Belvedere Courtyard


The eastern façade of the Vatican Belvedere building is one of the most significant representations of defensive architecture in Rome’s cityscape and, together with St. Peter’s Basilica, symbolizes the presence of the papacy in Rome. The Belvedere was built during the first year of Julius II’s pontificate (1503-13) when the architect Donato Bramante was charged with expanding a defensive structure that had been initiated in the mid-1400’s to protect the ancient papal palaces from incursions. The new infrastructure would also connect the residence with the villa constructed by Pope Innocent VIII (1484-92) on the north side of the Sant’Egidio hill. Pope Julius and Bramante planned the eastern façade of the Vatican Belvedere as a massive unadorned wall with a single main entrance located on the lower courtyard, the Porta Julia, that would lead to the Vatican Palaces.
The defensive function had to be clearly understood as the building was constructed on uncultivated terrain known as Prati di Castello. It is still visible today with its imposing masonry that adapts well to the natural shape of the hill and is crowned with an elegant cornice in traditional brick work. The Corridore, the large corridor built on the eastern side which connected the Belvedere with the palaces, has an inscription in large capital letters that runs along the upper perimeter of the exterior wall: To the Pope from Liguria, nephew of Sixtus IV, whose successors will benefit from the construction of the “path” on the Sant’Egidio hill, erected for “commodity” of the popes and dignitaries visiting the Papal See. The formality of the inscription fits the external austerity of this elevated eastern corridor, in sharp contrast with the interior of the Belvedere courtyard , defined by contemporaries as “the atrium of pleasure” for the rich adornment centered within the vast moenia Belvidere