Porta Soprana

The Porta Soprana was the gateway to the city for whoever arrived in Genoa from the east. It dominated the hill of St. Andrew, which takes its name from the monastery demolished in the 19th century to build the Via Dante and the building that currently houses the Bank of Italy. The two towers framing the access to the Porta Soprana still bear two gravestones in Latin commemorating the event.

New city walls were built in the 12th century to defend the independence of the Republic of Genoa from the expansionist aims of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.
The walls enclosed the three areas of the city: the castrum, which developed on the hill of the Castle; the civitas, built around the cathedral of St. Lorenzo, and the burgus, the area of the businesses around the monastery of St. Siro. The vast majority of the inhabitants took part – both financially and physically – in the construction of the walls, called “of Barbarossa”, which were completed very quickly, between 1155 and 1159. Further, the construction of the three gates with two towers was completed in 1161: the Porta Soprana, also known as the gate of St. Andrew due to the adjacent monastery, the Porta Aurea, and the Porta di Santa Fede.
The Porta Soprana is one of the major medieval stone architecture in Genoa. It was erected at the top of the Plain of St. Andrew, not far from the hill of the same name, which had been paved in the early 19th century. Its name, Soprana, stems from its position, raised as compared to the city. When the gate lost its primarily defensive role and the city walls were expanded, from the 14th century the gate was absorbed by the building development, leading to the construction of the Ponticello district.
On the entry arch between the two towers, a one-storey house was built, to which a second floor was added in the 19th century. Back then, the two towers were used as a prison – the “Prison of the Tower” –, just like the nearby monastery of St. Andrew.
The present building, however, is the result of substantial restorations under the direction of Alfredo D’Andrade. In 1882, the King’s delegate of the Municipality of Genoa appointed D’Andrade as part of the commission responsible for establishing the level of damages to the gate and walls and to arrange for the restoration project, which then lasted until 1914. It was Andrade’s commission that also took on the restoration of the north tower and the arch that dominates the entrance of the gate; the works also involved the sculptures of the capitals, with the eagles in Pisan Romanesque style. The southern tower, though, remained enclosed within the perimeter of a residential building until the 1930s, when, after the demolition of the Ponticello district, it was restored under the direction of Orlando Grosso, who had promoted the commitment of the Municipality in the protection and restoration of monuments since the early 1920s.
The appearance of the gate is most likely the same it had when it was rebuilt during the construction of the third wall, the so-called Walls of Barbarossa. A long inscription on one of the outer walls addresses the citizens who pass through the gate, reading: “I am guarded by soldiers, surrounded by beautiful walls and with my value, I cast away the darts of the enemies. If you bring peace, you may approach this gate; if you seek war, you shall return sad and beaten".