Letter B…… be better

Standard

……………………… be better and my joy.

rzym-blog-1My joy, my hope, my love Rome.img_0694-222blog

Some moments, some hours, some days feel absolutely authentic. And more frequently than not I can attest that my conversation with family, friends, even strangers are authentic encounter. So are my choices, even the difficult once, and my joys, my hope, my loves. But every minute of every day is not authentic. I think it takes an entire lifetime to time authentically. It is the striving to be authentic that make you so, not the end result. When you think you’ve arrived, you realise you’ve come all this way just to prepare yourself to begin again just the circle of life. Another very exciting trip has ended.

dsc02811I’ve recently spent a week in Rome. Here in the city of the Rome, whole ancient history reminded of just how much the power of the circle journey is. I don’t write to impress all tourists to visit Rome. Today, my “Italian blog post” is about giving an art conservators perspective of the city through the bricks, stones, and passion for art just art La Dolce Vita.  I am very fortunate, my husband is the sculpture and monument conservator and he showed me the all these Rome stones, I listened and learned so much about the ancient stones story “Made in Roma” at every stop.

MILLE VIAE DUCUNT HOMINEM PER SAECULA ROMAM 

So goes the saying… …….All roads lead to Rome 🙂

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First stop roads 

dsc00620So I start at the beginning.  I saw the Via Apia Antica in the rain. The world’s oldest roads in the rainy evening looked entrancing in such setting. It was known to the Romans as the regina viarum (queen of roads) and was named after Appius Claudius Caecus, who laid the first 90km section in 312 BC. The Roman soldiers built good roads.dsc02016-1I can only imagine that travelling on a Roman road was not very comfortable: the large flat stones of basalt did not provide the continuity and smoothness of today’s asphalts, but they are still where they were placed 2000 years ago: this because they were laid upon a multi-layer structure having a depth of 4 ft. which ensured their stability. The Romans built their roads on foundations of clay, chalk and gravel. They laid bigger flat stones on top. The road sloped from the middle to ditches either side, so rainwater drained off.  Stratum is the Latin word for a layer, and the Romans called their multi-layer roads via strata from which the words strada (Italian), street (English) have come.  The names of the historical roads departing from Rome can be grouped into the three categories: the most important roads were named after a consul (thus they are called consular roads): Cassia, Flaminia, Apia, Aurelia; local roads were named after the town they reached: Nomentana, Tiburtina, Prenestina, Casilina, Tuscolana, Ardeatina, Ostiense, Portuense and roads named after a particular use they were known for Salaria, Trionfale.via_appia_map-1Via Apia with a total length of 580 kilometres, it was then the first and most modern highway in the world, it was thus the first highway of antiquity. Via Apia was very often the scene of the triumphal entrance to Rome of a victorious general or emperor returning from a campaign in the eastern provinces of the empire.sparta3

However, it was the road along which were crucified in 71 BC slaves who had taken part in the revolt led by Spartacus, and it is also along this road.

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The next stop  bricks

The Romans had an advanced knowledge of masonry techniques and, unlike other ancient civilisations, they did not need large blocks of stone to build their monuments.

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The use of the arch and a very powerful cement allowed them to erect gigantic brickwork buildings, which were then embellished by applying slabs of marble.The Romans made wide use of brickwork in a variety of techniques (opus latericium) which help in identifying the period during which a certain building was erected. Archaeologists are also helped by the trademarks stamped on the bricks by the manufacturers.wystawa

Even a plumbing pipe  carries the mark of its manufacturer. All those labellings were also a way to express emotions. Lead projectiles for slingshots carried the names of the ammo producer as well as an invective against enemies.Even the very foundations of ancient Rome were labelled. The ancient “Made in Roma”back to an epoch 2,000 years ago.

 

URBEM LATERICIUM INVENIT, MARMOREA RELIQUIT  

img1474815769190It was Augustus who found a city of bricks and left a city of marble; this proud statement by Emperor Augustus summarised the new aspect of the city at the beginning of the Roman Empire and no building symbolises the Roman Empire quite like the Flavian Amphitheatre Colosseum.dsc01855While stands the Colosseum,

Rome shall stand.

When falls the Colosseum,

Rome shall fall, and when Rome falls – the World.”

This poetic statement attributed to the Venerable Bede sums up every generation’s fascination with the great amphitheatre of Rome.The Colosseum is engineering marvel even by today’s standards. Seating roughly fifty thousand spectators and featuring a retractable roof, it is comparable to Safeco Field in Seattle, but was planned and erected without the aid of computers or modern construction machinery. The Flavian Amphitheater was built primarily from over one hundred thousand cubic meters of travertine, quarried twenty miles away in the town of Tivoli.

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         Travertine stop

Travertine is a limestone formed by the precipitation of calcium carbonate. Like marble, travertine is a form of limestone. When limestone is put under a lot of pressure for a thousand of years, it can turn into travertine, the way peat turns into coal. If the travertine is left under pressure for thousands, more years, it can turn into marble, the way carbon can turn into diamonds. So travertine is a kind of stone that is about halfway in between limestone and marble. Travertine is finer than limestone, but not as fine as marble. The Romans used travertine on the main parts of buildings where it was too expensive to use marble. Often, for instance, the steps might be made of travertine while the columns or sculptures were made of marble. We do the same thing today. It was found in large quantities near Ponte Lucano, where there are still several quarries in operation. Also, the Romans a special road from Tivoli to Rome (see yellow, road on the road stop ) was built for the purpose of transporting the huge blocks of travertine needed to construct the Colosseum.

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Today the area between Colosseum and Arco di Costantino is reserved for pedestrians, but until 1980 the amphitheatre was a sort of gigantic roundabout. This was an effect of the 1932 opening of Via dei Fori Imperiali which channelled a large number of cars towards Piazza del Colosseo. Now the interior of Colosseum is entirely robbed of its decoration.What happened to gladiators and Colosseum, and who were the gladiators of Rome, really? The gladiator in ancient Rome was a paradox of sorts.  Most were criminals and slaves who could not even feed themselves, and yet, through talented swordplay and a knack for survival, they could attain great fame in the arena. The gladiatorial games as we know them originated out of earlier Roman funeral customs.  Starting in the 3rd century BC, Roman warriors were believed to have been honoured after their death through the sacrifice of prisoners of war. Gladiatorial matches to honour the dead became so common, in fact, that it was not unusual for wealthy men to set aside funding for the games that would commemorate their own passing.  Known as bustiarri (funeral men), these early gladiators not only entertained the crowds, but brought notoriety and honour to the families of the men at whose funerals they performed their deadly art.6a00d8341c2b7953ef01bb0899cdc9970dRoman always had a passion for hunting and the Roman crowd loved the thrill of combat, and the popularity an aspiring politician could obtain through sponsoring games made the gladiators worth their weight in gold. By the 1st century BC, gladiatorial games had become big business across the Roman Empire. At the peak of the gladiatorial era, even Emperors themselves sponsored matches featuring hundreds of gladiators competing in extravagant games lasting weeks at a time. As you can imagine, the more successful a gladiator was in the arena, the more popular he became among the masses. This, in turn, made the gladiator all the more valuable.maxresdefaultIf you like Gladiator with Russell Crowe (Best Picture at the Academy Awards once upon a time), this place is for you. There is a simple reason – I think that people loved “Gladiator”. He loved his family and was loyal to them and he could kick anyone’s ass, yet remained honourable  🙂 .

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In 357 Constantius II issued an edict that Roman official should not take part in gladiator’s game. In 365 and 367 Valentine I forbade the condemnation of Christian to fight as gladiators.  A few years later, Prudentius was urging the Emperor to allow criminals condemned to the arena to fight only animals. The last Colosseum performances took place in 523 during the reign of the Ostrogoth King Theodoric. In 438 Emperor Valentinian III closed the gladiators’ schools and performances were limited to the hunting of wild beasts. The invasion of northern Africa by the Vandals interrupted the supply of lions and other wild animals which were replaced by bears from the Apennines.dsc01838When you are close to Colosseum you can observe different layers of the building: bricks, stone. In the 14 century the building was placed under the protection of the Senatore di Roma and the Conservatori, his four assistants, but this did not prevent the usage of its fallen parts for calcination (for lime-making) or for decorating the façades of churches (e.g. S. Agostino) and palaces (e.g. Palazzo della Cancelleria).  At the beginning of the 18 century Carlo Fontana developed a project for building a church inside Colosseum. The project was eventually shelved, but the drawing supporting it shows the condition of the monument at that time; it was practically open on its southern side (right side of the plan); this because it had been built on the site of a pond of Domus Aurea, Nero’s palace. This side, but not the outer ring, was rebuilt in 1845 by Pope Gregory XVI.    dsc01931In 1750 Pope Benedict XIV, in order to preserve Colosseum from further damage, prevented access to it by closing the arches on the ground floor; he dedicated the ancient monument to the Passion of Jesus Christ in memory of the many martyrs who (according to tradition) died there. The Pope built fourteen Stations of the Cross and placed a large cross at the centre of the arena (now it has been relocated to its northern side).dsc01914One of the most effective actions aimed at preventing the further fall of the outer ring was taken by Pope Pius VII. The wall shows some of the arches which were about to collapse. A similar, but less, imposing wall was built at the other end of the outer ring . When you are looking everywhere in Rome, you can see that no doubt travertine is the stone of Rome. dsc00342Most of the Renaissance and Baroque churches were clad in and decorated with travertine. Bernini’s St. Peter’s Colonnade is one of the best-known examples of travertine monuments.vasi Etching print by Giuseppe Vasi Rome (1752) When Charles Dickens visited Italy in 1844-45 he wrote: …..immediately on going out next day, we hurried off to St. Peter’s. It looked immense in the distance, but distinctly and decidedly small, by comparison, on a near approach. The beauty of the Piazza, on which it stands, with its clusters of exquisite columns and its gushing fountains – so fresh, so broad, and free, and beautiful – nothing can exaggerate.  And  also we hurried off to St. Peter’s also. The beauty of the Piazza, on which it stands, with its clusters of exquisite columns and its gushing fountains – so fresh, so broad, and free, and beautiful.dsc01346We looked at Piazza S. Pietro without being distracted by the basilica from the top of its dome; the sun light reflection isolates the square from its surroundings and emphasizes its architectonic components (in order of time):first the obelisk which was placed in front of the unfinished basilica in 1586;second the façade and the fountain to the north of the obelisk which were designed by Carlo Maderno and were completed by 1612-14; next thedsc01033-1 two colonnades which were designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and were completed by 1667; next the second fountain which was added in 1670; and on the end Via della Conciliazione, the grand access to Piazza S. Pietro which was completed for the Jubilee Year 1950.img_0600 The ellipse is not geometrically speaking an ellipse, but the result of two circles having their focuses between the obelisk and the fountains. Bernini proposed a last minute change to the project which was endorsed by the pope without consulting the commission in charge of assisting him; Bernini replaced the Corinthian order of the original project with the Doric order, thus giving the colonnades a classic appearance which balances the theatrical effect of the statues and of the coats of arms placed on their top. The statues (90) on the colonnades are by assistants of Bernini, mainly by Lazzaro Morelli and Giovanni Maria de’ Rossi. In 1702 Pope Clement XI decided to put statues (50) also on the walls linking the colonnades to the basilica (see Close to Heaven, a page on these and other statues on top of churches and porticoes).dsc01029In 1586 Pope Sixtus V ordered Domenico Fontana to relocate the obelisk from the southern side of the old basilica, near Sacrestia di S. Pietro to the square in front of it.

dsc01020At the time the dome was not yet completed and the obelisk was not perfectly aligned with it. The top of the obelisk was decorated with a bronze cross above a star and three mountains (other heraldic symbols of the pope); in three inscriptions Pope Sixtus V celebrated the relocation of the obelisk and its change from a symbol of the pagan world (ab impura superstitione) to the holder of the Holy Cross; the text of the front inscription (which means Behold the Cross of the Lord. The Lion of the Tribe of Juda has been known as St. Anthony’s Brief and was used in exorcisms. In 1817, in imitation of Augustus’ sundial in Campo Marzio, the shadow of the obelisk was measured and since then it serves as a gnomon and its shade at noon indicates the day of the year.The starting days of the zodiacal months are indicated by circular slabs of marble; similar slabs were also used to indicate the cardinal points and the focuses of the two colonnades.At the time the dome was not yet completed and the obelisk was not perfectly aligned with it. The top of the obelisk was decorated with a bronze cross above a star and three mountains (other heraldic symbols of the pope); in three inscriptions Pope Sixtus V celebrated the relocation of the obelisk and its change from a symbol of the pagan world (ab impura superstitione) to the holder of the Holy Cross; the text of the front inscription (which means Behold the Cross of the Lord. The Lion of the Tribe of Juda has been known as St. Anthony’s Brief and was used in exorcisms. In 1817, in imitation of Augustus’ sundial in Campo Marzio, the shadow of the obelisk was measured and since then it serves as a gnomon and its shade at noon indicates the day of the year. The starting days of the zodiacal months are indicated by circular slabs of marble; similar slabs were also used to indicate the cardinal points and the focuses of the two colonnades. At the time the dome was not yet completed and the obelisk was not perfectly aligned with it. The top of the obelisk was decorated with a bronze cross above a star and three mountains (other heraldic symbols of the pope); in three inscriptions Pope Sixtus V celebrated the relocation of the obelisk and its change from a symbol of the pagan world (ab impura superstitione) to the holder of the Holy Cross; the text of the front inscription (which means Behold the Cross of the Lord. The Lion of the Tribe of Juda has been known as St. Anthony’s Brief and was used in exorcisms. In 1817, in imitation of Augustus’ sundial in Campo Marzio, the shadow of the obelisk was measured and since then it serves as a gnomon and its shade at noon indicates the day of the year. The starting days of the zodiacal months are indicated by circular slabs of marble; similar slabs were also used to indicate the cardinal points and the focuses of the two colonnades.

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Here Dan Brown made reference to the wind mark shown above in his novel. However, ‘Angels and Demons’ producers refused permission to film within Vatican City,or in any of its churches in Rome because of its anger over The Da Vinci Code, which revolves around the idea that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and secretly fathered children. The ban included the filming of church exteriors. the scene mixes a huge set with more digital imagery. C’est la vie. 🙂

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My joy, my grief,

my hope, my love

Did all within this circle move !

Ella

 

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About conservationwithella

Hello, I'm Ella, Art on Paper Conservator & Preservation Manager at Glasgow University Archives and Special Collections. This blog is a walk through my daily life, work, arts & crafts history, my discovery that everything in my life is enough to be a continuous source of reflection. I started blogging to entertain myself but I hope you enjoy it too. I'm sure you agree, that Life without art is nothing. :)

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