Città Leonina (Rione Borgo)
The Leonine City or the Rione Borgo corresponds to the ancient Ager Vaticanus where Caligola founded the circus enlarged by Caio and Nero near the gardens where many Christians suffered the martyrdom and where later Hadrian raised up his mausoleum, Castel Sant'Angelo.
In a pagan sepulchral area next to the Via Trionfale Saint Peter was buried not so far from the place where he suffered the martyrdom in the circus of Nero. And on his grave Constantine built up the big basilica in his honour. However the paganism lasted on the spot up to the end of the IVth century as the monuments and inscriptions prove which refer to the cults of Cibele and Mitra discovered in several stages near the basilica. Later near the primitive San Pietro chapels, churches, convents rose up and a quarter was formed on the spot of the foreigners' homes (Sassoni, Franchi, Longobardi) called by gothique term burg.
One can approach the area from Porta Santo Spirito that makes part of the mighty architecture of Antonio Sangallo il Giovane in 1543. In the second half of the IVth century Leone IV surrounded it with the Walls from where comes the name of the Leonine City.
During the residence of the Popes in Avignon, the Borgo fell into decay and the ruins were accumulated here. But with the return of the Apostolic Seat into Rome in 1377, when the Roman Senate was definitively forced to give the Castel Sant'Angelo, to the Church and the pontiffs settled themselves permanently in the Vaticano, a new period of prosperity began and the Borgo became a safe citadel of the papacy.
Eugenio IV and Sixtus IV in the XVth century, Giulio II and Leon X at the beginning of the XVI century took care of the embellishment of the Vatican and the Borgo. The ancient territory of this citadel was grown up with the Borgo Sant' Angelo which name remained on the Porta Angelica that was demolished later.
After the Sack of Rome of 1527 the rich middle classes abandoned the quarter that became one of the poorest in the city. In 1586 the town district was occupied by the administration withdrawn from the authority of the Comune and passed to the branches of the Camera Apostolica.