Borgo is a district in Rome that lies on the right bank of the Tiber river and has a trapezoidal shape. It borders the Vatican City to the west, and the Tiber to the east.
The event that left a trace in the history of Borgo was the martyrdom of Saint Peter at the foot of the Vatican hill in 67 A.D. during the first persecution of the Christians. The Saint was buried nearby, and an oratory, then turned into a giant basilica during Emperor Constantine's reign, was built above the grave. Since then, Borgo became the destination of many pilgrims. During the several fights and wars which afflicted Rome during the Middle Ages, pilgrims gathered together in associations named Scholae, with the aim of protecting and helping the comunity of pilgrims from the same nation. Each Schola had its own hospice and church where the fellow countrymen could rest and refresh. It was the German pilgrims who named the area near their Schola Burg, which meant ‘fortified town’ in Old German and this is where the current name Borgo comes from.
As the district laid outside the city walls, it was exposed to attacks and was plundered several times, before Pope Leo IV commissioned the construction of the Leonine Walls. On the 27th of June 852, the Pope, accompanied by the clergy and the faithful, walked barefoot along the circuit of the new walls. Since then, Borgo became the Leonine City, with its own magistrates and governors.
During the Renaissance, Borgo recovered from the decay suffered during the Avignon Papacy. Magnificent buildings like Palazzo Branconio dell'Aquila, designed by Raphael, a small scale copy of the Palazzo della Cancelleria, and Palazzo dei Penitenzieri by Baccio Pontelli, were built.
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It was under Clement VII’s papacy that the district population rose to 4,926 inhabitants, almost all unmarried and not Roman. Nine of the 25 cardinals lived in Borgo and each of them supported a court consisting of hundreds of people. The most famous artists bought or built their homes in Borgo. The only relevant female representatives were the courtesans, who were high prelates’ and noblemen’s lovers.
In that time time, Borgo was also known in Rome for its stufe: German saunas often attended by artists, who could freely sketch nudes there. Raphael owned one stufa near his palace.