The town is finely situated on and between the slopes of the two extremities of the promontory of Monte Conero, Monte Astagno, occupied by the citadel, and Monte Guasco, on which the Duomo stands.
Among the many monuments, the Lazzaretto (Laemocomium or "Mole Vanvitelliana"), planned by architect Luigi Vanvitelli in 1732. It is a pentagonal building covering more than 20,000 sq.m., built to protect the military defensive authorities from the risk of contagious diseases eventually reaching the town with the ships. Later it was used also as a military hospital or as barracks.
1911 encyclopedia text:
It is the capital of the province of Ancona, situated on the northeast coast of Italy, 132 miles northeast of Rome, and 127 miles southeast of Bologna.
Pop. (1901) 56,835 (the current population is about one hundred thousand).
The town is finely situated on and between the slopes of the two extremities of the promontory of Monte Conero, Monte Astagno to the south, occupied by the citadel, and Monte Guasco to the north, on which the cathedral stands (300 ft.). The latter, dedicated to St. Ciriaco, is said to occupy the site of a temple of Venus, who is mentioned by Catullus and Juvenal as the tutelary deity of the place.
The cathedra was consecrated in 1128 and completed in 1189. Some writers suppose that the original church was in the form of a Latin cross and belonged to the 8th century. An early restoration was completed in 1234. It is a fine Romanesque building in grey stone, built in the form of a Greek cross, with a dodecagonai dome over the centre slightly altered by Maigaritone d' Arezzo in 1270. The facade has a Gothic portal, ascribed to Giorgio da Corno (1228), which was intended to have a lateral arch on each side.
The interior, which has a crypt in each transept, in the main preserves its original character. It has ten columns which are attributed to the temple of Venus, and there are good screens of the 12th century, and other sculptures.
In the dilapidated episcopal palace Pope Pius II died in 1464. An interesting church is St. Maria della Piazza, with an elaborate arcaded facade (1210). The Palazzo del Comune, with its lofty arched substructures at the back, was the work of Margaritone d' Arezzo, but has been since twice restored.
There are also several fine late Gothic buildings, among them the churches of S. Francesco and S. Agostino, the Palazzo Benincasa, and the Loggia dei Mercanti, all by Giorgio Orsini, usually called da Sebenico (who worked much at Sebenico, though he was not a native of it), and the prefecture, which has Renaissance additions. The portal of S. Maria della Misericordia is an ornate example of early Renaissance work.
The archaeological museum contains interesting pre-Roman objects from tombs in the district, and two Roman beds with fine decorations in ivory.
To the east of the town is the harbour. It was originally protected only by the promontory on the north, from the elbow-like shape of which (Gk. O/VKUIV) the ancient town, founded by Syracusan refugees about 390 B.C., took the name which it still holds.
Greek merchants established a purple factory here (Sil. Ital. viii. 438). Even in Roman times it kept its own coinage with the punning device of the bent arm holding a palm branch, and the head of Aphrodite on the reverse, and continued the use of the Greek language.
When it became a Roman colony is doubtful. It was occupied as a naval station in the Illyrian war of 178 B.C. (Liv. xli. i). Julius Caesar took possession of it immediately after crossing the Rubicon. Its harbour was of considerable importance in imperial times, as the nearest to Dalmatia, and was enlarged by Trajan, who constructed the north quay, his architect being Apollodorus of Damascus. At the beginning of it stands the marble triumphal arch with a single opening, and without bas-reliefs, erected in his honour in A.D. 115 by the senate and people.
Pope Clement II prolonged the quay, and an inferior imitation of Trajan's arch was set up; he also erected a lazaretto at the south end of the harbour, Vanvitelli being the architect-in-chief. The southern quay was built in 1880, and the harbour was protected by forts on the heights.
After the fall of the Roman empire Ancona was successively attacked by the Goths, Lombards and Saracens, but recovered its strength and importance. It was one of the cities of the Pentapolis under the exarchate of Ravenna, the other four being Fano, Pesaro, Senigallia and Rimini, and eventually became a semi-independent republic under the protection of the popes, until Gonzaga took possession of it for Pope Clement VII in 1532.
From 1797 onwards, when the French took it, it frequently appears in history as an important fortress, until Lamoriciere capitulated here on the 29th of September 1860, eleven days after his defeat at Castelfidardo.