Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Column of Marcus Aurelius contains a 200-step staircase

Column of Marcus Aurelius 8
Column of Marcus Aurelius 8, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
"The column [of Marcus Aurelius] is a direct imitation of that of Trajan, the height of shaft, torus, and capital being the same, 100 Roman feet (29.77 metres), but tapers less and therefore seems more massive. The shaft itself, 26.50 metres in height and 3.90 in diameter, is composed of 26 rings of Luna marble. It is hollow, and contains a spiral stairway with 200 steps. The interior is lighted by 56 rectangular loop-holes." - Lacus Curtius

Column of Marcus Aurelius

Column of Marcus Aurelius 4
Column of Marcus Aurelius 4, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Not far from the Pantheon stands the column of Marcus Aurelius. Standing 100 feet high, it bears reliefs depicting his conquests in the Danubian Wars over the Marcomanni and Sarmatians. (Do all columns tell the story of wars that start with a "D"?)

Although the column is not as old as Trajan's column, it has apparently suffered from earthquakes and a fire. The quality of the sculptures is inferior to those on Trajan's column as well.

Pantheon converted to Christian church in 7th century

Pantheon Mural Detail
Pantheon Mural Detail, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
"Until the 5th century, the Pantheon was a temple dedicated to all the Roman gods. In 609, Emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated it, dedicated it to St. Mary and all the Christian martyrs, and renamed it Santa Maria ad Martyres." - Monolithic.com

By this time, we were too tired to walk the 1.5 kilometers back to the Metro station so we hailed a cab for the trip back to the hotel (only 7.50 EUR)

Red Granite Columns of the Pantheon Portico

"The large columned porch of the Pantheon has a facade composed of eight columns in grey granite. Two red granite columns each are set behind the first, third, sixth, and eighth column of the facade, thus forming three aisles. The central aisle, which is the widest, leads to the entrance. The side aisles end in two large niches destined for the statues of Agrippa and Augustus. The tympanum was decorated with a crowned eagle in bronze of which only the fix holes still remain. The ceiling of the porch was also decorated in bronze but this was removed by Pope Urban VIII Barberini." - Romeguide

Pantheon dome a marvel of early engineering

Pantheon 6
Pantheon 6, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Then it was on to the Pantheon. I couldn't get a full shot of the dome and oculus because there was a huge scaffolding in the way due to reconstruction to repair water damage to the marble floor from rain. The dome, cast of concrete mixed with pumice and tufa poured over a wooden framework, spans 142 feet. It was the largest dome in Italy until Brunelleschi constructed the dome of the Florence Cathedral beginning in 1420.

"In truth, no one knows the Pantheon's exact age. One legend says that the first Roman citizens built the original Pantheon on the very site where the current one still stands in the Campo Marzo - modern Rome's business district. The ancients constructed this first Pantheon after Romulus (753-716 BC), their mythological founder, ascended to heaven from that site. They dedicated it to Romulus and some of his divine ancestors and, for centuries, held rites and processions there.

Most historians, however, claim that Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa built the first Pantheon in 27 BC, a rectilinear, T-shaped structure, 144 feet by 66 feet (44m x 20m), with masonry walls and a pitched timber roof. It burned in the great fire of 80 AD, was rebuilt by Emperor Domitian, but was struck by lightening and burned again in 110 AD. By 120 AD, Hadrian began designing a Pantheon reminiscent of Greek temples and far more elaborate than anything Rome had yet seen. His plans called for a structure with three main parts: a pronaos or entrance portico, a circular domed rotunda or vault, and a connection between the two. The rotunda's internal geometry would create a perfect sphere, since the height of the rotunda to the top of its dome would match its diameter: 142 feet (43.30 m). At its top, the dome would have an oculus or eye, a circular opening, with a diameter of 27 feet (8.2m), as its only light source.

Hadrian said, "My intentions had been that this sanctuary of All Gods should reproduce the likeness of the terrestrial globe and of the stellar sphere...The cupola...revealed the sky through a great hole at the center, showing alternately dark and blue. This temple, both open and mysteriously enclosed, was conceived as a solar quadrant. The hours would make their round on that caissoned ceiling so carefully polished by Greek artisans; the disk of daylight would rest suspended there like a shield of gold; rain would form its clear pool on the pavement below, prayers would rise like smoke toward that void where we place the gods." - Monolithic.com

Fontana Dei Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers

Obelisk 3
Obelisk 3, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
"In the centre of the Piazza Navona is Bernini's most spectacular fountain, la Fontana dei Fiumi, erected in 1651. It features a central rocky structure that supports an obelisk that was an ancient Roman imitation of the Egyptian form. Around this structure are four giant statues by Bernini's pupils following his designs representing the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges, and the Rio della Plata, each representing one of the four quarters of the world." - Roma Interactive

Fontana Del Moro at the Piazza Navona

Fountain at the Piazza Navona 20
Fountain at the Piazza Navona 20, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
The fountain of the Moor at the southern end of the Piazza Navona, which was also designed by Bernini, features the statue of a Moor fighting with a dolphin. Dolphins also seem to vie with other figures for the precious water.

Fountain of Neptune at the Piazza Navona

Fountain at the Piazza Navona 5
Fountain at the Piazza Navona 5, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
After touring Hadrian's Tomb we walked on to the Piazza Navona and I had two ornate fountains to photograph.

The Piazza Navona is exceptionally long and owes its shape to the ruins that formed it, for under the buildings that surround Piazza Navona are the remains of the Circus Domitianus, Domitian's stadium. In ancient times the stadium was the site of the Agonal games, from which the present piazza takes its name by corruption from "in agone" to "n'agone" to "navone" and finally "navona". - Roma Interactive

The basin of the fountain of Neptune was originally sculpted in 1576 by Giacomo della Porta. The figural statues were added three centuries later.

Hadrian's tomb first incorporated into the Aurelian Wall

Castel S Angelo 37
Castel S Angelo 37, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
"As early as A.D. 403 the emperor Honorius may have incorporated the building in an outpost bastion of the Aurelian walls. In 537, when it was already a fortress, it was attacked by Vitiges and his Goths. In the 10th century it was transformed into a castle." - Rome Guide

Fresco at the Castel S Angelo

Castel S Angelo 22
Castel S Angelo 22, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
This celing panel along the outer wall of Castel S. Angelo is very similar in style to the frescoes that adorn the walls of the command chamber. (photography was prohibited in there) I assume the command chamber was originally the location of the urns containing Hadrian's remains. However, the style appears to be more medieval than imperial so it may have been a later embellishment to the structure.

War and Sacrifice

Castel S Angelo 23
Castel S Angelo 23, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
This frieze of a Roman emperor offering sacrifice served to inspire the men who later served within the walls of the Castel S. Angelo.

"The military was the greatest observer of religious events and possessed a calendar detailing the dates and events that were to take place. These involved rituals and displays of faith, especially to the emperor and the god Jupiter. Each unit would erect a new altar to the deity on the edge of the parade ground. A time after the ceremonies were completed, the discarded pieces would be buried. They would also maintain a shrine which would hold the statutes relating to the military, and the Legion's standard when it was not being used. The rituals were observed meticulously by all involved, as it would be deemed an insult to the deity, so these ceremonies were taken most seriously." - Romans-In-Britain.org

Hadrian's tomb converted to medieval fortress

Castel S Angelo 9
Castel S Angelo 9, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
The Castel S. Angelo, once known as the Mole Adriana, was not originally built for defensive purposes but as a funeral monument for the emperor Hadrian.

"It was finished in 139 CE, a year after the emperor's death, by his successor Antoninus Pious. [Hadrian's ashes were then transferred there from their temporary burial-place in the former villa of Cicero at Puteoli] It was then used up to the year 217 CE as a sepulchral for the Antonine family. Although constructed on the river edge, it was built on very solid ground and in an area previously used as a cemetery (actually in the gardens of Domitia, which, with those of Agrippina, formed a crown property called by Tacitus "Nero's Gardens.")

The monument was composed of at least three overlaid architectural bodies - a square base, a large cylindrical body, and a third and last piece. The latter was cylindrical too, but smaller in diameter and consisted of two overlaid orders, on the top of which the statue of Hadrian pulling a quadriga (chariot drawn by four horses) stood." - Castle.org

The structure was once topped with a tumulus of earth planted with trees. A ring of decorative marble statues stood along the edges of the parapet. I wish it still had the trees there. It would give the structure a less military aspect.

"Hadrian's ashes were placed here a year after his death in Baiae in 138, together with those of his wife Sabina, and his first adopted son, Lucius Aelius, who also died in 138. Following this, the remains of succeeding emperors were also placed here, the last recorded deposition being Caracalla in 217. The urns containing these ashes were probably placed in what is now known as the Treasury room deep within the building." - Wikipedia

The mausoleum of Augustus had last been opened to receive the remains of Nerva, but was no longer in use; so the Antonine emperors and their families were buried in the mausoleum of Hadrian, so it was later referred to by the name of Antoninorum sepulcrum.

Inscriptions actually recorded included the dedicatory inscription to Hadrian and Sabina set up in 139 A.D. (the latter was already deified, the former not) by Antoninus Pius, the sepulchral inscriptions of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, and of three of their children; of Aelius Caesar; of three children of Marcus Aurelius; of Lucius Verus, and of Commodus. That Marcus Aurelius himself was buried here is recorded by Herodian 4.1.4 who also relates that the urn containing the ashes of Septimius Severus and probably Faustina the younger were also interred here. Cassius Dio tells us that, besides Severus, Julia Domna, Caracalla and Geta were also laid to rest here. - edited from entry in Lacus Curtius.

"Much of the tomb contents and decoration has been lost since the building's conversion into a military fortress in 401 and inclusion by Flavius Augustus Honorius in the Aurelian Walls. The urns and ashes were scattered by Visigoth looters in Alaric's sack of Rome in 410, and the original decorative bronze and stone statuary was thrown down upon the attacking Goths when they besieged Rome in 537, as recounted by Procopius. " - Wikipedia

Bernini's Angels on Pont S. Angelo gird for battle

Ponte S Angelo 7
Ponte S Angelo 7, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, the designer of St. Peter's Square, was also commissioned to embellish the bridge to Castel S. Angelo, formerly the emperor Hadrian's tomb. This angel appeared to be holding a modern day window washing device that she is preparing to use on the irreverent pigeon perched on her head.

King Victor Emanuel honored throughout Italy

King Victorio Emanuelle II is honored on monuments throughout Italy. King Victor Emanuel II of Savoia achieved the unification of Italy in 1870.

In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars Italy was divided into a patchwork of kingdoms and duchies. The famous composer Verdi, a fervent adherent of liberal nationalism, was widely perceived as a figurehead for the unification movement (the Risorgimento). Although staunchly anti-clerical and a republican, he agreed with those who argued that the best prospect for unification lay in accepting Victor Emanuel, the liberal King of Piedmont, as the monarch of a united Italy. 'Viva Verdi' became a national rallying cry, his name being an acronym of 'Vittorio Emanuele Re d'Italia' (King of Italy). - Adapted from Verdi, The People's Opera

View of the Pont Victorio Emanuelle from the Pont S. Angelo

The River Tiber 5
The River Tiber 5, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
From St. Peter's, we walked to Hadrian's Tomb/Castel san Angelo. On the way I had an opportunity to get some wonderful photos of the sculptures along the bridge of Victorio Emanuelle and the Pont S. Angelo that cross the Tiber.

Saints and Martyrs gaze down on visitors to St. Peter's Square

St Peters Cathedral 35
St Peters Cathedral 35, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
There are 140 statues of saints and martyrs atop the balustrade of the ellipse of St. Peter's Square.

On the left side of the piazza is the Vatican post office. I bought two postcards and mailed them to my colleagues back in the Dean's office from there so they would bear the Vatican City postmark.

St. Peter's colonade a masterful illusion

St Peters Cathedral 25
St Peters Cathedral 25, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Bernini planned the colonnade design by drawing chalk lines, and possibly using strings to carefully predict the visual illusions. - Father Gary Coulter

The Travertine columns were placed so that if you stood on the foci of the elipse, there appears to be only a single row of columns. The portico formed by the colonade is wide enough to let carriages pass through.

Bernini commissioned to build the huge piazza

St Peters Cathedral 24
St Peters Cathedral 24, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
In 1655, Pope Alexander VII commissioned Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini to design a monumental square in front of the recently completed St. Peter's basilica.

"The immense piazza is bounded by two semicircular colonnades, each of which is made up of four rows of Doric columns. In the centre of the piazza is an obelisk brought to Rome by Caligula from Heliopolis in ancient Egypt." - Lonely Planet

The obelisk had served as a turning post in the chariot races at the nearby ancient Circus of Nero, where St. Peter was crucified.

My first trip to Rome Day 3

St Peters Cathedral 26
St Peters Cathedral 26, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Saturday, March 12, we took the Metro over to Vatican City only to discover thousands of pilgrims. We had lost track of time and did not realize it was the weekend. There are probably four times as many visitors on the weekend as during the week. However, I got some wonderful photos of St. Peter's Square.

The elliptical shape, symbolising the Church's embrace of all of mankind, is defined by a series of 284 columns arranged in four rows. The square was designed by Bernini and features a central obelisk and two identical fountains.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Scene originally adorning triclinium in Livia's villa

Scene from Livia's triclinium 1
Scene from Livia's triclinium 1, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
One entire room of the National Museum is adorned with a mural of an orchard of apple trees laden with fruit and delicate birds that once embellished the underground triclinium of Livia's villa in Prima Porta. These frescoes are considered among the best conserved illustrations of an ancient Roman garden.

"Apart from the statue of Augustus, the most well-known find from the Villa of Livia are the spectacular garden frescoes, often referred to in works on Roman painting. Once attached to the walls of a large underground room measuring 5 x 11 metres, these frescoes were moved to the National museum in 1955. Currently under restoration,they are hopefully soon to be displayed in the new museum in Palazzo Massimo. The frescoes exhibit not so much a cultivated garden as a subtle flourishing landscape, rich in trees, flowers and birds of all kinds. In this image, some scholars want to see direct links to the Ara Pacis Augustae and the general pictorial programme of nature and fertility in Augustan art.

In the foreground we find a low wickerwork fence running around the whole room;behind this comes a grassy walk, bordered on its far side by a stone parapet. This stone enclosure have recesses at some points for single trees — one pine, one oak and four spruces. The background consists of a great variety of vegetation, where the laurel is omnipresent in different shapes, ranging from shrubs to tall trees. In the midst of the leaves, nightingales, oriols, magpies, swallows, blackbirds and many more spieces of birds can be identified. According to ancient sources, Augustus owned a talking magpie, as well as a raven and a parrot. More important is the fact that all the flowers in the fresco bloom simultaneously and can directly be associated with love and fecundity. In the age of Ovid'™s Metamorphoses, the motif of the fresco can be seen as a celebration of Augustan perpetual peace" - Prima Porta: Villa of Livia, Uppsala University.

Discus thrower curls his foot

Discus thrower 5
Discus thrower 5, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Both my friend Pat and I thought it unusual that the discus thrower sculpture shows the athlete was rotating on curled toes. Since I am not an expert on throwing the discus I am not sure that this foot position is truly a form not used today.

Myron's Discus Thrower

Discus Thrower 1
Discus Thrower 1, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
This Roman copy of Myron's Discus Thrower is the centerpiece for a display about the importance of athletics to the ancient Romans. Myron, one of the most famous Greek sculptors of the 5th century B.C.E., lived in Athens. His original work, entitled Discobolus, was thought to represent the perfect athletic form.

Roman Charioteer Mosaic 4

Roman Charioteer Mosaic 4
Roman Charioteer Mosaic 4, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
The Romans loved chariot racing so I was not surprised to find a series of mosaics depicting the four factions of chariot racers denoted by their color. If I remember correctly, Robert Graves related that Tiberias became suspicious of people cheering for the green faction because the team was a favorite of Agrippina the Elder. Agrippina had publicly accused Tiberias of engineering the poisoning of her popular husband, Germanicus.

Finely detailed Fishes

Fish Mosaic
Fish Mosaic, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
Being raised in a small fishing community on the Oregon coast I frequently fished in local streams and from the jetty near my hometown lighthouse. So I became familiar with a variety of fish species. Therefore I found the detail of the fishes depicted in this mosaic fascinating.

National Museum's Mosaics are spectacular

Elegant Mosaic
Elegant Mosaic, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
As someone who loves the beauty and craftsmanship of ancient mosaics, I was mesmerized by the spectacular collection of mosaics I found at the National Museum. Subjects ranged from gods and goddesses to animals and fishes.

Many mosaics were found in Roman dining rooms so scenes of "edibles" are also abundant.

Augustus as Pontifex Maximus

Augustus closeup 1
Augustus closeup 1, originally uploaded by mharrsch.
We finally climbed the steps of the central hall of the National Museum of Rome after our long circuitous route.

"Formerly the site of the preparatory school "Massimiliano Massimo", this building was constructed in 1883-87 by Camillo Pistrucci in imitation of the noble residences of the early Roman baroque period." - Roma Online

Of course the most immediately recognizable sculpture to me located on the first floor was the statue of Augustus attired as the Pontifex Maximus (high priest).

This work was recovered from the Via Labicana.