Exseminarians Churches of Rome
Friday, March 11, 2005
"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.
" 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 Diocletianâ€™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
"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
"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.
"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.
"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
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!)
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."
"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 Ãˆtienne DupÃ¨rac."
â€”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.
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 massive bronze door is quite impressive and the flanking columns are carved from porphyry, a purple stone mined in north Africa.
"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." - Rome-Italy.org.uk.
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.
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.
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.
|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.
Friday, March 04, 2005
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