The Piazza del Popolo is one of the most famous square in Rome. The name in modern Italian literally means "Piazza of the People", but historically it derives from the poplars, after which the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in the northeast corner of the piazza, takes its name. The Piazza lies inside the northern gate in the Aurelian Walls, once the "Porta Flaminia" of ancient Rome, and now called "Porta del Popolo". This was the starting point of the Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum (modern Rimini) and the most important route to the north. At the same time, before the age of railroads, it was the traveller's first view of Rome upon arrival. For centuries, the Piazza del Popolo was a place for public executions, the last of which took place in 1826. An Egyptian obelisk of Rameses II from Heliopolis stands in the centre of the Piazza. The obelisk, known as the "Obelisco Flaminio", is the second oldest and one of the tallest obelisk in Rome (some 24 m high, or 36 m including its plinth). The obelisk was brought to Rome in 10 BC by order of Augustus and originally set up in the Circus Maximus. It was re-erected here in the Piazza by the architect-engineer Domenico Fontana in 1589 as part of the urban plan of Sixtus V. Looking from the north, three streets branch out from the Piazza, forming the so-called "Trident" (Tridente): the Via del Corso in the centre, the Via del Babuino on the left and the Via di Ripetta on the right.
(An Egyptian obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis stands in the centre of the Piazza
the "twin" churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto (left, built 1662-75) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (right, built 1675-79). )
Twin Churches (the "Chiese Gemelle") of Santa Maria dei Miracoli (1681) and Santa Maria in Montesanto (1679), begun by Carlo Rainaldi and completed by Bernini and Carlo Fontana, define the junctions of the roads. To the north of the Piazza stand the "Porta del Popolo" and the ancient Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. In 1099, a chapel was built by Pope Paschal II to Our Lady, over a tomb of the Domitilla Family; since the people of Rome founded the building, the chapel received the name "del Popolo" (of the people). The chapel became a church by will of Pope Gregory IX, and given to the Augustinians, who held it until now, in the first half of XIII century. Santa Maria del Popolo was reconstructed by Baccio Ponticelli and Andrea Bregno in 1472-1477, creating an excellent example of Italian Renaissance architecture. In 1655-1660 the facade was modified by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was asked by Pope Alexander VII to update the Renaissance church to a more modern Baroque style. The church contains not only the Cerasi Chapel canvases of Caravaggio (Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion on the Way to Damascus) and an Assumption of the Virgin by Annibale Carracci, but also frescoes by Pinturicchio, sculptures by Andrea Bregno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Habakkuk and the Angel and Daniel and the Lion). The Chigi Chapel, the private chapel of banker Agostino Chigi, was designed by Raffaello Sanzio. The dome is decorated with Raphael's mosaics Creation of the World. After Bernini's intervention, the church became a favourite site of burials of rich people of the city.