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The Janiculum Hill Cannon

An all-Roman and long-standing tradition that takes place punctually every day, rain or shine, and which can be seen from the so-called “Balcony of Rome”, one of the viewpoints offering a stunning panorama over the city. Every day, a cannon blank round is fired from the Janiculum at noon, a rite born on 1 December 1847. It was Pope Pius IX who introduced it, in order to have only one signal for the official time and to synchronize the bells of the churches of the then capital of the Papal State, but the tradition continued with the unification of Italy.

Until 1903, the cannon did its job from Castel Sant’Angelo. It then moved to the slopes of Monte Mario for just one year until it found its final operating center on top of the Janiculum Hill, beneath the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, on 24 January 1904, and has remained there ever since. During the Second World War, the cannon was forced to silence for reasons of public order, replaced by the sound of a siren. The tradition was finally restored in 1959: on 21 April of that year, on the occasion of the 2712th anniversary of the foundation of Rome, the cannon started again to mark the “noon”.

The first cannon to fire from the Janiculum could boast a long history: it was in fact used by the artillery of the Kingdom of Italy to open the breach of Porta Pia and enter Rome in 1870. Since 1991 a loaded World War II howitzer has been used with a kilo of gunpowder. Before the introduction of the telegraph and, today, of the telephone, the signal to start the cannon shot came from the church of Sant’Ignazio: a basket containing a black ball was hoisted on a long pole placed on the roof of the church and dropped at twelve o’clock. The cannon officer observed it with binoculars, and as the ball fell, gave the order to fire.

On quiet days, the shot can be heard as far as the Esquiline Hill: a shot with a symbolic value that gathers tourists, locals, families and children.


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