Towards the end of the 15th-century, Perugia was under direct control of the Papacy also due to the lacerating conflicts among Perugia’s patrician families, each seeking total hegemoniy.
The homes of the Baglioni families in this quartiere of the town were often composed of multiple buildings with porticoes, cloisters, loggias and wooden balconies all grouped around family towers. Along the main road, Via Bagliona (still winding through the Rocca Paolina)…
….various medieval alleyways had branched off as well as stairways to public wells and gardens.
The construction of the fortress irreparably altered the urban morphology for nine churches, two monasteries, twenty-six towers and over one hundred houses and numerous family palaces were destroyed.
A view of the Baglioni neighborhood before the demolition for the Perugia’s Rocca Paolina was depicted by Benedetto Bonfigli in the mid-15th-century in a fresco in the Priors’ Chapel (today on the second floor of the Palazzo dei Priori – and part of the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria).
The Church of San Ercolano (on the right) still exists as the fortress construction did not englobe it:
One of those Baglioni towers rises in the Rocca Paolina today….a lone survivor
Bonfigli depicted one of the Etruscan travertine city gates, Porta Marzia (3rd-c . B.C. ) as well (on the left in his fresco) and it may still be seen today now on the western exit from the fortress.
Four columns rise at the top of the Porta Marzia – perhaps representing a temple – and the Etruscan deity Tinion (Jupiter for the Romans, Zeus for the Greeks) is in the center…
…flanked by two figures, (headless now) the Dioscuri – the twin gods Castor ad Pollux.
Horses (also headless) flank the twin gods.
Sangallo had recognized the great artistic and historical value of the Etruscan arch and carefully had it dismantled and moved, inserting it into the outer wall of the Rocca Paolina. That fortress – built between 1540 and 1543 – had been conceived as an instrument of repression, as a symbol of Papal power. This dual function is translated by Sangallo as two distinct bodies: one, a fortification on the hill and the other, a fortress looking down towards the valley, over the Etruscan walls – demolished now.
Little remains though of Pope Paul’s display of force for rebellious, anti-Papal Republican troops attacked the hated symbol of Papal repression, leveling most of it in the mid-19th century. These late 18th-c paintings and print depict the Perugia’s Rocca Paolina prior to demolition:
Exploring the Rocca Paolina nowadays, you’re in what remains of the medieval neighborhood of Perugia’s Baglioni families, roofed over, englobed in a massive fortress in the 16th-century under Paul III. You’ll note the doorways topped with Gothic pointed arches – and in a corner, the local bread oven.
The fortress was massive, englobing about one third of the city of Perugia. But the anti-Papacy attack on the fortress in the mid-19th century destroyed most of it.
The Rocca Paolina Papal cannon room still remains, reminding the visitor of the bellicose past…
A final thought: the bread of Umbria is made without salt. Is that because of Paul III’s high tax on salt in the mid- 16th-century? Or maybe because bread without salt best compliments the highlights of Umbria’s culinary traditions: prosciutto, salame, capocollo, and pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese?