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An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.

Vol. I

[image ALT: A large stone church with a tower but mostly an elaborate façade consisting of rows of blind arcading and a large central portal; all the arches are round. It is the church of S. Maria della Piazza, in Ancona, Marche (central Italy).]
S. Maria della Piazza.

Ancona, a seaport and episcopal see of the Marches, Italy, capital of the province of Ancona, situated on the NE coast of Italy, 185 m. NE of Rome by rail and 132 m. direct, and 127 m. SE of Bologna. Pop. (1901) 56,835.​a The town is finely situated on and between the slopes of the two extremities of the promontory of Monte Conero, Monte Astagno to the S, occupied by the citadel, and Monte Guasco to the N, on which the cathedral stands (300 ft.). The latter, dedicated to S. Ciriaco, is said to occupy the site of a temple of Venus, who is mentioned by Catullus and Juvenal as the tutelary deity of the place. It was consecrated in 1128 and completed in 1189. Some writers suppose that the original church was in the form of a Latin cross and belonged to the 8th century. An early restoration was completed in 1234. It is a fine Romanesque building in grey stone, built in the form of a Greek cross, with a dodecagonal dome over the centre slightly altered by Margaritone d'Arezzo in 1270. The façade has a Gothic portal, ascribed to Giorgio da Como (1228), which was intended to have a lateral arch on each  p952 side. The interior, which has a crypt in each transept, in the main preserves its original character. It has ten columns which are attributed to the temple of Venus, and there are good screens of the 12th century, and other sculptures. In the dilapidated episcopal palace Pope Pius II died in 1464. An interesting church is S. Maria della Piazza, with an elaborate arcaded façade (1210). The Palazzo del Comune, with its lofty arched substructures at the back, was the work of Margaritone d'Arezzo, but has been since twice restored. There are also several fine late Gothic buildings, among them the churches of S. Francesco and S. Agostino, the Palazzo Benincasa, and the Loggia dei Mercanti, all by Giorgio Orsini, usually called da Sebenico (who worked much at Sebenico, though he was not a native of it), and the prefecture, which has Renaissance additions. The portal of S. Maria della Misericordia is an ornate example of early Renaissance work. The archaeological museum contains interesting pre-Roman objects from tombs in the district, and two Roman beds with fine decorations in ivory (E. Brizio, in Notizie degli scavi, 1902, 437, 478).

To the east of the town is the harbour, now an oval basin of 990 by 880 yards, the finest harbour on the SW coast of the Adriatic, and one of the best in Italy. It was originally protected only by the promontory on the N, from the elbow-like shape of which (Gk. ἀγκών) the ancient town, founded by Syracusan refugees about 390 B.C., took the name which it still holds. Greek merchants established a purple factory here (Sil. Ital. viii.438). Even in Roman times it kept its own coinage with the punning device of the bent arm holding a palm branch, and the head of Aphrodite on the reverse, and continued the use of the Greek language. When it became a Roman colony is doubtful.​1 It was occupied as a naval station in the Illyrian war of 178 B.C. (Liv. XLI.I). Caesar took possession of it immediately after crossing the Rubicon. Its harbour was of considerable importance in imperial times, as the nearest to Dalmatia,​2 and was enlarged by Trajan, who constructed the north quay, his architect being Apollodorus of Damascus. At the beginning of it stands the marble triumphal arch with a single opening, and without bas-reliefs, erected in his honour in A.D. 115 by the senate and people. Pope Clement II prolonged the quay, and an inferior imitation of Trajan's arch was set up; he also erected a lazaretto at the south end of the harbour, now a sugar refinery, Vanvitelli being the architect-in‑chief. The southern quay was built in 1880, and the harbour is now protected by forts on the heights, while the place is the seat of the 7th army corps.

The port of Ancona was entered in 1904 by 869 steamships and 600 sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 961,612 tons. The main imports were coal, timber, metals, jute. The main exports were asphalt and calcium carbide. Sugar refining and shipbuilding are carried on.

Ancona is situated on the railway between Bologna and Brindisi, and is also connected by rail with Rome, via Foligno and Orte.

After the fall of the Roman empire Ancona was successively attacked by the Goths, Lombards and Saracens, but recovered its strength and importance. It was one of the cities of the Pentapolis under the exarchate of Ravenna, the other four being Fano, Pesaro, Senigallia and Rimini, and eventually became a semi-independent republic under the protection of the popes, until Gonzaga took possession of it for Clement VII in 1532. From 1797 onwards, when the French took it, it frequently appears in history as an important fortress, until Lamoricière capitulated here on the 29th of September 1860, eleven days after his defeat at Castelfidardo.

[T. As.]

The Author's Notes:

1 Scanty remains of the ancient town walls, of a gymnasium near the harbour and of the amphitheatre are still extant.

2 It was connected by a road with the Via Flaminia at Nuceria (Nocera), a distance of 70 m.

Thayer's Note:

a In 2000, the official census figures gave Ancona 98,329 inhabitants.

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Page updated: 18 Nov 17