Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Rome , Walkabouts and a Cruise on the Tiber

I have spent my first few days in Rome walking to try to get to know the city, an it has been wonderful...if a bit hard on the feet.  So yesterday I enjoyed a cruise on the Tiber and a visit to Isola Tiberina, a tiny island in the river. The island was apparently formed on the ruins of an ancient ship.  During a time of plague Roman delegates traveled to Greece to ask the Oracle for help.  Aesculaplus gave them sacred serpent...which presumably they felt had some effect, as they built a temple to him on the island, where priests tended to a pit full of snakes!

But, time marches on, and in the year 1000 the Church of St. Bartholomew replaced the temple, and has held his relics since 1108, located in an ancient porphyry bathtub under the alter. The similarly dated marble well head has he figures of Jesus, St. B., Adalbert nd Otto III.

The Romans also had a temple on the island to Faunus, who protected women in childbirth, and to this day there is a maternity hospital there.

The bridge to the island dates back to the year 56, although it has had some restorations. Pope Sixtus V had four achitects work on it, but being displeased with both their work and their lifestyle, had them beheaded.  Four marble busts adorn the bridge to commemorate...or warn others..

The island has lots more tales to tell.  It was often used as a prison, and Veronica informs me that the daughter of ...oops I’ve forgotten....a Roman of some importance, was imprisoned here. (She can clarify in the comments!)

In the early 1500s a wealthy banker built an elaborate palace along the Tiber.  He delighted in lavish entertaining. He would astound his dinner guests by having all of the gold plated dinnerware thrown in the Tiber when the meal was done.  Little did they know that he has nets strategically placed, and sent his servants down to retrieve them after the guests left!

So those are some of the tales from the Tiber, there are pics from the cruise and my walk abouts....

Photos: October 29
Photos: November 02

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere

This church began as a house church founded by Pope Callixtus I in 217.  The basic floor plan and wall structure date to 340 and it is thought by many to be the first Christian church in Rome.  It was partially destroyed during the sack of Rome in 410 and subsequently repaired and rededicated to the Virgin Mary in 422 by Pope Celestine.  Quite a history!!

Much of today’s structure dates from the mid 1100s and the absolutely stunning mosaics are from the late 1200s.  The gold is so abundant, and so beautiful that much of the interior truly glows.  It is a wonder to see.

On a lighter note...I love the sheep!  Can anyone explain to me the sheep in the middle with the halo?  I know about Jesus being a shepherd of sorts but...?

I am not sure about the dating of the two painting in front of the of Mary and child and the other Jesus.  They look very early both from the style, and how dark both are.

The exterior wall is embedded with ancient artifacts...tombs, pieces of sarcophagus etc.  I found them really interesting....hope you do too!

Friday, 4 November 2016

The Pantheon

Pantheon, Temple to all of the gods.  This is the best preserved of the ancient Roman buildings. In the year 27 Agrippa built the original temple here.  It was followed in 118 by the present structure built by Emperor Hadrian.  It is massive, domed, fabulously beautiful and still standing strong after almost 1900 years!

The walls of the domed roof, made of limestone and pumice are six feet thick at the top of the walls and thin to two feet, as they rise to the 9 metre circular opening at the top. The mixture had a greater percentage of pumice the higher it went, to make it lighter.

In 609 the temple was turned into a Christian church after Christians complained that demons plagued them as they passed.  Legend holds, that, on the day that it was first opened as a church five demons, representing the old pagan gods flew out of the building as the priests came in.  A sixth, apparently flew thru the roof, destroying the huge gold pinecone ornament that covered the hole in the roof.  There is still a square close by where it was supposedly deposited, known as Pinecone Sq...but in Italian !

In ancient times people believed that rain did not enter the Pantheon, even tho there is a 9 metre opening in the roof.  The explanation is, that because there were so many candles burning allthe time, the heat craeted, and rising evaporated the rain before it touched the floor!  In reality, there are 22 small holes in the slightly concave floor to deal with the rain.

This was an astounding building to was wonderful, in the literal sense of the word.  There are pictures..

Photos: November 03
Photos: November 04
Photos: November 08

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Castel Sant Angelo or Castle of the Holy Angel

Hadrian was Emperor from 117 to 138. Castel San Angelo was originally planned as a mausoleum for Hadrian and his family.  The building began is 134 and his ashes were interred there after his death in 138, as were his wife’s, and succeeding Emperors ‘til the year 217.

They did not, unfortunately, rest in peace for although the castle was converted to a military fortress in 401 the urns and ashes were scattered by Visigoth looters during the sack of Rome in 410.

According to legend, the Archangel Michael appeared at the top of the castle sheathing his sword, as a sign of the end of the plague in 590. Prior to that time it was known as Hadrian’s Tomb....I guess if you can end the plague, the least people can do is name a castle after you!!

The castle/fortress is very close to St. Peters, and part of its defense system.  A number of Popes took refuge there in troubled times and during sieges.  In the 1500s apartments were arranged to ensure that any sieged Pope would have an appropriate place to stay.  Not surprisingly the rooms are extensive and beautifully appointed.  The frescoes in the great hall are incredible, with some very unique touches.  I particularly liked the man who looks like he is just entering thru a door (his attire seems very modern), and the baboons are just weirdly wonderful!

I was lucky to have visited on a really lovely day, and I enjoyed lunch and a glass of wine at the cafe situated along the castle walls with a fabulous view.  There are pictures...

Photos: November 10
Photos: November 10

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Musei Capitolini ... or...the Museum on Capitol Hill

Established in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV the museum has grown to be one of the most extensive and important museums in Europe. There are statues, fountains, works of art and temples that span the ages...from the 6th century B.C. to paintings by Van Dyck and Caravaggio.

There are tapestries from the 1700s, pottery dating from 450 B.C. and the restructuring of a 6th century B.C Temple of Jupiter.

It was all wonderful, but on my  * Highlights* list...

The Head and hand of the colossal statue of Constantine  306 - 337 AD

The statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback 176 AD

The 5th century B.C.  She Wolf, so strongly associated with the legend of the founding of Rome

The charming 1st century Boy with a Thorn in his Foot

The Chariot from the 300s

The Bronze statue of a Horse dates from the mid 5th century B.C., and is Greek.  It was brought from Greece to Rome as booty after the Romans conquered the Greeks in the middle of the 2nd century! The rider is missing, but it is very apparent that the horse is being reined in.  Its perfect.  I can’t imagine a contemporary artist capturing the form and sense of movement any better then that artist did 2500 years ago.

There is a fresco of Hannibal’s army with elephants done in the early 1500s

Also from that period: a graphic statue of a lion attacking a horse.

The violet veined marble statue from the 1st century depicts Silenos, who challenged Apollo to a musical contest...and for that giant misstep is condemned to be flayed alive. It is a copy of a 2nd century B.C. Greek original. The purple tinged marble is really effective in conveying the subject’s pain.

There is a lovely 2nd century mosaic of a bath scene, and two of attacking tigers.

A series of panels from the mid to late 1300s show religious scenes

In one of the courtyards there is a very impressive fountain with a 20 ft. reclining

Ocean, the god of the worlds waters, which dates from the 2nd or 3rd century.

The museum occupies two, of the three buildings that border the square...the Piazzo de Campidoglio, which was designed by Michelangelo...that guy certainly got around!  Hope he got paid!

The east part of the piazza overlooks the Roman ruins...the Forum, and in the background you can see the Coliseum.

Lots of pictures posted...

I am so, so-so, THRILLED to say, that Veronica is booked to join me in Rome on the 13th of Dec.  !!!!  We are going to have a few days here, and then go on to Pompeii!!

It is going to be an incredible 17 days !!!!!!!

Photos: November 20

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Trevi Fountain and the Archeological Dig Around & Under It.

The Trevi Fountain was completed in 1751, almost 100 years after it was begun by Bernini.  It is as beautiful as it is famous, with Neptune guiding his chariot drawn by two seahorses, the spirited and the placid.   In one of the upper niches is a scene of Agrippa approving the plans for the Aqueduct.

A block or so away, down a tiny side street there is a wonderful archeological dig showing stratifications from the time of Nero (54-68) ,the construction of the Aqua Virgo during the age of Hadrian (123 AD), the Imperial Age, a 5th century luxury condo, and the Sack of Rome by the Goths in 537.

Part of the dig, shows the water reservoir built in Hadrian’s time with the reinforced walls to balance the water pressure,. It was abandoned after the closing of the Aqueducts by the Goths.

Many of the finds from the excavation are displayed,  including parts of sarcophagus from the 1st and second century, 4th century terra cotta containers used to hold wine or olive oil for trading with North Africa, and an extraordinary hoard of 873 coins some dating back to 54 AD, others from 293, 306, 425, and 453.

There was also a map of the Roman Empire with stars indicating the mints where the coins were produced.   How cool is that?

This is one of those great,   * I just stumbled across it* places. I think there were four other people there all during my visit.   The Trevi Fountain is lovely. but under the Trevi Fountain is much more interesting!!  Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

A Pyramid, A Gatehouse, A Prison and The Mouth of Truth

Who knew there is a pyramid in Rome? Built in the middle of the 1st century BC as a funerary monument to a Roman praetor it is 36 meters high. Apparently all things Egyptian were popular after Rome conquered Egypt in 31 BC.   In the 3rd century AD it was incorporated into the Aurelian walls which were built, along with the Porta San Paola gatehouse built in 270 AD.  So, the pyramid was there almost 300 years before the walls...which strikes me as just weird!

The Gatehouse if now a little museum and I really enjoyed my visit there, and the wonderful view..including the  pyramid next door!

The Mamertine Prison dates back to the 7th century BC and is available to tour due to an archeological dig under the Church of San Giuseppe del Falegnami. A mid 2nd century BC room has a circular opening in the floor where the prisoners were pushed into an underground chamber...all very grim.  According to later Christian legend St. Peter was held prisoner here.

The prison museum had some really extraordinary high tech aides.  Where the display of pottery and glass shards found during the dig were displayed, you could use the touch screen to see a view of the original object....which was very cool.

That 2nd century chamber later became part of a church and has some 8th century wall frescoes....or the remains of them.  By holding the *guide tablet* up to the frescoe, you can see an outline of how the original would have looked.   The very kind staff member there held the tablet up so that I could take a picture of it over her shoulder.

Finally....The Mouth of Truth....For anyone who is not familiar with the wonderful movie Roman Holiday, starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn (her first movie)....shame on you.  As part of a fabulous, hectic day, seeing Rome, they visit the Mouth of Truth..where you risk losing your hand, if you place it in the Mouth and you are not a truthful person.

Needless to say, I am typing this with two hands, as my heart is pure!

There are lots of pictures....the one of the projected image of the clay pot is upside down. .sorry...






Friday, 2 December 2016

Ara Pacis Augustae ..His Altar to Peace

The Ara Paxis was commissioned by the Roman Senate in 13 BC to honour the return of Augustus after his three years in Gaul and Hispania.  It was dedicated to Pax, the goddess of Peace and consecrated on Jan. 30th 9 BC.   Considering what he had been doing in those three years, I wonder if the Gauls etc. might have found the dedication somewhat ironic?

The original setting included a sundial and obelisk arranged so that the sun streamed thru the main entrance on Augustus Birthday.  It is a rectangular marble enclosure, built on a large podium, with a central open air altar, where sacrifices were carried out on his Birthday.  There are numerous small openings along the floor to allow the blood and water (for the clean up), to drain.

The lower part of the exterior is decorated with vines, and vegetation representing the abundance and prosperity of Rome.  The detail is wonderful, with small salamanders, frogs, and a birds nest with chicks about to be attacked by a snake!

The upper part depicts the Emperor, his family and members of the regime.  There are a number of children shown which is unusual for the period.  This was most likely to show the strong family unit, and possibly to introduce potential heirs to the public.

This museum was really beautifully arranged.  There were a row of busts of the Emperors family (wife, sister, sons etc), and the tablet guide had their stories in

** their voices **.

There was also a display showing how the monument would have actually looked at the time.  It would have been brightly coloured, which is a bit of a shock to see.  We are so accustomed to seeing these artifacts in stark white marble, that it is a real eye opener to see it in colour.  I have included some pictures of the  * colour * version.

TEN DAYS to VERONICA  !!!!!!!!!

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Vatican

I have seen many, many churches in the last few months.  St. Peters Basilica is the largest, and very impressive, but really wouldn’t make my top 10 list.  Perhaps it is just not old enough for me to find interesting.  Having seen incredible frescoes dating back to the 10th and 11th century....sorry St. Peter, I’m just not that into you.

Started in 1506, it replaced the old St. Peters of the 4th century. It opened in 1626, having been financed in part, by the granting of Indulgences in return for contributions.  This resulted in a scandal which provoked Martin Luther, leading to the Reformation and the birth of Protestantism.

Architects and artists including Michelangelo, Bernini, and Rafael contributed to it.

There are over 100 tombs in the grotto, including St. Peter, who was crucified near the ancient Roman obelisk which stands in St. Peters Square.

There is, of course, some wonderful art work, including Michelangelo’s Pieta, and a statue of St. Veronica!  There are pictures

Monday, 12 December 2016

Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II ....First King of a united Italy

This enormous monument dominates the Piazza Venezia, and much of Rome’s skyline.  It is 443 ft wide and 230 ft. high, and was started in 1885 but not finished until 1925.   It was controversial, as a medieval neighbourhood was destroyed to clear the site, and it is often regarded as pompous and too large. It is built of white marble and the Romans refer to it as  * la torta nuziale * ... the wedding cake !

It is certainly imposing, and affords wonderful views of the surrounding area.  Hope you like the pictures.


Photos: November 02: Rome
Photos: November 03: Rome
Photos: November 04: Rome
Photos: November 08: Rome
Photos: November 10: Rome
Photos: November 10: Rome
Photos: November 20: Rome
Photos: November 23: Rome
Photos: November 24: Rome
Photos: December 02: Rome
Photos: December 06: Rome