The large square of the Piazza del Popolo is situated inside the northern gate of the Aurelian Walls called the Porta del Popolo which was once known as the Porta Flaminia in ancient Rome and was the most important route from Rome to the north. It takes it’s name from the church of Santa Maria del Popolo on the square, Popolo in modern Italian meaning people and in Latin meaning poplar, square of the people being an apt name as this was much used in the past for public gatherings, such as fairs, games and even public executions. For many centuries there was a large fountain here in the square which was used for the washing of clothes and a drinking trough for horses, in 1589 Sixtus V the fountain was replaced by the Egyptian Obelisk of Ramesses II. Later, under Pope Leo XII (1823), four lions with mini fountains and water basins were added to the base of the obelisk.
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