I still have not posted on Florence from a while ago. But I have finished the picture. I thought to post this one. What a beautiful place.
I still have not posted on Florence from a while ago. But I have finished the picture. I thought to post this one. What a beautiful place.
I would love to show a few photos of the Sistine Chapel, it is beyond describing. But no photos are allowed, although people clicked them off here and there (to be yelled at by the guards).
It is as amazing as you would expect it to be.
We finished out the tour with a walk into St. Peter’s, which is spectacular. Had we not been so tired (long walk), we would have headed up to the top.
A Swiss Guard, trained to protect the church and the Pope.
What I didn’t realize, that the Vatican has it’s own postal system ….
And if you stand in one specific spot (marked), all of the columns line up perfectly under Alexander’s gate (they are four deep).
And with that, our trip to Rome came to and end. And we only saw a small fraction of the city …. Off to Florence.
As you would expect, the tapestries are spectacular. The one I found most amazing was this one, of Jesus exiting the tomb. No matter which way you stand, Jesus looks right at you.
From the left ..
From the right … (sorry, blurry) ..
Like everyone, the ultimate goal is the Sistine Chapel. Before you get there you go through the ‘Gallery of Maps’, which displays 40 maps of the Church’s territories by 16th century cartographer Ignazio Danti:
The map of Venice was one of my favorites:
It is then through Raphael’s Rooms (private apartments that were redecorated by Raphael thanks to Pope Julius II’s sponsorship), which contains one of his more famous pieces of work, The School of Athens, which contains the most famous of philosophers (And it is suggested that Raphael painted himself into the work (on the right – head down, painting).
And Salvador Dali’s painting ‘The Trinity’ which is a beautiful piece. I wonder about the inspiration for this painting. When we walked through his exhibit in London, he did not strike me as the ‘spiritual’ sort.
Next, the Sistine Chapel ….
Throughout the Vatican you find ornate monuments – paintings and pieces of work dedicated to remembering various popes. This doorway remembering Pope Leo XIII is quite lavish:
As an aside, it was Leo XIII who …
‘….Church positions on relations with temporal authorities, and, in the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum addressed for the first time social inequality and social justice issues with Papal authority, focusing on the rights and duties of capital and labour. He was greatly influenced by Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, a German bishop who openly propagated siding with the suffering working classes in his book Die Arbeiterfrage und das Chistentum. Since Leo XIII, Papal teachings expand on the right and obligation of workers and the limitations of private property’.
Pope John Paul II wasn’t very interested in being one of the Vatican’s prominent displays:
The Testament of Pope John Paul II published on 7 April revealed that the pontiff contemplated being buried in his native Poland but left the final decision to The College of Cardinals, which in passing, preferred burial beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, honouring the pontiff’s request to be placed “in bare earth”.
Below the altar, is a crystal coffin containing the body of St. Pius X (1904-1914), “pauper et dives, mitis et humilis corde”. The body is dressed in pontifical robes, while the face and hands are covered with silver. The world greatly admired his wisdom and firm government. He helped restore Christian life by issuing wise laws on the religious education of children, youths and adults. His catechism gives clear answers to many religious questions. He allowed young children to take Communion, promoted the practice of daily communion as a source of virtue and holiness, he reformed the liturgy in the Missal and Breviary as well as sacred music and Gregorian chant. He fought against and condemned modernism which is still the cause of many evils. He was, however, unable to convince the reigning monarch and heads of state of his era to avoid the conflict that would shed blood throughout Europe for four long years.
It made me think.
The Vatican contains every type of art imaginable. On the floors of the ‘Round Room’ are Roman mosaics from bath houses like the one below from the Baths of Otricoli. It is a huge mosaic and you walk around the edges (feels wrong to walk on any part of it).
As you walk, you are bombarded by beauty. Look to the side and you see priceless works of art. Look above you and you see either jaw dropping architecture or a stunning roof.
Down one hall are a host of baby sculptures, a way for parents to remember children who passed on too early in life.
Why these parents wanted their son remembered wrestling a goose is beyond me, there must be a story there.
So much to see.
Our trip to Egypt taught us one thing – private tours are worth the money. When you travel all that way and spend the money, being part of a tour of 50 is not great – it is not interactive and your are bound by the whims of the tour (plus it is a pain to see in a crowd). A friend in the UK recommended Hanna & Mike’s tours to us while in Rome. Unfortunately, Hanna was not available for the first couple days but was able to take us through our big 3rd day in Rome – the Vatican.
If you are going to Rome, we would HIGHLY recommend Hanna, she did an amazing job and made the day spectacular.
As you can imagine, the Vatican is awe inspiring. You have seen it in movies (I just watched Demons & Angels and it was neat to see so many of the places we had just been) and of course, it has been around for a long time. I was very excited about the day and a bit worried about the boys (They are the most amazing of travellers, but at the end of the 2 years, they were getting a little ACO (all churched out))
Upon reflection, I would say that there are a few things that I was left thinking about from our tour of the Vatican:
The entrance to the Vatican Museum is exactly what you would expect, spectacular. It is also built into a huge wall, giving the appearance of a fortress.
A great example of ‘saving’ can be found upon entering the Cortile del Belvedere or the Courtyard of the Belvedere, an ancient headstone.
Donato Bramante‘s Cortile del Belvedere, the Courtyard of the Belvedere, designed from 1506 onwards, was a major project of the High Renaissance at Rome, reverberating in its details in courtyards, formalized piazzas and garden plans throughout Western Europe for centuries. Bramante himself never saw it completed, and within the century it had been irretrievably altered by a bisecting wall.
It was also at one point the home of the papal menagerie. It was on the lower portion of the courtyard that Pope Leo X would parade his prized elephant Hanno for adoring crowds to see. Because of the pachyderm’s glorious history he was buried in the Cortile del Belvedere. 
Yes, that is right, a Pope had an elephant (insert reference to ‘great human cost’, I am sure he did not pay for it himself). In the courtyard is a very cool piece that I simply cannot find additional detail on, ‘Sphere inside Sphere’ by Arnaldo Pomodoro.
Sitting at the end of the courtyard is the giant pinecone …
Sixtus V spoiled the unity of the Cortile (1585-90) by erecting the wing for the Vatican Library, which occupies the former middle terrace and bisects the space. James Ackerman has suggested that the move was a conscious one, designed to screen the secular, even pagan nature of the Cortile and the collection of sculptures that Pope Adrian VI had referred to as “idols“. Today the lowest terrace is still called the Cortile del Belvedere, but the separated upper terrace is called the Cortile della Pigna because of the colossal Roman bronze pinecone, once a fountain, that occupies the center of the niche.
You exit the courtyard into a long hallway filled with statues. Many of these statues were originally bronze but were recycled to make war implements. There are only a few bronze statues in the entire Vatican.
The detail is unbelievable. They are beautiful sculptures, in this case an Emperor.
Many of the sculptures are the tops of caskets, meant to immortalize the person entombed. In this case, a woman.
Or a favourite pet. I doubt that they named him ‘Fido’. Looks more like a ‘Hercules’.
One room is completely filled with sculptures of animals or of animals being hunted. Spectacular. The sheer number of pieces is astounding, each with a rich history that may or may not be known.
Identified as one of the oldest pieces in the Vatican. (83BC)
And a restored bust of the god Jupiter.
And finally one of the few Bronze statues that still exists, of Hercules.
One thing you will note is the fig leaf (In Angels and Demons, Tom Hanks’ character makes a wise crack about it). The fig leafs were put up to either cover the genitalia or to cover those sculptures that were castrated by various Popes. Via:
In the eruption of Counter Reformation fanaticism following the Renaissance, the edict of the Council of Trent forbade the depiction of genitals, buttocks and breasts in church art. In 1557, the fig leaves were instituted by the bull of Pope Paul IV. Most of the fig leaves that we see were put in place on the personal initiative of Pope Innocent X (1644-1655) who, for reasons of his own, preferred metal leaves to the plaster ones. This Pope, to his credit, spared most of the art in the Vatican. By 1857, Pope Pius IX discovered that these few remaining statues constituted grave threat to the faithful and destroyed most of them; the fig leaves were promptly added by his successor to stop the iconoclasm. All in all, the campaign raged for 450 years.
Throughout the city of Rome, we took photos of items that had the word ‘SPQR’ inscribed on them as our son was doing a project on the topic. SPQR stands for ‘Senatus Populus que Romanusor’ or ‘the Senate and the People of Rome’. It is stamped on anything that is paid for by Roman taxes (The government of Rome still does it).
Our tour guide had a few other definitions to share:
The first photo is of a water fountain with the SPQR, the second is from the roof of the Vatican where Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus in a Roman court.
As you wander from the Coliseum to the Palatine, the logical next step is to make your way down the hill through the Roman Forum.
The Roman Forum (Latin: Forum Romanum), sometimes known by its original Latin name, is located between the Palatine hill and the Capitoline hill of the city of Rome. It is the central area around which the ancient Roman civilization developed. Citizens referred to the location as the “Forum Magnum” or just the “Forum”.
The oldest and most important structures of the ancient city are located in the forum, including its ancient former royal residency, the Regia, and the surrounding complex of the Vestal virgins. The Old Republic had its formal Comitium there where the senate, as well as Republican government began. The forum served as a city square and central hub where the people of Rome gathered for justice, and faith. The forum was also the economic hub of the city and considered to be the center of the Republic and Empire.
From DK Italy:
… the Forum was a chaotic place, with food stalls and brothels as well as temples and the Senate House.
The view looking down on the Forum …. The Basilica of Constantine and Marxentius is on the left with the Santa Francesca Romana bell tower on the right (One of the many churches built on top of the ruins).
A view of Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (building on the left with the columns) the Temple of Romulus, which is now part of the church of Santi Cosma e Domiano, (the building with the bronze ‘cap’).
A second photo.
The original 2000 year old bronze doors remain on the temple, which is now a Christian church.
The Temple of Romulus was dedicated by Emperor Maxentius to his son Valerius Romulus, who died in 309 and was rendered divine honours. It is possible that the temple was in origin the temple of “Iovis Stator” or the one dedicated to Penates, and that Maxentius restored it before the re-dedication.
The ancient Roman fabric was Christianized and dedicated to Sancti Cosma et Damiano in 527, when Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths, and his daughter Amalasuntha donated the library of the Forum of Peace (Bibliotheca Pacis) and a portion of the Temple of Romulus to Pope Felix IV. The pope united the two buildings to create a basilica devoted to two Greek brothers and saints, Cosmas and Damian, in contrast with the ancient pagan cult of the two brothers Castor and Pollux, who had been worshipped in the nearby Temple of Castor and Pollux. The apse was decorated with a Roman-Byzantine mosaic, representing a parousia, the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time. The bodies of Saints Mark and Marcellian were translated, perhaps in the ninth century, to this church, where they were rediscovered in 1583 during the reign of Pope Gregory XIII.
In 1632, Pope Urban VIII ordered the restoration of the basilica. The works, projected by Orazio Torriani and directed by Luigi Arrigucci, raised the floor level seven metres, bringing it equal with the Campo Vaccino, thus avoiding the infiltration of water. Also, a cloister was added. The old floor of the basilica is still visible in the lower church, which is actually the lower part of the first church.
In 1947, the restorations of the Imperial Forums gave a new structure to the church. The old entrance, through the Temple of Romulus, was closed, and the temple restored to its original forms; with the Pantheon, the Temple of Romulus is the best preserved pagan temple in Rome. A new entrance was opened on the opposite side (on via dei Fori Imperiali), whose arch gives access to the cloister, and through this to the side of the basilica.
I pose the question again, is it right to have a Christian church in a building that was built for a pagan god? Not sure.
The grounds were beautiful in April, the wisteria in full bloom.
Inside the Curia (the ancient Roman Senate house that was reconstructed) were the sculptures of previous rulers. The below was a fascinating piece of history (excuse the clumsy clipping together) on the life of Titus Flavius Domitianus (24 October 51 – 18 September 96), known as Domitian.
As emperor, Domitian strengthened the economy by revaluing the Roman coinage, expanded the border defenses of the Empire, and initiated a massive building programme to restore the damaged city of Rome. Significant wars were fought in Britain, where Gnaeus Julius Agricola expanded the Roman Empire as far as modern day Scotland, and in Dacia, where Domitian was unable to procure a decisive victory against king Decebalus. Domitian’s government nonetheless exhibited totalitarian characteristics. As emperor, he saw himself as the new Augustus, an enlightened despot destined to guide the Roman Empire into a new era of Flavian renaissance. Religious, military, and cultural propaganda fostered a cult of personality, and by nominating himself perpetual censor, he sought to control public and private morals. As a consequence, Domitian was popular with the people and the army but despised by members of the Roman Senate as a tyrant.
Domitian’s reign came to an end on 18 September 96 when he was assassinated by court officials. The same day he was succeeded by his friend and advisor Nerva, who founded the long-lasting Nerva-Antonine dynasty. After his death, Domitian’s memory was condemned to oblivion by the Roman Senate, while senatorial authors such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius published histories propagating the view of Domitian as a cruel and paranoid tyrant. Modern history has rejected these views, instead characterising Domitian as a ruthless but efficient autocrat, whose cultural, economic and political programme provided the foundation of the peaceful 2nd century.
To work so hard to create a cult like personality to have it all ripped down and to be vilified for the rest of human time thanks to inscriptions like the below. Had they only known.
We exited near Arch of Septimius Severus to hit one last spot, Marmertine Prison. For the record, it is a stairway down into a small room with a small alter and a hole leading to the sewer. It is not the location, but the legend that is of interest:
According to Christian legend, St. Peter and St. Paul were imprisoned here. They are said to have caused a spring to bubble up into the cell, and to have used the water to baptize two prison guards. The prison was in an old cistern with access to the city’s main sewer. The lower cell was used for executions and corpses were thrown into the sewer.
So ended Day 2.
The Arch of Constantine (Italian: Arco di Costantino) is a triumphal arch in Rome, situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It was erected to commemorate Constantine I‘s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. Dedicated in 315, it is the latest of the existing triumphal arches in Rome, from which it differs by spolia, the extensive re-use of parts of earlier buildings.
As we entered the grounds, I looked up to see this building. It looks like an old temple and is a good example of what happens if the building is not maintained.
Unlike the Coliseum, we went into the grounds with no guide – only a book. I have to admit, this approach means that you miss a lot. You don’t get the stories, the verbal history or the depth of learning and I don’t like the audio sets. But we did our best, good thing I had a pack full of guides (smile):
According to Roman mythology, the Palatine Hill was the location of the cave, known as the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf that kept them alive. According to this legend, the shepherd Faustulus found the infants, and with his wife Acca Larentia raised the children. When they were older, the boys killed their great-uncle (who seized the throne from their father), and they both decided to build a new city of their own on the banks of the River Tiber. Suddenly, they had a violent argument with each other and in the end Romulus killed his twin brother Remus. This is how “Rome” got its name – from Romulus. Another legend to occur on the Palatine is Hercules’ defeat of Cacus after the monster had stolen some cattle. Hercules struck Cacus with his characteristic club so hard that it formed a cleft on the southeast corner of the hill, where later a staircase bearing the name of Cacus was constructed.
As you climb the hill, you get another great view of the Coliseum.
In the middle of the grounds is a church surrounded by beautiful trees. It was spring, the sun was shining and the trees were in full bloom.
A beautiful afternoon walk. You see that everywhere in Rome, where the old Roman society is overlaid with the Catholic church (literally). The grounds are huge and as you wander among the ruins of old emperor’s homes, you are slowly lead to The Forum.
The sun was shining and with Roma pass in hand, our family hit the road for another big day of touring. This day we would be on our own, doing that which we don’t really enjoy, trying our luck with a tour group in front of the coliseum.
Like most European cities, the transit system is amazing. Easy to get around on and low cost. The Roma pass gets you into a number of the sites at one set fair, worth the investment. Our first stop was the Coliseum and it is as jaw dropping as you would expect. It soars above you, one has to wonder at the effort involved to build it (not Pyramid in scope, but close).
Like so many Roman buildings, where the pagan gods once ruled, Christian symbols now rule.
Of course the tour was filled with fascinating facts around how the Coliseum was used. What I didn’t know was that it use to have a lake and that the original gladiator battles were not on the sand and wood floors that we see below, but in small ships.
The Colosseum was used to host gladiatorial shows as well as a variety of other events. The shows, called munera, were always given by private individuals rather than the state. They had a strong religious element but were also demonstrations of power and family prestige, and were immensely popular with the population. Another popular type of show was the animal hunt, or venatio. This utilized a great variety of wild beasts, mainly imported from Africa and the Middle East, and included creatures such as rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, elephants, giraffes, aurochs, wisents, barbary lions, panthers, leopards, bears, caspian tigers, crocodiles and ostriches. Battles and hunts were often staged amid elaborate sets with movable trees and buildings. Such events were occasionally on a huge scale; Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia in 107 with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators over the course of 123 days.
During the early days of the Colosseum, ancient writers recorded that the building was used for naumachiae (more properly known as navalia proelia) or simulated sea battles. Accounts of the inaugural games held by Titus in AD 80 describe it being filled with water for a display of specially trained swimming horses and bulls. There is also an account of a re-enactment of a famous sea battle between the Corcyrean (Corfiot) Greeks and the Corinthians. This has been the subject of some debate among historians; although providing the water would not have been a problem, it is unclear how the arena could have been waterproofed, nor would there have been enough space in the arena for the warships to move around. It has been suggested that the reports either have the location wrong, or that the Colosseum originally featured a wide floodable channel down its central axis (which would later have been replaced by the hypogeum).
The floor shows you how it would have been, the sand to sop up the blood and prevent slipping.
There was a lot written about Vespasian, with this quote catching our attention:
It was Vespasian who began the construction of the Colosseum:
Construction of the Colosseum began under the rule of the Emperor Vespasian in around 70–72AD. The site chosen was a flat area on the floor of a low valley between the Caelian, Esquiline and Palatine Hills, through which a canalised stream ran. By the 2nd century BC the area was densely inhabited. It was devastated by the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, following which Nero seized much of the area to add to his personal domain. He built the grandiose Domus Aurea on the site, in front of which he created an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions, gardens and porticoes. The existing Aqua Claudia aqueduct was extended to supply water to the area and the gigantic bronze Colossus of Nero was set up nearby at the entrance to the Domus Aurea.
Although the Colossus was preserved, much of the Domus Aurea was torn down. The lake was filled in and the land reused as the location for the new Flavian Amphitheatre. Gladiatorial schools and other support buildings were constructed nearby within the former grounds of the Domus Aurea. According to a reconstructed inscription found on the site, “the emperor Vespasian ordered this new amphitheatre to be erected from his general’s share of the booty.” This is thought to refer to the vast quantity of treasure seized by the Romans following their victory in the Great Jewish Revolt in 70AD. The Colosseum can be thus interpreted as a great triumphal monument built in the Roman tradition of celebrating great victories. Vespasian’s decision to build the Colosseum on the site of Nero’s lake can also be seen as a populist gesture of returning to the people an area of the city which Nero had appropriated for his own use. In contrast to many other amphitheatres, which were located on the outskirts of a city, the Colosseum was constructed in the city centre; in effect, placing it both literally and symbolically at the heart of Rome.
The Colosseum had been completed up to the third story by the time of Vespasian’s death in 79. The top level was finished and the building inaugurated by his son, Titus, in 80. Dio Cassius recounts that over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games of the amphitheatre. The building was remodelled further under Vespasian’s younger son, the newly-designated Emperor Domitian, who constructed the hypogeum, a series of underground tunnels used to house animals and slaves. He also added a gallery to the top of the Colosseum to increase its seating capacity.
In 217, the Colosseum was badly damaged by a major fire (caused by lightning, according to Dio Cassius) which destroyed the wooden upper levels of the amphitheatre’s interior. It was not fully repaired until about 240 and underwent further repairs in 250 or 252 and again in 320. An inscription records the restoration of various parts of the Colosseum under Theodosius II and Valentinian III (reigned 425–450), possibly to repair damage caused by a major earthquake in 443; more work followed in 484 and 508. The arena continued to be used for contests well into the 6th century, with gladiatorial fights last mentioned around 435. Animal hunts continued until at least 523.
Once again I was amazed at how the artefacts of history are sitting everywhere, ready to be touched (so different than in North America where they are well behind the velvet rope or glass wall). Below is a piece of a column, ready for sitting upon …
It was an amazing morning and we finished with lunch at a small cafe across the street near Largo Agnesi, enjoying organic food and fresh cappuccino. The Palatine was next ….
Eating is always a challenge when you are travelling. Finding the authentic versus the tourist trap. Rome is no different and our first night was a total bust. On the streets in Rome the restaurants have glass buildings where you can eat (with the kitchen situated in a building). Across from our hotel were a line of these restaurants and the one we chose was awful and way over priced.
The next night we asked the concierge for something memorable, authentic. He recommended Alfredo’s, the home of the Fettuccine Alfredo which happens to be my favourite Italian dish. It is a must visit place. We arrived to an empty restaurant, as we did the non-European thing and arrived at opening (people started wandering in for dinner around 8 PM).
The restaurant is covered with pictures of Alfredo with patrons or of movie star photos signed ‘with love to Alfredo’. It was like transporting back to another era, Cary Grant, Sinatra, Dean Martin, Marlon Brando. I spent a good 20 minutes walking around the room looking at the photos. If you love old movies (I grew up loving old war movies), it is amazing. I wish I would have brought my camera.
My favourite photo is one tucked in the back. It is Ringo star in a group, wearing a plaid suit (placing the picture in the 70’s .. one of the newer photos), with his finger up his nose for the camera and the entire table in hysterics. What a great piece of humorous history.
As for the restaurant and the Alfredo? Amazing. I had an Alfredo in Ottawa and Alberta in the last month … no comparison (although the one in Alberta was pretty good!). A must visit if you are in Rome. I love the story of the Alfredo from their web site …
A must do …. check out their photo gallery here.
There are a lot of Egyptian ‘liberated’ Obelisks around Rome. That being said, the Roman’s also love their columns. One of the most spectacular ones is in Piazza Colonna, the Column of Marcus Aurelius:
The Column of Marcus Aurelius, (Latin: Columna Centenaria Divorum Marci et Faustinae), is a Doric column, with a spiral relief, built in honour of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and modeled on Trajan’s Column. It still stands on its original site in Rome, in Piazza Colonna before Palazzo Chigi.
The spiral picture relief tells the story of Marcus Aurelius’ Danubian or Marcomannic wars, waged by him from 166 to his death. The story begins with the army crossing the river Danube, probably at Carnuntum. A Victory separates the accounts of two expeditions. The exact chronology of the events is disputed, however the latest theory states that the expeditions against the Marcomanni and Quadi in the years 172 and 173 are in the lower half and the successes of the emperor over the Sarmatians in the years 174 and 175 in the upper half.
One particular episode portrayed is historically attested in Roman propaganda – the so-called “rain miracle in the territory of the Quadi”, in which a God, answering a prayer from the emperor, rescues Roman troops by a terrible storm, a miracle later claimed by the Christians for the Christian God.
The detail is spectacular, hundreds of years later.
Right beside it is the Piazza Montecitorio, with a liberated Egyptian obelisk.
The obelisk was originally constructed for Pharaoh Psammeticus II. It was set up in Heliopolis in the sixth century B.C. Emperor Augustus had it shipped to Italy in the tenth century B.C. to celebrate his victory over Cleopatra. It was set up in the Campus Martius. When he brought it to Rome it created a great stir that it is said that the ship, which transported the obelisk, was also kept on public display. t was set up as a gnomon (shadow caster) for an enormous sundial he had built a few hundred metres north of the present location of the obelisk. Legend says that it fell during a fire and was buried there until it was rediscovered in 1748 under a building in Piazza Parlemento. In 1792 it was reconstructed using granite taken from the column of Antonius. Today it stands almost 22 metres high or should one say 29 metres including the base and the globe surmounting it.
Wandering through Rome was a wonderful experience, piazza upon piazza. Well worth planning some ‘wandering time’. The next day, the touring started.
Heading out of the cat sanctuary we moved North again to find lunch in one of the many wonderful Roman piazzas. In this case we landed in Piazza Navona, with the sun shining, the outdoor cafes bustling and the cappuccino flowing.
This history of the square .. which is a few hundred years older than Canada …
Piazza Navona is a city square in Rome, Italy. It follows the plan of an ancient Roman circus, the 1st century Stadium of Domitian, where the Romans came to watch the agones (“games”): It was known as ‘Circus Agonalis’ (competition arena). It is believed that over time the name changed to ‘in agone’ to ‘navone’ and eventually to ‘navona’.
Defined as a public space in the last years of 15th century, when the city market was transferred to it from the Campidoglio, the Piazza Navona is now the pride of Baroque Roman art history. It features sculptural and architectural creations by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers, 1651) stands in the center; by Francesco Borromini and Girolamo Rainaldi, who designed the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone; and by Pietro da Cortona, who painted the galleria in the Pamphilj palace.
The market was again moved in 1869 to the Campo de’ Fiori. The piazza long hosted theatrical shows and horse races. From 1652 until 1866, when the festival was suppressed, it was flooded on every August Saturday and Sunday for elaborate celebrations of the Pamphilj family.
The Piazza Navona contains two additional fountains, sculpted by Giacomo della Porta: the Fontana di Nettuno (1574), located at the northern area of the piazza; and the Fontana del Moro (1576), located at the southern end.
The central fountain is spectacular. Of course in Rome, it is just one of many ….
As I looked up a this building, I wondered what it would be like to open your windows in the morning and look out on the plaza, the fountain, the church and the architecture. The only thing missing is a balcony.
We continued on, glad that we had arrived in the city early with a day to simply wander.
After the Pantheon we wandered down to Largo di Torre Argentina, most famously known for being the spot where Caesar was assassinated and the home of a very cool cat sanctuary.
The name of the square comes from the Torre Argentina, which takes its name from the city of Strasbourg, whose original name was Argentoratum. In 1503, in fact, the Papal Master of Ceremonies Johannes Burckardt from Strasbourg built in via del Sudario a palace (now at number 44), called Casa del Burcardo, to which the tower is annexed.
The other tower in the square is not the one giving the name to the place, but the Medieval Torre del Papitto (“Little Pope’s Tower”), attributed by tradition to Antipope Anacletus II Pierleoni, allegedly not a tall person.
After Italian unification, it was decided to reconstruct part of Rome (1909), demolishing the zone of Torre Argentina. During the works (1927), however, the colossal head and arms of a marble statue were discovered. The archeological investigation brought to light the presence of a holy area, dating to the Republican era, with four temples and part of Pompey’s Theater.
Julius Caesar was killed on the steps of the Theatre of Pompey, and the spot he was believed to be assassinated is in the square.
One of my ‘too-be-read’ books is Stanley Bings Rome Inc: The Rise and Fall of the World’s First Multinational Corporation (when I get a vacation). As an aside, I was loading up a few pictures for my son to take to school for the first week and one that I pulled was their standing on top of Hadrian’s wall, the northern most border of the Roman empire between England and Scotland. Truly amazing empire.
It is a pretty amazing place. Opened up right in the middle of the roads, you look down on the temple ruins.
I think this is where Caesar was killed?
And at one end you descend the stairs to the Torre Argentina cat sanctuary run by volunteers. We spoke to a wonderful American lady, on a life adventure who worked there. Cats meander everywhere, free to roam in the sanctuary or among the ruins. A wonderful sight. We ended up staying for a while to pet the extremely friendly cats … we are a huge animal loving family and with 250 cats running around, there was no shortage of friends to say hi to.
This fellow was quite enjoying the sun and the ruins. Who wouldn’t?