Friday, March 11, 2005

A massive organ capable of 77 registers

"On the left wall on the Chapel of St Bruno is the monumental organ built by Bartelemy Formentelli in the 1990's. It has 77 registers, and is made in cherry, walnut and chestnut wood. It is still used for concerts today." - Exseminarians Churches of Rome

A natural miracle

Its a miracle
Its a miracle, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
In general, the lighting in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli was very low and made it difficult to photograph much of the beautiful artwork that adorns its sanctuary but I found it interesting that a shaft of afternoon sunlight created a visual "miracle" shining on this mural. Actually, I found in my research that the central transcept of the sanctuary has been purposefully modified to enable the use of a sundial laid down along the meridian that crosses through Rome. I wish I had known about this aspect of the design and I would have made a point of photographing the Meridian Line that runs along the left side of the chapel floor. Having a latitude 15º at true noon, about 12.15 pm (1.15 pm in summer time), the sun casts its light dead on this line. It made me think of the Rose Line mentioned in the novel "The DaVinci Code".

"If you look at the right side of the transept wall, you can see that part of the cornice has been cut away to provide the effect. The markings were made by the astronomer, mathematician, archaeologist, historian and philosopher Francesco Bianchini. Bianchini had been commissioned by Pope Clement XI to make them for the Holy Year of 1700. It took a bit longer; they were comleted in 1703 with the assistance of the astronomer G.F. Maraldi." - Exseminarians Churches of Rome

This portion of the basilica, known as the Chapel of St. Bruno, was designed by Carlo Maratta. The altar was made from an older altar by Francesco Fontana in 1864. Above the altar is Giovanni Odazzi's painting The Apparition of the Virgin Mary to St Bruno. It was painted for the 1700 Jubilee, and shows the Blessed Virgin handing the Order's Rule to St Bruno. The vault was painted by Andrea Procaccini with figures of the Evangelists, while the rest of the decorations were painted by Antonio Bicchierai.

Later, I was chatting with another visitor and she asked me if I had not seen the coin boxes that you can place money in so lights will come up for a few moments to assist you in your photography. I didn't notice any boxes or signage to that affect in this church.

Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli incorporated the central chambers of Diocletian's baths

Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli
Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
We grabbed some tasty sandwiches at Termini then, following the map supplied by our hotel, set out for Piazza del Republica that we thought had to be the nearest stop to the Museo Nationale di Roma. We did not realize we had spent the entire morning in one venue of the Museum at Diocletian's Baths. To our surprise, we got off at the stop indicated on the map and proceeded to wander in a virtual circle asking Italians where their national museum was and finally discovered it was right next to Termini if we had taken our eyes off the traffic (read as Italian men) we would have seen the sign on the building. As it was, we wandered about for the better part of an hour and a half. At one point we did wander through the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli at the direction of a priest we met in an alley. The church was so ornate and embellished with paintings that Pat says mostly featured saints being put to death in various interesting ways. I did find them quite beautiful.

" When the Medici pope called in his chosen architect, Michelangelo, both of these aging Renaissance men wanted to honor the architectural wonders of the past by converting a monument of pagan hedonism into a religious masterpiece.

The unprepossessing facade is a rounded brick wall, one of the interior partitions of Diocletian's ancient Bath.

The church's entrance originally separated the now-vanished hot "caldarium" baths from the luke-warm "tepidarium" of Diocletian’s Bath, which is now the church's vestibule.
Next comes the finest statue in the church, representing St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian order, by the 18C French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon.
You then enter the ancient Bath's central hall. The altar is straight ahead on the short axis of the nave, while the overwhelming bulk of the original baths runs in both directions toward the altars on either side, lavishly decorated by Vanvitelli.
The effect of this crossing at the center is breathtaking for its vast size and elegant proportions.

Italian state funerals are usually held here. During the Christmas and Easter seasons there are concerts of religious music. - Roma Online

Slave numbers uncertain in the Roman Empire

Slave medallion
Slave medallion, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
This is the first artifact of Roman slavery I had ever seen. Although it is acknowledged that Roman society depended heavily on slave labor, the numbers of slaves at any one time within Rome itself can only be estimated.

"Though slavery was a prevailing feature of all Mediterranean countries in antiquity, the Romans had more slaves and depended more on them than any other people.

It is impossible, however, to put an accurate figure on the number of slaves owned by the Romans at any given period: for the early Empire with which we are concerned conditions varied from time to time and from place to place. Yet, some estimates for Rome, Italy, and the Empire are worth attempting. The largest numbers were of course in Italy and especially in the capital itself. In Rome there were great numbers in the imperial household and in the civil service - the normal staff on the aqueducts alone numbered 700 (Frontin. Aq. 116-7). Certain rich private individuals too had large numbers - as much for ostentation as for work (Sen. Ep.110.17). Pedanius Secundus, City Prefect in AD 61, kept 400 slaves (Tac. Ann. 14.43.4), Gaius Caecilius Isidorus, freedman of Gaius Caecilius, left 4116 in his will in 8 BC, while some owners had so many that a nomenclator had to be used to identify them (Pliny HN 33.135; 33.26). However, there is evidence to suggest that these cases were not typical - even for great houses. Sepulchral inscriptions for the rich noble gens the Statilii list a total of approximately 428 slaves and freedpersons from 40 BC to AD 65. When these figures are analysed, the number of slaves and freedpersons definitely owned by individual members of the gens is small, e.g. Statilius Taurus Sisenna (consul of AD 16) and his son had six, Statilius Taurus Corvinus (consul ordinarius of AD 45) had eight, and Statilia Messalina, wife of Nero, four or five. Seneca, a man of extraordinary wealth, believed he was travelling frugally when he had with him one cartload of slaves (most likely four or five) (Ep 87.2). References in Juvenal and the Scriptores Historiae Augustae suggest that many non-plebeian Romans had either no slave or merely one or two (Sat. 3.286; 9.64-67,142-7; S.H.A. Hadr.17.6). From evidence such as this Westermann, Hopkins and others are understandably cautious when attempting to come to a total figure for slaves in the city of Rome in the 1st century AD. Hopkins' estimate of 300,000-350,000 out of a population of about 900,000-950,000 at the time of Augustus seems plausible." - John Madden, Slavery in the Roman Empire Numbers and Origins

Unique animal head sculpture in the garden of the Baths of Diocletian

Large stone animal heads protruding from square-cut shrubs in the garden at the Baths of Diocletian were quite interesting and made some unusual framing material for some scenic photos. Some of the animals depicted such as the elephant and the rhinocerous were favorite performers in staged beast hunts held in amphitheaters around the Empire.

Mithrasism was adopted by many Roman legionaries

Frieze from a Mithraeum
Frieze from a Mithraeum, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
I was particularly interested in several exhibits of art recovered from Mithraeums throughout the Roman Empire.

"The Roman army first encountered the cult of Mithras in Persia (modern Iran) during the reign of the emperor Nero although its origins in India have been traced back to 1400 BC. One of the many mystery cults that the Romans introduced from the east, Mithraism first appealed to slaves and freedmen but with Mithras's title Invictus, the cult's emphasis on truth, honour and courage, and its demand for discipline soon led to Mithras becoming a god of soldiers and traders.

Various stories survive to account for Mithras's birth. Often he is depicted springing from the living rock or from a tree; at Housesteads on Hadrian's Wall, however, there was a tradition that he was born from the Cosmic Egg.

Mithras's early life was one of hardship and painful triumph. Finally,he captured the primaeval bull and, after dragging it back to his cave, killed the animal in order to release its life force for the benefit of humanity: from the bull's body grew useful plants and herbs, from its blood came the vine, and from its semen all useful animals." - The Museum of Antiquities Online

This bull slaying scene - known as a tauroctony is found in virtually all Mithrae.

Renaissance Monk

Renaissance Monk
Renaissance Monk, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
In the Diocletian wing of the National Museum we found this wonderful painting of a Carmelite monk. I tried to find out more about it but found only references to a Florentine painter named Fra Filippo Lippi. I don't know whether it is his work or not. The hazard of taking hundreds of photos in such a short time without taking notes.

Roman sarcophagus lid

Roman sarcophagus lid
Roman sarcophagus lid, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
In the courtyard, we found an extensive collection of funerary monuments and sarcophagi. I found this sarcophagus lid especially poignant with a reclining man lovingly cradling a bust of his wife.

"In your place I have only your image as solace; this we cherish with reverence and lavish with flowers. When I come with you, it follows in attendance. But to whom in my visiting can I trust a thing so venerable? If there ever is anyone to whom I can entrust it, I shall be fortunate in this alone now that I have lost you. But-woe is me-you have won the contest-my fate and yours are the same." - Allia Potestas, late 3rd-4th cent. C.E.

My first visit to Rome Day 2: The Baths of Diocletian

Diocletion Baths Fresco 1
Diocletion Baths Fresco 1, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Our first stop on our second day in Rome was the Baths of Diocletian.

"Almost a century after Caracalla gave Romans his gargantuan Baths, Emperor Diocletian, who never even visited Rome, strove to outshine his imperial predecessor by commissioning the largest and most gorgeous bathing establishment the world had ever seen.

It could accommodate 3000 bathers simultaneously, about twice as many as the Baths of Caracalla, covered 13 hectares (32 acres) and had the full panoply of changing rooms, gymnasiums, libraries, meeting rooms, theaters, concert halls, sculpture gardens, vast basins for hot, lukewarm and cold plunges, as well as mosaic floors and marble facades. Today's luxurious spas and health resorts are but pale copies of the Baths of Diocletian.

Fragments of the Baths' core were incorporated into the Renaissance Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli by Michelangelo and now form part of the Museo Nazionale Romano.

The Baths were built of brick that was faced on the inside with marble and on the outside with white stucco imitating blocks of white marble, like the Baths of Caracalla. The enormous central hall, 280 by 160 yards, is an engineering wonder that was the model for the Basilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum." - Roma Online

Thursday, March 10, 2005

My first visit to Rome Day 1 Part 8

Gaius Julius Caesar 1
Gaius Julius Caesar 1, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
We continued down the street and Pat photographed me with the statue of Julius Caesar. My reawakened interest in Rome is a direct result of reading Colleen McCullough's "Masters of Rome" series of novels. Her literary portrait of Julius Caesar stirred my admiration and kindled my desire to learn all that I could about this fascinating culture that has had such a significant influence on my own.

I also photographed statues of the emperors Nerva and Augustus. We were about ready to drop so we caught the Metro at the Colosseum back to Manzoni station then walked from there back to the hotel with one side trip to a wonderful little sandwich shop where we grabbed a couple of delicious panini sandwiches for supper (we had shot our wad for dinner at the cafe near the Colosseum but it was certainly worth it!)

My first visit to Rome Day 1 Part 7

Trajans Column relief detail
Trajans Column relief detail, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Trajan's column is just a short walk from the Victor Emanuel Monument. Although it presently has scaffolding around the base I was still able to get some great shots of the sculptured images with my 12X zoom lens. The difficult part is trying to remember where you are on the monument to take the next successive photograph.

I had been anxious to see Trajan's column ever since I attended a lecture on Trajan and the Dacian Wars. I was certainly not disappointed. This is a period of Roman history I hope to learn more about and it is exciting to see the events depicted in so much detail on the column shaft.

Carved from 20 blocks of Carrara marble, the column stands over 30 meters high.

"The upper parts of the Column were designed to be seen not from the ground level but from the galleries of the buildings which originally stood around it. A statue of the emperor himself once stood on the summit; the present statue of St Peter dates only from 1588. The base of the Column is a massive cube containing a number of small rooms, the innermost of which was Trajan's tomb chamber. Cremation was still the customary rite among high-ranking Romans during this period. Two holes drilled in the rear wall of the room may have been intended to hold the funerary urns of Trajan and his wife Plotina."

My first visit to Rome Day 1 Part 6

Victor Emanuel Monument
Victor Emanuel Monument, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
The Victor Emanuel monument was spectacular with beautiful statues and fountains. Built between 1885 and 1911, the monument was dedicated to the memory of King Victor Emanuel, II of Savoia who achieved the unification of Italy in 1870 with Rome as its capital. The monument is also the site of the tomb of the Unknown Italian Soldier of World War I. Originally designed by Giuseppe Sacconi, the structure includes two allegorical groups in bronze gilt, representing Thought and Action and two fountains representing the the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas. The construction of the monument was controversial because a number of ancient Roman ruins and medieval churches were demolished to make room for the structure. Some art historians have also complained about the degree of ornamentation used on the building. However, I found it rather breathtaking myself although I am particuarly partial to elaborate historical motifs.

My first visit to Rome Day 1 Part 5

Marcus Aurelius Closeup
Marcus Aurelius Closeup, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
We then walked over to the Campodiglio and I photographed all the sculptures including the Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue.

"A few years after he arrived in Rome, Pope Paul III (Farnese) decided to reshape the Capitoline Hill into a monumental civic piazza; Michelangelo designed the project and his Piazza del Campidoglio is one of the most significant contributions ever made in the history of urban planning. The hill's importance as a sacred site in antiquity had been largely forgotten due to its medieval transformation into the seat of the secular government and headquarters for the Roman guilds, and it was in forlorn condition when Michelangelo took charge of reorganizing it as a dynamic new center of Roman political life. The project went forward in slow stages with many interruptions; little was built before his death in 1564. It was begun in 1538 and was not completed until the seventeenth century, but Michelangelo's original design is preserved in engravings from the 1560s by Ètienne Dupèrac."

—Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman. Architecture: from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. p313-14.

Apparently the Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue, formerly in the Lateran square, was moved to the Capitoline in 1538 but was not originally considered by Michelangelo as decoration for the square.

A sad end to a great man

Julius Caesar's Funeral Pyre
Julius Caesar's Funeral Pyre, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
When we stopped at Caesar's temple, we were amazed to see that the silk roses my friend Pat left there two years ago were still there and still lovely. We have some purple roses tied with consul's purple ribbon that we will leave at the temple on the Ides. Pat also brought another bouquet to leave at his statue.

Home of the Eternal City's Eternal Flame

Temple of Vesta
Temple of Vesta, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
"Containing the sacred fire and the Palladium, an effigy of Athene (Minerva) believed to have been brought by Aeneas from Troy, this ancient temple was built in imitation of a primitive round hut, its hearth fire symbolizing the perpetuity of the Roman State. It was not a true temple in that its space was not inaugurated, nor did it contain an image of Vesta, the goddess of the household hearth. As the handmaidens of Vesta, the principal duty of the six Vestals was never to allow the flame to be extinguished, an arduous task in a building with a vent in the roof. There also was danger that the temple, itself, might catch fire, which it sometimes did. It was destroyed in the fire of Nero in AD 64, which reached this point of the Forum. The last time it burned, in AD 191, the temple was restored by Julia Domna, the wife of Severus. Once a year, on June 15, the ashes of the tended fire were ritually thrown into the Tiber.

Completely stripped of its marble in the mid-sixteenth century, a section of the temple was reconstructed in 1930." - Encyclopedia Romana, University of California at San Francisco.

The Curia or Senate Chamber was frequent target of political unrest

The Curia was the meeting place of the Senate. The original Curia was built by the third king of Rome, Tullus Hostilius. It burnt down four times, first in 80 B.C. Diocletian built the current structure shortly after the devastating fire of 283 C.E. on the site of an earlier curia begun by Julius Caesar and completed by Octavianus (Augustus) in 29 B.C.E. The lower half of the building was once faced with marble, the upper half with stucco. The holes in the facade once supported the chalcidicum - a portico built by Augustus to house the senate's vast collection of records. The Curia could seat up to 200 senators.

Forgive and Forget

Temple of Antonius and Faustina
Temple of Antonius and Faustina, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Although it was said that Faustina, the Emperor Antonius' wife was serially unfaithful, he nonetheless dedicated this temple to her in 141 C.E. After his death, it was rededicated to them both. In the 11th century the temple was converted to a church named San Lorenzo because it was thought that San Lorenzo had been condemned to death there. The church was later rebuilt in 1601.

Indentification of Temple of Divus Romulus still debated

Temple of Divus Romulus
Temple of Divus Romulus, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
One of the few structures relatively still intact in the Forum is the Temple of Divus Romulus. Although one might think this is a shrine to one of the founders of Rome it is actually said to have been built to honor the son of Maxentius, who died in 307 C.E. Scholars are not in agreement on this, however.

The massive bronze door is quite impressive and the flanking columns are carved from porphyry, a purple stone mined in north Africa.

My first visit to Rome Day 1 part 4

Forum Romanum
Forum Romanum, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
I could hardly get over my amazement at actually being in the Roman Forum in person after reading so much about all of the famous people of history who have been there before me!

"Originally the area of the Forum was wet and covered in grass, as it was not suitable for building. A necropolis has been found, dating from the 10th century BCE, but otherwise the area doesn't seem to have been used. This changed in the 7th century with the construction of the Cloaca Maxima. This sewer system, which was enclosed and covered to drain the areawas based on a natural stream, was a sign that the settlements on the Palatine Hill was spreading into the valley." -

A stroll down the Sacred Way

Via Sacra
Via Sacra, originally uploaded by mharrsch.

We walked down the Via Sacra to the Forum Romanum. Roman roads are actually rather difficult for a pedestrian to walk upon. There is a narrow strip of small paving stones to the left of the larger Roman paving stones that I used because they were far more comfortable to tread. I think, however, they were a later addition.

Constantine raided monuments to Trajan and Hadrian to build triumphal arch

Since so much of the remains of ancient Rome had been stripped of their marble and original ornamentation, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Arch of Constantine in such good condition. The friezes were wonderfully detailed and I took quite a few detail photos of all of the ornamentation. I learned, however, that Constantine, himself, raided the monuments of Trajan and Hadrian to construct this triumphal arch erected to commemorate his victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in 315 C.E.

Modern Reenactors work the crowds at the Colosseum

Friends Romans Countrymen
Friends Romans Countrymen, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Although I didn't get to see any gladiators in costume near the Colosseum, I did see this fellow dressed in legionary regalia. These "professional" Roman soldiers and a fellow dressed as a Roman senator lure tourists over for a rather expensive photo session (I was told it was something like 35 EUR). I took this clandestine shot with my 12X zoom lens.

We had a wonderful lunch at a sidewalk cafe across the street from the Colosseum. I had an absolutely delicious tortellini with sweet cream sauce that was exquisite and Pat had a creamy spaghetti carbonara which we topped off with real Italian tiramisu.

Plays are occasionally staged on the rebuilt arena floor of the Colosseum

At the Colosseum I spent quite a bit of time photographing the hypogeum, the area beneath the wooden arena floor, where there was a complex set of rooms and passageways for wild beasts and other provisions for staging the spectacles. In 107 CE, Emperor Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators within 123 days.  A portion of the floor has now been rebuilt and occasionally plays are presented to modern audiences.

My first visit to Rome Day 1 Part 1

Colosseum as seen from the Domus Aurea
Photograph by Mary Harrsch

I arrived in Rome today and my friend Pat Hunter and I have already walked our legs off! Although I had flown for almost 20 hours, I was too excited to rest so we headed out for some site seeing right away. Of course I wanted to see the Colosseum first. There is a park across the street from the Colosseum where the remains of the Domus Aurea (Nero's Golden House) is located. We were told the next presentation would not be held for another hour and forty minutes so we strolled through the park over to the Colosseum.

"The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheater was begun by Vespasian, inaugurated by Titus in 80 A.D. and completed by Domitian. Located on marshy land between the Esquiline and Caelian Hills, it was the first permanent amphitheater to be built in Rome." - Great Buildings Online

I liked taking this photo of the Colosseum because you don't see the traffic in front of it from this viewpoint. I also wanted to capture images of the emperor's box and the gladiators' gate.

The price of admission includes a multimedia show projected on hanging panels of fabric inside the Colosseum's passageways. I wish I could have seen a battle reenactment.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, March 04, 2005

Great Blacks In Wax Museum

Booker T Washington
Booker T Washington, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
I am always a fan of wax museums and when I read about the "Great Blacks In Wax" Museum in Baltimore I had to include it in my schedule when I attended a conference there in October 2004. I found the visit very interesting since my knowledge of famous African-Americans was pretty much limited to George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King.

Although some of the older figures are basically costumed manniquins, the newer figures are quality wax sculptures equal to those I have seen at Madame Tussaud's in Las Vegas. I don't necessarily agree with the depiction of Hannibal as a black African (he was descended from a Phoenician noble family that colonized Carthage) or Imhotep as black (his image is depicted in ancient Egyptian murals as having a red complexion not the black of a Nubian). There were Nubian pharaohs that are documented in Egyptian history and I would have preferred an exhibit of them with a model of one of their distinctive silver sarcophagi. However, I found much of the information presented fascinating and well worth the visit. The museum also features a well stocked gift shop where I picked up a beautifully illustrated book about Addy, the black "American Girl" from Mattel's doll series, and some excellent videos about ancient civilizations.

See more images of the Great Blacks in Wax Museum