The arch, built in brick-faced concrete and characterized by a double arched lintel made of bipedales (59 cm side squared bricks), is situated along Via Marmorata which grosso modo corresponds to the route of the Via Ostiensis, the ancient main road that connected the river Tiber’s Port to Ostia. Because of its proximity to the Emporium, it has been thought that the fornix, monumentalized during the Early Middle Ages, was originally  part of the ancient buildings connected to the river port, and had the specific function of linking the residential houses of the southern slopes of the Aventino hill to the plane of Testaccio.

In the Middle Ages the arch was called “the Arch of Orazio Coclite” since it was very close to the bridge traditionally identified as the Sublicius, associated with the deeds of the Roman legendary hero; it became a transit point for pilgrims going to the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

Moreover, it was included in the route of the sacred representations set up on the occasion of the Holy Week, that departed from Via della Bocca della Verità and ended on the Monte Testaccio, considered as representing? the Calvario.
The arch later took the name of “S. Lazarus” from the name of a small church dedicated to the patron Saint of lepers which was built in the 15th century beside the fornix, where offerings were collected to support the lazar house built outside Porta Angelica, at the slopes of the Monte Mario Hill. The church was still in use at the end of the 18th century, as testified by its presence in the list of parish churches attached to the map of Rome by Antonio Barbey (1798).
On the base of 16th century archival documents, Rodolfo Lanciani identified the fornix as the so-called “arco delle Sette Vespe” or “arco dei Vespilloni”, whose name derived maybe from the decorations – not preserved nowadays – present on the arch.


(C. Giobbe)