Centro Risorse Territoriale di Pesaro e Urbino

Ancona, a 1769 Guide

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The great difference of this city, from the account given of it by Misson and other travellers, amazed us : " It is surprising, says Misson, how trade is come to nothing in a place which it once made so famous. Indeed, adds he, nothing of this kind should amaze us after such an instance as Antwerp." Ancona makes the very same appearance as Marseilles, Genoa, Leghorn, Naples, and every other city of a large maritime commerce. On our taking a particular view of this city, our amazement encreased ; here are a great number of rich magazines ; commercial houses, in connection both with the principal places of Europe and the Levant ; manufactures most of a recent date, but which time will increase and multiply ; very rich Jews, living in handsome houses ; lastly counts and marquises, who having shaken off former prejudices, carry on trade and are taken up with invoices and bills. The like industry and activity is seen in the commonalty : The men bringing goods from the harbour into the city, out of the city to the harbour, or from warehouse to warehouse, whilst the women keep at home, that is, in very small chambers, the dwelling-place of the whole family, making sail-cloth ; and about the harbour children between seven and eight earn their livelihood in carrying rubbish, puzzolana and mortar in hand barrows. Another sure sign of the rising prosperity of Ancona, are the workshops one every where meets with, either for building new houses, or inlarging, and embellishing the former. Amidst this general bustle the monks do not lye dormant : in the article of Ravenna, I have mentioned a fine large church which the Dominicans of Ancona were building new from the ground.

Such happy revolution in the condition of this city is a living proof how any sovereign, even a pope, may promote the splendor of his dominions. The whole depends on opening a field for industry. This revolution Clement XII. effectuated by declaring Ancona a free port, by building a Lazaretto, which was done under the inspection of his architect Vitelli; and as the pontiff spared no cost for so worthy a design, so is it a master-piece in its kind ; lastly, by granting a toleration for those religions, which the church of Rome has thought fit to cut off from its communion.

The rupture between Benedict XII. and Venice completed what Clement XII. had begun. Ancona, even in its declension, was looked on by the Venetians with an eye of jealousy. The rupture made Benedict XIV. still more intent on restoring the commerce of this city, and he settled particular funds both for rebuilding the weak parts of the former mole, and for lengthening it so as to form a sure fence against the northerly winds, to which the harbour lies open.

The decease of that pontiff had not yet caused any interruption of those works, which put us in mind of the active Tyrians at Carthage. Instant ardentes Tyrii , &c. But I am apt to doubt whether, now that the Holy See and Venice have made up matters, these noble views will be followed by a Venetian pope, who, besides, may think the church revenues more suitably employed on the continual wants of a city, part of whose inhabitants subsist only on alms-giving.

The old marble mole which was built by Trajan, is divided in its centre by that triumphal arch, which all accounts are full of, and which, with Rimini bridge and the square house at Nimes, is one of the most intire remains of Roman grandeur that I have ever seen. It is still, as I may say, fresh from the mint, as if time and the elements had, in this monument, respected the memory of a prince, who placed his chief delight in making mankind happy. On it this inscription:

Imp. Caesari Dive Nervae F.

Nervae Trajano

Optimo, Aug. Germanico, Dacico

Pont. Max.

Trib. Pot. XIX. Imp. IX Cos. V. P. P.

Providentissimo Principi,

S. P. Q. R. quod adcessum Italiae,

hoc etiam addito ex pecunia sua portu,

tutiorem Navigantibus reddiderit.

On the right-hand under this inscription:

Plotinae Aug.

Coniugi Aug.

And on the left:

Divae Marcianae

Sorori Aug.

The opening or bay, formed by this arch, seems to the eye of a height more than double its breadth ; a proportion which causes it to appear too scanty, but occasioned by the narrowness of the ground. Indeed if on this narrow space, the bay had been confined to the ordinary proportions, and the arch allowed its present height, the bay would have been a kind of wicket in a mass which would have crushed it ; or, had the structure been proportionably contracted, this monument, which was to be a distant land-mark to mariners, would have been a mere bauble, not perceived till one was just on it. In short, the sea being its true point of view, the contractedness of the bay must scarce be perceivable by mariners, whose course is never or very rarely direct to this bay.

The cathedral of Ancona stands on the summit of a promontory, by the ancients called Cumerum , and the first site of Ancona. This promontory forms the point of that angle which the Appennine describes, turning there from north southward, after having run eastward from Genoa. To this angle Ancona may be concluded to owe its name, which in the language of the Greeks, by whom it was given, signifies elbow or flexure , and not to the curvature made by its harbour, which, in this respect, has nothing peculiar in it from all the harbours of the universe.

The summit of this promontory, which to this day is inhabited, we reached with no small difficulty, against a very strong wind in our faces, though the sky was quite serene. The fatigue, indeed was such as to make a glass of the cathedral wine very acceptable to me, and I found it answerable to the ancient reputation of the Ancona wines. It is now called Sirolo wine, and is the produce of the south declivity of the mountain, on the summit of which stands the citadel.

The cathedral dedicated to St. Quiriacus has replaced a temple formerly consecrated to Venus, and mentioned by Juvenal ( a ) : all worth notice in it is some good paintings and its marble portal, which undoubtedly was built at the expence of the old mole ; but utterly void of taste or design. From the lobby of this church one sees at a small distance the sea, the harbour, the city, its works and environs, a most delightful prospect ; but the wind scarce allowed us a steady enjoyment of it. The situation of Ancona seemed to me something like that of Marseilles, but much more must it have been so, before the people of Ancona had quitted the mountain and settled in the level of the shore; now the only part of it inhabited is the declivity nearest the harbour : its houses, which are cannon proof, communicate with the city and with one another, by streets like steep stairs of a hundred, or a hundred and fifty steps, kept in very indifferent repair, but with landing places, as I may call them, for the cross streets. Such a place as Ancona, before its leaving the mountain, had no need of fortifications to make it impregnable.

Its natural advantages seconded the courage of the inhabitants in the long siege, which it sustained with success against all the forces of the Goths, though vigorously attacking it both by land and sea : a resistance the more memorable, it being then the only place in Italy remaining to the Romans, It was these advantages and the unanimity of its citizens which likewise preserved it independent, amidst the disturbances of Italy, its restless neighbours, the jealousy of the Venetians, and continual vexations from the popes, whom it acknowledged as protectors, but would never allow to be its masters : with power or courage to stand the threatnings of the Turks, and oppose their frequent descents on its coast, it might perhaps, have remained independent to this very day. But in 1537, Clement VII. Under pretence of its security, built a citadel on the hill parallel to the promontory on which stood the original Ancona, and which consequently commands the modern : the upshot was that the artillery and garrison, which he expeditiously poured into the citadel, some Italian practices co-operating, obliged Ancona to acknowledge a master : sensit Dominun, froenunque recepit .

Leandro Alberti highly praises a citizen of Ancona named Ciriaco, as one of the first moderns who made the study of antique monuments his business. Prompted by this curiosity, he travelled over almost all Europe and a great part of Asia and Africa, copying and drawing with his own hand, theatres, circuses, temples, statues, tombs, obelisks, pyramids, triumphal arches, inscriptions, &c. the whole made several large volumes, and the more valuable, as, , since the 15 th century when he lived, great numbers of these monuments are come to nothing. This perhaps is what led Antonius Augustinus to reproach him with having drawn many of these monuments merely from his imagination. But whether these collections are still in being, or where they are, I know not. Alberti tells us, that in 1534, Peter Apintio and Bartholomew Amantio printed part of them in Germany. When the people with whom Cyriaco lived, or with whom he travelled, minding nothing but gain, used to ask him what he should get by all his expences and fatigues, he would answer with an air of disdain the glory of reviving the dead.

We one day met in the streets of Ancona a very pretty young woman smartly drest, in the habit of a pilgrim, asking alms from door to door ; she was squired along by a well-looking man, likewise in the garb of a pilgrim. But I could not forbear lifting up my eyes, on hearing that he was not her husband, and that these pilgrimages are still very common in Italy : they are performed in a calsh, and the pilgrims go about the city asking alms ; what money is thus gathered goes to the poor ; the people like it; and husbands take no umbrage ; for to imagine that so pious a work can be made a cloak of to any carnal transactions, is not to believe in God .

(a) Sat. IV. He speaks of a monstrous fish stranded in the harbour :

Ante domum Veneriis quam Dorica sustinet Ancon .

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