. It is of regular masonry of small rectangular stone blocks, although a few shrubs have taken hold in some of the interstices; and it is pierced by a single large arched doorway. It is the Porta Urbica in Spello, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 1 page, 1 photo ]

The Porta Urbica is a solid piece of Roman defense works.

Let's skip the fourth and fifth gates, the Porta dell' Arce and the Arco di Augusto, while I track down some pictures; as for the sixth, the Porta S. Sisto: a 1995 publication of Pro Spello, the historical and tourist association, merely says that it has just recently been identified, and includes medieval elements. I never saw it, and I'm not finding it on any map, but it's got to be in the Borgo S. Sisto, a small patch of very narrow streets and old walls in the southeast of the town: my suspicions are resting for now on a piece of the medieval walls that somehow look "filled in".


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Site updated: 23 Apr 09