Friday, March 9, 2007

Spanish Steps

Meredith Worcester
Honors in Rome - Winter 2007
Small Presentation

Rome visitors never cease to be delighted and surprised by Piazza di Spagna. It owes its name to the Spanish Embassy, the first to be permanently established in Rome, in Palazzo Spagna by Antonio del Grande (1647). The square was completed with the building of the Spanish Steps from 1721-1725. The striking architecture of the area was designed by Pope Sixtus V, a renowned town planner of the time. Piazza di Spagna was at the center of the Strangers’ Quarter, the triangle made by Via del Corso, Via Frattina and Via del Babuino, where most of the foreigners lived, in particular painters and sculptors.

The Spanish Steps consist of 138 steps, 12 flights of travertine steps of varying widths, leading up to the Church of Trinità dei Monti. The Church of Trinita dei Monti, a French church is now at the top of the slope. The french badly wanted a way to connect the church to the city. There was a muddy rocky hillside between the church and the city at the time.
King Louis XIV wanted Bernini to design the connection. But Bernini was Pope Alessandro VII’s (1655-1667), the Chigi pope, architect. Alessandro didn’t want Bernini to design the fountain for Louis XIV who was very powerful.
The design paused for about a hundred years until Francesco De Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi used a design based on Bernini’s. This was after generations of discussion over how the steep slope to the church should be constructed. Some scholars equate the look of the steps to certain conventions of terraced garden stairs.

The steps aren’t on a perfect axis, but this wasn’t a priority to the architects because the steps are more about the connection and the views out from the steps than about perfect symmetry. This is a great example of the difference between Baroque and Renaissance architecture, whereas in the Renaissance everything would need to be perfectly symmetrical.

The monumental stairway was built with French diplomat Stefano Gueffier’s funds (20,000 scudi) in 1723–1725, linking the Spanish embassy, today still located in the piazza below, with the Trinità dei Monti church. Every year, in May, the steps are decorated with pink azaleas. The Spanish Steps have been restored several times, most recently in 1995. Although the most popular route to enjoy the steps are walk up, there is a lift/elevator outside of the metro station.

At the base of the piazza is the Early Baroque fountain called La Fontana della Barcaccia (”Fountain of the Old Boat”), often credited to Pietro Bernini, father of a more famous son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who is sometimes said to have collaborated on the decoration.

According to an unlikely legend, Pope Urban VIII had the fountain installed after he had been impressed by a boat brought here by a flood of the Tiber river.

Because the pressure from aqueduct that feeds the fountain is extremely low there are no spurts of water or large water displays. Instead, Bernini constructed a leaking boat – which lies half submerged in a shallow pool.
The bees and suns that decorate the Fontana della Barcaccia are taken from the family coat of arms of Pope Urban VIII Barberini, who commissioned the fountain.

The Column of the Immacolota
The column was erected in 1854 in honour of the “Immaculate Conception of the Virgin” promulgated by Pius IX. On the top of the column stands the bronze statue of Mary; beneath are Moses, David, Isaiah and Ezechiel.

Via Condotti
Via Condotti faces the Spanish Steps and is a shopper’s paradise. It is also a wonderful vantage point for viewing the Steps and Church of Trinita’ dei Monti. From Via Condotti you can see all the way to St. Peters, the street is set up on a perfect axis with the Spanish Steps.

Church of Trinita dei Monti
At the end of the steps you find the Church of Trinità dei Monti, built by architects Carlo Maderno and Domenico Fontana. In front is the Sallustian Obelisk, taken from the ancient Sallustian Gardens. Interestingly enough, Hadrian moved this obelisk to Rome from the Sallustian Gardens.

The Jesuits in Rome

Lauren Garvin
Honors in Rome - Winter 2007

Setting the Stage

The Protestant Reformation was a movement in the 16th century to reform the Catholic Church. Eventually, the reformers abandoned Roman Christianity altogether. The reason for this was that many Christians were troubled by what they saw as “false doctrines” and malpractices within the church. Some of these included: the sale of indulgences (purchasing forgiveness of sins), corruption within the Church’s hierarchy, purgatory, devotion to Mary, and intercession of the saints. The Council of Trent called for a reformation of some of the things that the Protestants had targeted in their protest against the Church, which included an austere reformation in the way art was depicted.

Beginning of the Jesuits
We have one man to thank for the creation of the Society of Jesus and their role in saving the Roman Church – St. Ignatius of Loyola. To know him is to know the beginnings of one of the most important orders established in Rome during the Counter Reformation. In 1491, St. Ignatius was born Inigo Lopez de Loyola to a very respectable and modest land-owning family in the Basque region of Spain. He was the youngest in a family of thirteen. Scholars don’t know much about his adolescence for sure, but it doesn’t appear that he was very religious or not religious at all. It is known that in 1517 Ignatius went into the army. He became one of the defenders when the French attacked the fortress of Pamplona in order to take control of the Basque kingdom of Navarre. While rallying the defenders to fight against the invasion instead of surrendering, Ignatius was struck in the leg by a cannon-ball. He was sent home and had to figure out some way to pass the time during his long and painful recovery.

While he recovered, Ignatius read a number of religious texts on the life of Jesus and the saints, namely Ludolph of Saxony’s Life of Christ and to the Flowers of the Saints (Hollis 8). These books encouraged him to change his ways and live a more Christian life. He changed his name from Inigo to a more formal, Ignacio (which translates into Ignatius) and he set off for Catalonia, to the famous monastery of Monserrat. There he gave a beggar his uniform before an image of the Virgin Mary and dedicated his life to her (Hollis 9). From there he went to Manresa, where he stayed in a cave for some time and composed his Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius constantly revised this document throughout his life; the final version was published in 1541.

After Manresa, he went to Palestine with the hope and intention of spending his life there, upholding the Christian cause against Islam and converting people to Catholicism. This trend of abroad missionary work would become very important for the Jesuits as time went on. However, the Franciscan authorities were fearful of the Turks and that Ignatius’ methods of proselytism would endanger the Christians rather than convert Muslims, so he returned to Europe.

Ignatius now recognized the fact that if Catholics wanted to better resist the attacks on the faith, then better education was needed. It is very important to note that better education was a very important reformation that Jesuits promoted during the time of the Counter Reformation. Ignatius’ first step was to become better educated himself. He returned to school in Spain, but was forced to leave because of the Inquisition. He was actually arrested twice after being accused of teaching the ways of God without the proper education; both of which took place during the Spanish Inquisition. He went to Paris and there he collected his first band of followers. It was still Ignatius’ hope that he and his new Company could work with the Muslims in the Holy Land (Hollis 15).

After finishing their studies in Paris, in 1536 they agreed to disperse, but make their ways separately to Venice. There they were to reunite and sail east. Upon arriving in Venice, they were told they needed to first go to Rome and get the Pope’s permission for their endeavors. The Pope did bless their enterprise and all those who had not yet become priests, were ordained. Next, they returned to Venice to wait for their time to leave for Palestine. In 1539, it became apparent to the group of men that the conditions (including the Turks presence) made it impossible for them to go serve in the Holy Land. They returned to Rome and put themselves entirely at the service of the Pope. Pope Paul III (Farnese) approved their status as the Company of Jesus on September 27, 1540.

The Company of Jesus can also be referred to as the Society of Jesus and followers are called Jesuits. It has been said that Ignatius chose the word “Company,” a military term, because they were to be the “special soldiers of the Pope” (Hollis 16). All the members of the Company of Jesus then took a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. On April 5, 1541, the Company or Society held its first election for a Superior General. The Superior General is elected for life and resides in Rome, so that he can be in constant contact with the Pope, and he is supported by a body of Assistants appointed as representatives from each group of provinces. Everybody expected the election would go to Ignatius and he did receive every vote, except, his own (being the humble man that he was).

Ignatius was already 50 years old before he took up this main task of his life – an age at which, in those days, it was usually considered that a man’s “active” life was finished (Hollis 18). By this time Ignatius had already been organizing the Society’s growing activities throughout the world. From Italy they had already reached Portugal, Spain, France, and Germany. When it was decided that there was to be a General Council at Trent, Ignatius was invited by the Pope to be present, but he wanted to remain in Rome. Instead, two of Ignatius’ men went there as the Pope’s special theologians. They were present at all the long, drawn-out sessions of the Council. It is believed by Hollis that these two Jesuits were more powerful in shaping the decrees of the Council than any of the other people present (20).

Ignatius continually worked until his death in 1556 and was an absolutely inspiring founder for the Company of Jesus and a much needed leader for the Church during the Counter Reformation. In 1609 he was beatified by Pope Paul V and then canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. Without St. Ignatius we wouldn’t have the Jesuits, their fabulous churches, and possibly the same Catholic Church that we have today.

The Triumphant of the Church – Il Gesu and the church of St. Ignatius
Manfred Barthel states, “During no other time in its history has the Catholic Church built so many magnificent churches as during the Counter-Reformation…One of the first buildings to adopt the new style that departed so abruptly from the ideals of the Renaissance and that we call baroque was the Jesuit church of Il Gesu in Rome.” In this period, when so much that had been colorful in Roman customs turned gray (due to the Council of Trent regulations) and the whole tenor of life took on an unaccustomed severity, the city blossomed forth with a new series of High Baroque ceiling decorations, almost monumental in scale, almost all reflecting, in one sense of another, the concept of the Church Triumphant (Engass 62).

The letters IHS on the front of Il Gesu, the mother church of the Jesuits, are an abbreviation of the Greek form of the name of Jesus. This is a statement that the church is completely dedicated to Christ, just like the Jesuits were completely dedicated to Christ; the Jesuits were unique in this way because they were the first order to ever be dedicated solely to Jesus. Il Gesu was first conceived in 1551 by Saint Ignatius and the site of the soon-to-be church was also chosen by Ignatius for its central location.

The building was to be paid for by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, nephew of Pope Paul III. Originally, Michelangelo had offered to design the church “for the love of God” (for free), but he died before the project got to the planning stage (Barthel 134). Though the Jesuits favored architect Giovanni Tristono, the Cardinal chose the designs of Jacopo Vignola. Construction on the church began in 1568 using Vignola’s design. Vignola’s projected façade for Il Gesu ingeniously enriched the austere and simple scheme by making the façade break forward in two stages. However, Vignola’s design was not carried out and the existing façade was erected after his death by Giacomo della Porta. Della Porta followed Vignola’s idea of breaking up and enriching the surface of the façade, but he did so in a different way. In Vignola’s scheme the façade breaks forward twice. Della Porta’s breaks forward, backward, and then forward again, thus creating a motion that is very characteristic to Baroque architecture.

It was decided at the first General Congregation in 1558 (Council of Trent) that all building, including churches, constructed by the Order should be free from extravagance or pomposity or excessive ornamentation, and all future construction would be reviewed by the office of the Superior General. “Since Il Gesu was the mother church of the Jesuits, its design must have been closely supervised so as to conform to the aims of the militant new order, founded in 1534. We may thus view it as the architectural embodiment of the spirit of the Counter Reformation” (Janson 524).

A strange dichotomy seems to exist considering the decorations of churches back then were to be decent and simple. Il Gesu was initially supposed to only be in stucco and stone only, without marbling, gilding, or even frescoes (Blunt 8). These were lavishly added in the seventeenth century when policy relaxed and taste had changed.

However, the fact that the Jesuits acknowledged the persuasive value of religious images from the outset helped to steer Counter-Reformation art away from austerity and towards more emotional and elaborate modes of expression. Alessandro Farnese intended the decoration of Il Gesu to be as important and exemplary as the architecture. Patrons’ wishes tended to dictate the design and decorations of the church. The early Jesuits were dependent on wealthy donors for the financing of their building projects. For example, the Jesuits would have preferred a flat wooden ceiling, but the Cardinal wanted a vault because he thought it would have a better acoustic for preaching.

In the wide vault, in the nave of the church, is the fresco “Triumph of the Name of Jesus” by Gian Battista Gaulli, also known as Baccicia His work is amazing with its leaping figure, great luminosity, and refined colors. The fresco, which was finish in December of 1679 is considered to be one of Baciccia’s greatest works, as well as one of the greatest masterpieces of Roman painting in the late 17th century. Baciccia’s work elaborates the triumph of the church for Il Gesu is in the way that it allows the viewer to interact with the space. It looks as though the characters are surrounding the viewer, popping out to be in his or her presence, as though heaven has come down to our realm in this place of worship. What this tells the viewer is that Il Gesu and the Catholic Church are facilitating this mystical experience and only here can you truly have divine contact.

The Jesuits also have another special church in the heart of Rome, this one specifically dedicated to the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius. The church of St. Ignatius was built as church of the Roman College (initiated by St. Ignatius). It was founded in 1551 as a school of grammar, humanities, and Christian doctrine free of charge. The Jesuits made a significant contribution to the spread of science and literature; in addition, they gave the young the Christian education, and provided philosophical and theological training to the Catholic clergy all over the world.

The space eventually became insufficient for the more than two thousand students who were attending the College. Pope Gregory XV was an old pupil of the school and was strongly attached to both the college and its founder, having also canonized St. Ignatius in 1622. He suggested to his nephew, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, that a temple should be erected to the founder of the Company of Jesus, at the College itself. The building plans were commissioned from Domenico Zampieri, but the final plan was designed by Orazio Grassi, a Jesuit mathematician and architect.

Most of the churches and colleges erected by Jesuit missionaries were designed and built by their own architects, while their own carpenters did the wood-carving of church furniture. The reason these types of talented men of various trades were even available within the Jesuit community is because of Ignatius’ emphasis on the important of education. Thus, the foundation of the church was laid on August 2, 1626. When Cardinal Ludovisi died in 1632 the construction was continued, thanks to the 200,000 scudi he had left in his will.

The church was built on the spot where the Temple of Isis stood in Imperial Rome. The present façade stands where the Acqua Vergine once flowed down in a cascade; it actually still runs beneath the ground. The church’s entrance faces the Piazza Sant’Ignazio.

In the church of St. Ignatius there is the huge vault fresco with the triumph of St. Ignatius’ life’s work by Andrea Pozzo. Christ and God the Father are in the sky at the corner of the composition and the light of divine inspiration infuses St. Ignatius, who is seated on a cloud bank slightly below. Then, below Ignatius and to the right is St. Francis Xavier, Apostles to the Indies. Elsewhere in the upper section angels draw upward into heaven men from all races and all manner of lands who have been purified by the light of divine inspiration.

The guide book, Church - St. Ignatius of Loyola – Rome, states, “We have no desire to give a forced and tendentious interpretation of the real and positive value of the figure of Andrea Pozzo, by attributing to him ideas and theories which he perhaps ignored, but we cannot exclude the possibility that the ‘infinite’ in the vault was meant to convey not only his love for theatrical effect but also expresses his concrete and visible belief in the universal truth of the Jesuit Rule, here depicted by means of an ‘endless’ perspective, as it were” (26).

Jesuits Today
Jesuits today form the largest religious order of priest in the Catholic Church, with over 20,000 members serving in 112 nations on six continents. They are still a forerunner in providing exceptional and extensive education and their schools continue to educate millions of people. Two Jesuit universities we would be well familiar with include Boston College and Seattle University. The Jesuits missionary work still lives on and they continue to be important spiritual leaders among the world. St. Ignatius gave the Jesuits the foundation they needed to become exceptional. From there they managed to play a huge role in salvaging the Catholic Church during their reformation crisis, as well as reach a vast majority of the globe with their message, thus obtaining triumph for the church.

The thing that surprised me most in my research is how much I came to respect and admire St. Ignatius. I’m not into Catholicism at all, but I came to feel like he was truly an inspiring leader. I really admired the fact that he was so good at taking initiative, for example, going back to school and becoming educated due to the important and need for the clergy to be well educated. Also, I really didn’t think I was going to like the two Baroque churches that I presented on. They initially seemed so gaudy to me, but as I visited them repeatedly and learned more about the significance behind the decorations and architecture, the more I appreciated how much work and money has gone into furthering the Church’s worthy purpose.

Barthel, Manfred. The Jesuits: History & Legend of the Society of Jesus. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1984.

Blunt, Anthony. Roman Baroque. England: Pallas Athene Arts, 1978.

“Church – St. Ignatius of Loyola – Rome.” Rome: Ristampa, 2002.

Donovan, Margaret. A History of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. Second edition. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1986.

Engass, Robert. The Painting of Baciccio (1964), chapter 3, selections on “The Church Triumphant.

Gardner, Louise. Art: Through the Ages. Sixth Edition. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1975.

Hollis, Christopher. The Jesuits: A History. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1968.

Janson, H. W.. History of Art. Fifth edition. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995.

“Jesuit Order”; “Il Gesu”; both from Grove Dictionary of Art.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Trevi, the Acqua Vergine, and the Role of Water and Aqueducts in Roman History

Laura Zanzig
Honors in Rome - Winter 2007

As an icon of Rome, the Trevi Fountain has received a great deal of exposure for its role in films such as La Dolce Vita, as well as from the popular coin-throwing legend that draws thousands of viewers to Piazza Fontana di Trevi every day. Historically however, the Trevi, named for the three streets that converge at the fountain, has served a much more important purpose than a tourist attraction. At the source of the Trevi Fountain is the Acqua Vergine aqueduct. Together, the fountain and aqueduct embody the connection between the element of water and the concept of prosperity and power throughout Roman history. The Trevi as we know it today wasn’t finished until 1762, making it relatively young in the grand scope of Rome’s development, but the events that led to its creation span over two thousand years, dating back to the Augustan period of ancient Rome.

Ancient Rome
The Trevi’s history began with the creation of the Aqua Virgo (as it was then called) in 19 B.C., under the surveillance of Marcus Agrippa, general and close confidante of the emperor Augustus. According to the legend recounted by first century historian Frontinus, the aqueduct was created after a young maiden led a thirsty band of Agrippa’s soldiers to its source, and it was from this that the name “Virgo” was derived. Other theories as to the name’s origin exist, such as the purity of its waters, but the first is most widely accepted, and is even represented in the façade of the present fountain. Though the Aqua Virgo wasn’t the first aqueduct to be built, it was still one of the most prominent and important of the eleven aqueducts that fed ancient Rome. It stemmed from the springs of Salone, only ten miles east of the center of the city, and it ran almost completely underground, protecting it from vandalism which facilitated its overall upkeep. Most importantly, it supplied the area of Campus Martius, a region of great development during the Augustan period.

The element of water is one of the most prominent signs of prosperity, health and power. In his book The Trevi Fountain, John Pinto writes, “Throughout history and especially in Rome, water has repeatedly been used to express the munificence and power of rulers, both secular and spiritual” (51), and this is especially visible in ancient Rome. During the reign of Augustus, the city displayed 700 watering basins, 500 public fountains and 130 reservoirs. This boasted that Rome possessed enough water not only for private use and public amenities like baths, but also for superfluous aesthetic displays. In this time, the city held the title of “Regina Aquarum,” or queen of the waters.

The Fall of Rome
Unfortunately, Rome was forced to surrender this title after famine, plague, and the Gothic invasions of the fifth and sixth centuries devastated the city. In fact, the aqueduct system actually worked against the citizens during the sack of Rome, as Gothic invaders interrupted the water supply as a means of controlling the Roman populace. As a result, during the early Middle Ages, the system lay in disarray and usage was significantly reduced. Only those aqueducts that could be repaired quickly were restored after the Gothic siege, leaving only four or five aqueducts in use. The discharge rate of these aqueducts was still very poor however, and much of the water was undrinkable due to poor maintenance. At this point, both the city and its water were in a very unsightly state.

Beginning in the eleventh century, Rome experienced two centuries of regrowth, during which the population expanded, as did the economy. However, with the transfer of the papacy to Avignon in 1309, the city declined once again, with population levels reaching record lows. In a parallel fashion, the water flowing from the Aqua Virgo could hardly be described as a trickle. Though the papacy returned to Rome that century, the result wasn’t immediately positive due to the Great Schism of 1378, in which Rome and Avignon rallied for the power of the papacy. In addition, the city’s water source was primarily the Tiber River, as all of the aqueducts had collapsed except for the Aquae Virgo and Alexandriana. Yet again, the prosperity and stability of Rome was reflected in its system of water.

Papal Rome
Finally, in 1417, the reign of Martin V (1417-31) began, marking the definitive return of the papacy to Rome. In this century, the existence of an efficient water supply again became top priority and, in the centuries to come, a great amount of papal effort was poured into improving and enlarging the city as the concrete expression of the supremacy of the papacy and the Christian church itself. Therefore, water played an active role in proving papal legitimacy.

Nicholas V (1447-55) was the first such pope to take serious action in resuscitating the ancient aqueducts. Intently focused on restoring Rome to its former glory, Nicholas had an ambitious program of urban planning and improvement. In1452, as part of this program, he issued an ordinance commanding that the Magistri aedificiorum et stratarum (Rome’s urban judiciary body) maintain the Aqua Virgo, which he also renamed Acqua Vergine. In addition, he decreed that a fountain be built to commemorate his efforts, and hired the architect Leon Battista Alberti to make improvements on the very modest and small fountain that had previously served as the Aqua Virgo’s terminus. Alberti’s work was not overtly extravagant, and his new fountain was simple but dignified.

After Nicholas, several successive popes made small additions to his efforts, most of which included further restoration to the Acqua Vergine, which was currently the only aqueduct supplying Rome. Other aqueducts underwent renovations during this period as well. Gregory XIII (1572-85), who was nicknamed the “fountain pope” for all of his aquatic efforts in Rome, initiated restoration on the Aqua Claudia to supply the hills in eastern Rome. His successor, Sixtus V (1585-90), restored the Aqua Alexandriana to serve the Quirinale and Esquiline, and renamed it the Aqua Felice, after himself. Between these two popes, numerous fountains were erected, including those in Piazza del Popolo, Piazza del Pantheon, the two smaller fountains in Piazza Navona and the Campo de’Fiori. Later, Paul V (1605-21) also repaired the Aqua Traiana to supply Trastevere and the Vatican area. The focus of the sixteenth century church was to combat the Protestant threat, and in accordance with the goals of the Counter-Reformation, a great amount of effort was put into the restoration and upkeep of aqueducts and fountains at this time in the interest of Christian legitimacy.

The Trevi
The next major step in the development of the Trevi Fountain came under the pontificate of Urban VIII (1623-44). Determined to make the Trevi the wonder of Rome and the world, the Barberini pope commissioned his favorite architect Gianlorenzo Bernini for the job, and gave him permission to use materials from the tomb of Caecilia Metella to build the fountain. This choice was strongly opposed by the Roman populace and the permission was revoked. Another of Bernini’s proposals included transporting Trajan’s Column to the Piazza di Trevi, although his only real contribution to the fountain was its reorientation, moving it from the eastern side of the piazza to the northern one. This reorientation rotated the fountain so that it now faced the Quirinal palace, connecting the Trevi with the papacy. Bernini also enlarged the piazza somewhat in order to further improve the pope’s view, but he never got any farther in his building plans. The reason for this is uncertain, but it is probably due to lack of funding. Urban’s taxation policies were very unpopular with the Romans, who had some words to say about the wine tax imposed to pay for the fountain: “Urban, poi che di tasse aggravo il vino, ricrea con l’acqua il popol di Quirino,” which basically means “Urban taxes the wine and then seeks to amuse the Romans with water.”

After Urban’s death, the Trevi was deserted for some time. His successor, Innocent X (1644-1655) wished to distance himself from the unpopular Barberini and therefore neglected Urban’s project. In addition, he sponsored the Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona, which detracted not only from the prominence of the Trevi but its water source as well. Innocent’s successor Alexander VII (1655-1667) returned some focus to the Trevi with his unexecuted plan to move the fountain to his family’s piazza, but no real progress was made until the eighteenth century. During his pontificate, Innocent XIII Conti (1721-24) added a new wing to the Palazzo Ceri, a palace set back from the fountain, and the home of the powerful dukes of Poli, who were secular lords of his family. This new wing, which Innocent christened the Palazzo Poli, now served as the backdrop of the fountain, inspiring discussion about what to do with the Trevi and the piazza. However, none of the Conti or Poli plans ever really proceeded, especially since Innocent’s reign was so short.

Finally in 1730, Clement XII Corsini (1730-40) assumed the pontificate, and with it, a very energetic building program. It is with this pope that the Trevi as we know it originated. Initially, Clement invited four architects to submit designs for a new fountain. Very little is known about this competition, as none of their names are recorded nor are the drawings. None of the entries were found satisfactory by the pope, so in 1732, he held another contest. The winner of this competition was a young French sculptor by the name of Lambert Sigisbert Adam. Although he received first prize by unanimous consent, the decision to hire Adam was later reversed. Though the exact reason is undetermined, the most likely motivation was Roman resentment of a foreigner designing this very important monument. Next, a man named Luigi Vanvitelli was chosen, but his design was also discarded for unknown reasons.

Finally, a young architect named Nicola Salvi was chosen, and ironically enough, the third place winner in the second competition set to work on what has to proved to be an icon of Rome. Salvi was born in Rome in 1699, meaning he was only in his early 30’s when he was chosen to design the Trevi Fountain. In addition, it was Salvi’s first important architectural commission. In his earlier years, he had pursued poetry, philosophy, and mathematics, before pursuing architecture.
Work soon began on the Trevi, but it did not proceed smoothly. In 1734, Salvi was actually ordered to stop work on the design of his façade due to bitter criticisms coming from the Roman public. It is said that Salvi found his own method of resolving this conflict; allegedly, he positioned a travertine urn so as to block the view of a neighboring barber shop where his critics would often congregate. Whether or not this story is true, the conflict was resolved and work resumed. Then, in 1737, the Duke Conti di Poli complained that his ground floor windows were obstructed by the rocks in the basement of the fountain. The Duke was reportedly awarded 1300 scudi in damage. Another major obstacle Salvi faced was in his own sculptor, G.B. Maini. The two butted heads over design concepts; Maini was originally commissioned for the central group of statuary, but he ended up destroying his first sculpture after sparring with Salvi about its appearance. According to Valesio, a contemporary writer who kept a daily record of events in Rome at this time, Maini did not want to appease Salvi because he “didn’t want to ruin his work by following the ideas of the architect” (Cooke, 163). Another artist, Pietro Bracci finished the group we see today, although he probably followed Maini’s plans closely.

Several different artists were responsible for the various aspects of the fountain, although Salvi was very involved in the realization of his plans. He was said to have crawled around on the scogli (lower level of rocks) with a charcoal stick, tracing out the desired appearance for his rock sculptors. Though Salvi died in 1751, work continued for over 10 years after, finally commencing on May 22, 1762.

The Appearance and Symbolism of the Fountain
The backdrop of the Trevi Fountain is adeptly merged with the southern wall of Palazzo Poli, a very important feature of the fountain. The fountain itself is also a fusion of three main components: architecture, sculpture and nature, represented by the element of water.

In the basement area of the fountain sits the scogli, which appears irregular (although it was very calculated, as previously mentioned), which contrasts with the symmetry of the façade above. This juxtaposition gives the appearance that the Trevi is growing out of living rock.

The next level, the mostra, consists of a colossal order of Corinthian columns and pilasters, a triumphal arch surrounded by four Ionic columns, two narrative bas-reliefs and two allegorical statues, and in the very center, the statuary group that is the main focus of the fountain. In addition, two friezes carry inscriptions of the names of Clement XII’s successors (Benedict XIV and Clement XIII) who participated in the work on the Trevi after Clement’s death in 1740. Finally, in the upper attic level stand four allegorical statues, and, insultingly enough for the Conti family, the Corsini papal crest supported by two winged Fames.

When discussing the symbolism of the fountain, Pinto divides the statuary into three groups in order to more fluently cover each area.

The first group consists of the main section of statuary in the center of the fountain. The prominent feature is the statue of Oceanus, the personification of water in all forms. This massive statue stands over nineteen feet tall, making it taller than Michelangelo’s David. Oceanus rides a seashell pulled by two seahorses who are each led by a triton. The horse to the right is placid, allowing his triton to blow a conch shell and announce the arrival of Oceanus. The horse on the left is very wild and his triton is futilely attempting to control him. This contrast displays the two natures of the sea, both unpredictable and peaceful.
The second group contains the remaining statuary in the mostra. The allegorical statue to the right is a personification of Health, who dons a laurel crown, and holds a spear and a libation cup from which a sacred snake drinks. The statue to the right is Fertility, also called Abundance, who holds a cornucopia and stands next to an overturned urn whose water sprouts blooming flowers. Up above, the two bas-reliefs tells the story of the aqueduct in antiquity. The one to the right displays the maiden leading Agrippa’s soldiers to the water, while the one on the left shows Agrippa presiding over the construction of the Aqua Virgo.

The attic makes up the third and final group, including the Corsini coat of arms and the four allegorical statues that line the roof. From left to right, the female figures represent the Abundance of fruit (holding a cornucopia), the Fertility of the fields (holding sheaves of grain), the Gifts of autumn (holding grapes and a cup), and the Amenities of meadows and gardens (bearing flowers in her hand and the folds of her dress).

Because of the low level of the Acqua Vergine, Salvi was unable to make towering jets to match the tall façade. Instead, he sank the basin (called the vascone) down and formed the scogli into shelves from which the water flows off. Within the scogli, nearly thirty recognizable species of flora are placed in areas that correspond with their natural habitat. In fact, they are so realistic that the only liberty taken with their design was their size for compositional purposes.

Baroque Elements of the Trevi

Consistent with typical Baroque attitude, the Trevi carries a distinct sense of movement, as it centers on the momentous arrival of Oceanus. The fountain is also Baroque in its sheer size – it consumes more than half of the piazza, the effect of which is magnified by the proximity of the surrounding buildings. This helps to contribute to the most prominent Baroque feature of the Trevi, which is its element of surprise. When approaching the fountain, you cannot see the water, only hear rushing water and catch glimpses of its corners. Until you fully enter the piazza, the full effect of the Trevi will not be felt. This effect was almost destroyed twice: in 1811, when a Neoclassical architect named Giuseppe Valadier proposed an enlargement of the square, and again in 1925 when the Fascist government attempted the same.

The Coins
There are many variations on the Trevi coin legend – most versions say that tossing in one coin ensures a return to Rome. Some say that tossing two ensures you’ll marry a Roman, while three means that you’re headed for divorce. The most common of the current variations promises good luck to those who throw three coins with their right hand over their left shoulder. No matter how many coins you throw, the Trevi remains a brilliant representation of Baroque architecture and a powerful reminder of the connection between water and prosperity.

-Cooke Jr., Hereward Lester. “The Documents relating to the Fountain of Trevi.” Art Bulletin. 1956 September, Vol. 38, pp. 149-173.
-Paczowski, Bohdan. “The Trevi Fountain on the ambiguity of the concept of nature.” Architectural Review. 1978 August, Vol. 164, No. 978, pp. 72-78.
-Pinto, John A. The Trevi Fountain. Yale University Press: Binghamton, NY (1986).
-Pinto, John. “The Trevi Fountain and its place in the urban development of Rome.” AA Files. 1985 Spring, No. 8, pp. 8-20
-Sanfilippo, Mario. Fountains of Rome. The Vendome Press: New York, NY (1996).
-Shakerin, Said. “Engineering Art (Fountains).” Mechanical Engineering – CIME. 2001 July, Vol. 123.7, pp. 66.

Picture sources: (triton and conch) (scogli) group)
Brian Spenser (Oceanus and cleaning crew) (full view)

Mussolini: Propaganda and Fascist Architecture

Ryan Hogaboam
Honors in Rome - WInter 2007

Benito Mussolini was born in 1883, the son of a socialist party member who encouraged him to question authority from an early age. Even from the beginning, Mussolini’s life could be characterized by boisterous behavior leading in all accounts to agitation; be it revolutionary, or just in his personal life. This was true of his early years, represented by a series of expulsions from school and various fights. Ironically, he grew up to become a school teacher, but was not well received in this trade, and eventually was fired for his controversial ideas and teaching method. From early on, he exemplified impressive public speaking skills that he would continue to develop as his goals became clear, and his ambitions began to become reality.

Following his failure as a teacher, Mussolini got a job creating propaganda for a trade union, proposing strikes and advocating violence as a means to enforce demands. In 1902, Mussolini immigrated to Switzerland as an attempt to dodge the draft. There, he was arrested for vagrancy, and eventually deported for his political agitation. After he returned to Italy, he started to work as the editor of the socialist newspaper La Lotta di Classe, (The Class Struggle). Shortly after, he moved to Milan to become editor of the official Socialist newspaper of Italy, called Avanti!. He became a powerful labor leader there as well. As Italy approached entry into WWI , Mussolini refocused his political agenda into a widespread public outcry, calling for the working class to unite into “one formidable fascio”. He believed that only acceptable war was a class war, with the sole intention of overthrowing the government. Ultimately influenced by Marx’s idea that class revolution usually follows war, Mussolini abruptly reevaluated his stance and began to fervently advocate war. This prompted his almost immediate expulsion from his position as editor and ultimately from the socialist party. Mussolini’s background in mass media, combined with his persuasive personality and effective use of symbols contributed to his highly successful propagandistic campaigns.

After leaving the socialist party, Mussolini started his own newspaper in 1914, Il Popolo d’Italia. Il Popolo d’Italia was meant to convey the virtues of nationalism and militarism, but even more so, Mussolini the newspaper was intended to promote the pre-war cause. He believed, as Marx suggested, that war would lead to the collapse of society and government. Once this happened Mussolini believed he could take advantage of this struggle to take power for himself. In order to organize this ambition, he founded the political movement Fasci di Combattimento in March 1919. This is the point were Fascism became a true political movement. Formal and widespread organization began in the months to come, with Benito Mussolini at the helm. The fascists would not be elected into parliament until two years later, but their presence did not go unnoticed during this period leading up to formalized power within the legitimate government of Italy. Previous to 1921, the Fascist Party had used their influence and militaristic appeal to gain the support of the growing number of World War I veterans. Disillusioned with the current state of Italian government and its previous failures, this group of veterans’ discipline and militaristic organizational skills were an invaluable resource to the fledgling Fascist party. They formed into armed bands of Squadristi, who began a movement of terror and brutal attacks on anarchists, socialists and communists, crushing labor strikes as well as spreading revolutionary agitation.

After nationwide labor strike in 1922, it was time for Mussolini’s plan to be put into motion. In Naples, he assembled 40,000 of his fascist followers, known as the Blackshirts, with the intent of leading a March on Rome. With the rise of radical groups flying the flags of anarchism and communism, combined with the weakness and general failure of the liberal government, Mussolini knew it was time to take a calculated risk. He threatened a violent coup with the March on Rome. With his back against the wall, Vittorio Emanuele III couldn’t salvage the already failing existing government and face radical threats of anarchism and communism. Although Mussolini’s intention of violence through the March on Rome was to be mostly a bluff, by the time the Blackshirts dragged themselves into Rome they were cold and wet, armed with anything from pistols to table legs. The gesture was powerful enough however; it was too much for the current government. Vittorio Emanuele III invited the fascists to reorganize the government with Mussolini as acting prime minister. The March on Rome switched roles from a military action to a celebratory parade. This propagandistic display was not lost on the Romans; the March on Rome was to be likened again and again to the Roman triumph of the ancients and compared to Sulla and Julius Caesar’s coups d’etat more than 2000 years earlier.

Mussolini’s rise was the product of a social climate of disquiet and fear among the middle-class of postwar Italy. This general feeling of unrest among the people of Italy, with converging and interrelated economic, political, and cultural pressures was just the right scenario for Mussolini. He was an imposing, charismatic leader and a revolutionary agitator. For the disillusioned Italian people, these were necessary qualities to rally around. The Allied powers left Italy out of the cut with regards to the spoils of war in Treaty of Versailles. Despite Italy’s being on the winning side of WWI, they were left with a “mutilated victory” which created a political climate parallel with that of Germany. Charismatic, and radical, leaders like Mussolini and Hitler came to power in this climate; they could hypnotize a nation with their often violent promises of grandeur.

Grandeur for Mussolini meant empire building. In 1934 Mussolini said, “After the Rome of the Caesars, after that of the Popes, today there is a new Rome, Fascist Rome”(Tronzo 294). His dream was to be called Mare Nostrum or, “Our Mediterranean”, extending from Palestine to Egypt and throughout parts of Africa. The idea of empire building reawakened an aggressive sense of nationalism; inspiring Italy’s growth and attempt at restored dignity. Through the use of propaganda, Mussolini instilled the idea of nationalism so deeply that he was free to fashion himself in any way; creating his legend of Il Duce. Mussolini ha sempre ragione: a ubiquitously quoted and displayed slogan of Mussolini’s fascist regime stated simply thus: Mussolini is always right. This was to be the major theme of many of Mussolini’s architectural reconstruction movements in Rome. His background in media here was important. Mussolini was personally responsible for the absolute control over the media in Italy at the time. His secretive methods still gave the impression of a free press, however. His building plans, like the Master Plan of 1931, and economic revitalization were so successful at first that the US and Europe hailed him as a genius. This world opinion wouldn’t last, however. In 1935 Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. The League of Nations responded immediately with economic sanctions. This was eventually a major factor in Italy’s downfall as it was ill equipped and unprepared for a large-scale, modern war due to Italy’s lack of available natural resources. Mussolini’s recreation of a roman empire was commemorated by the monumental construction of the Via dell’Impero.

Mussolini began his architectural movement as a propagandistic tool very early on. Mussolini attempted to turn monuments of Augustan Rome into symbols of the fascist doctrine. His goals in doing so were to validate his role as the founder of a new Roman empire and to inspire a new sense of Italian pride, which would come to be known as romanita. He recognized in himself a parallel to the Roman emperors, Augustus in particular, as such strove to recreate a sense of imperial grandeur. Incredible power is reflected by incredible architecture, Mussolini had a supreme sense of this. Architecture provides for any ruler a stage set for intimidating rituals and propagandistic displays. This meant a lot of marching, and the Via dell’Impero was perfect for it. During the speech he delivered upon the installation of the first fascist governor of Rome on December 31st, 1925, he made his plans for a new Rome public:

“My ideas are clear, my orders are exact, and certain to become a concrete reality. Within five years Rome must strike all the nations of the world as a source of wonder: huge, well organized, powerful, as it was at the time of the Augustan Empire. You will continue to free the trunk of the great oak from everything that clutters it. You will create spaces around the Theater of Marcellus, the Capitol, the Pantheon. Everything that has grown up around these building during centuries of decadence must be removed. Within five years the mass of the Pantheon must be visible from the Piazza Colonna through a large space. You will also free from parasitic and profane architectural accretions the majestic temples of Christian Rome, The millenary monuments of our history must loom larger in requisite isolation.”

Before Mussolini opened up the zone north of the excavated forum, this was an area of narrow streets and densely packed buildings, with an occasional patch of rough ground or partly excavated ancient structure. The idea was to create a processional avenue. Building began in 1931, with Mussolini breaking ground: “Let the pickaxe speak!”

The Via dell’Impero was opened in 1932 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the March on Rome. The overall point of the imperial boulevard was to establish and promote a relationship between the glory of ancient Rome and Mussolini’s Fascist Regime. The broad thoroughfare physically connects the most identifiable ancient symbol of the Coliseum with Mussolini’s Fascist headquarters in Piazza Venezia. More importantly it was a figurative symbol to seamlessly show the continuity of the Roman Empire. The October 28th opening ceremony was characterized by Mussolini’s usual theatrical display, featuring Mussolini riding on horseback in full military regalia down the new boulevard. During his dedication speech, delivered to a crowd of 400,000, Mussolini declared:

“A great event has taken place…the fate of Ethiopia has been sealed. Our gleaming sword has cut through all the knots, and our African victory now shines with a pure light…Italy at last has her Empire, the Fascist Empire.” Later on he said of the Via dell’Impero:

“Streets are also born under a sign of destiny. The Roman Via dell’impero could not more speedily affirm the fate implied by its name. No sooner born, it has become the true heart of Rome. And here beats the most ardent life of the capital city of Italy.”

A display of five maps showing the extent of the Roman Empire certain points, including the zenith of the empire, were installed on the outer wall of the Basilica of Maxentius, near the forum. The final marble tablet shows the additions to Italy that occurred during Mussolini’s reign, namely Ethiopia. It has since been stolen. These maps were part of the Fascist ritual performed here regularly. The contrast of the white marble on black stone was meant to demonstrate the empire as morally positive while other parts of the world seemed backward or evil. During ceremonies, one could liken the increasing might in the first four maps to the government’s ideological goals and dreams of empire. The tablets reflected the passage of time marked by the ritual. Fascist Youth battalions marched up the broad avenue. They moved up through increasingly important levels through the party, as the empire developed and flourished.

The construction of the Via dell’Impero was and still is, not without controversy. Mussolini’s propaganda machine had an affinity for inaugurating works on anniversaries made meaningful by Fascist doctrine. Dates of the March on Rome or Augustus’ birthday, as well as labor day and the supposed date of the founding of Rome were used frequently. In order to meet the deadline of the tenth anniversary of the march on Rome, the construction of Via dell’Impero was undertaken with general indifference, bordering on negligence, towards the ancient ruins uncovered there. Construction only took 11 months. The site was not handled as an archeological dig, and very little documentation came out of the freshly unearthed area of the ancient Forum. The initial preparation of the site disturbed and in most cases destroyed ruins and 8th century B.C. tombs underground, as well as completely demolishing medieval churches and renaissance gardens. Little attention was paid to the archeological information lost during the actual construction; to deem Mussolini’s plan as controversial would be completely unheard of. Now, of course, we are free to comment. Henry Hope Reed, urban planning citric, had this to say:

“As one of the most ambitious of Mussolini’s attempts to re-create in Rome the city of the ancients, it is only fair to the planners to say that the Dictator traced the line himself, and boasted that it was constructed at his will. The only comment worth making on this carefully and extensively laid out waste is that, with its concrete paths leading nowhere and its municipal lamp standards lighting nothing, it is the most symbolic and fitting memorial to a dictatorship in existence.”

Since the time of the Roman emperors, those attempting to maintain a relationship of power have used architecture as a vehicle of propaganda. Mussolini was very aware of the effect of urban planning on the people he meant to control. Fascist architecture was designed to be huge, cold, and uncaring; a physical representation of authority and an altar to the persona of a dictator.

Works Cited

Scobie, Alex. Hitler's State Architecture: the Impact of Classical Antiquity. London: Pennsylvania State UP, 1990.

Tronzo, William. St. Peter's in the Vatican. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. 294-296.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

History of the Palazzo Pio

Kimberly Cheong
Honors in Rome - Winter 2007
Small presentation

The Palazzo Pio is not simply the home of the UW Rome Center. The known history of the building and surrounding area dates back to 55 B.C. Throughout the ages, the Palazzo Pio has undergone diverse transformations and served various functions.

The first Roman theater performance was held in the fourth century B.C. Before 55 B.C., however, plays were performed in crude, makeshift structures. Strict laws regulated where and when performances were held, as well as their lengths. The Roman Republic maintained that theater was a serious threat to public morality. Roman theater was often a vehicle for political strategies, and also served as a political display of power.

During the second half of the first century B.C., the Republic faced political and ideological turmoil. Pompey the Great emerged as a victorious general and consul. He ordered the design and construction of the first permanent Roman theater: the Theater of Pompeius. It was built as a hemicycle-shaped auditorium. There was also the addition of a tall, elevated temple dedicated to Venus, which may have helped dispel antagonism toward the theater as a permanent structure. Directly behind the fixed stage of the theater was a large, rectangular courtyard called the Porticus Pompeiana. The Curia of Pompeius, which was located either close to the theater’s orchestra or at the eastern end of the porticus in line with the temple, was the site where Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 B.C. After Caesar’s death, the curia was closed and never again mentioned by Roman historians.

The theater complex was active as late as the sixth century A.D., but the next mention of the site in historical documents was in 1143. Benedictus Canonicus recorded the site as being along the route of the papal procession, which passed between Piazza Navona and the Theater of Pompeius. By the 13th century, however, the clear geometry of a theater structure was lost. The area surrounding the Palazzo Pio was referred to as “Trullum” since there was a rounded form that rose to a peak – the vestiges of the Venus temple at the summit of the theater. The structure passed through various owners, one of them being Cardinal Francesco Condulmer, the nephew of Pope Eugenius IV, who in 1450 acquired a portion of the “Trullum” which corresponds to the present day Palazzo Pio.

Condulmer updated the structure according to his own needs and the fashion of the day. The building came to be known as Palazzo dell’Orologio because of a large clock placed on the façade of the tower. Later owners included Cardinal Pietro Regino and the prominent Orsini family. In 1650, the Orsini family commissioned architect Camillo Arcucci to organize the building formally and spatially. Arcucci designed a three-story façade to be wrapped around the pre-existing structure. This was never finished; construction ended on the edge of the Campo de’ Fiori (photo above). The tall clock tower was removed entirely from the building.

In the 18th century, the building in its current state and appearance became known as Palazzo Pio after its owners, the princely Pio da Carpi family. The lion and eagle motif on the façade symbolizes the Pio da Carpi family heraldry.

Although ownership has changed several times since then, the name Palazzo Pio has been popular retained. In the second half of the 19th century, a wealthy banker named Piero Righetti became owner of the Palazzo Pio. In the summer of 1864 restoration began on the building. The work was suspended when a gilded bronze finger, the size of a man’s hand, was found. Excavation work led to the discovery of a gilded bronze statue of Hercules in an underground room of the building. The statue measured 16 feet in height and was well preserved. Scholars believe the statue may have been hidden to protect it from the Sack of Rome in 410 A.D. This monumental discovery led to a renewed interest in archaeology.

The Palazzo Pio is currently owned by an ecclesiastical institution dedicated to the care of orphans. Through the 1920’s, the building was used as dormitories, classrooms, and workshop space for orphaned boys. The society eventually reorganized and relocated its activities, and the third and fourth floors of the Palazzo Pio were abandoned and in poor condition until the University of Washington began restoration. An intriguing detail is that the ceiling of the Honors Program’s very own seminar room, which was restored by the UW, depicts a scene from Virgil’s Aeneid. The fresco depicts the goddess Juno offering the nymph Deiopea as a wife for Aeolus if he will release his winds upon Aeneas’ fleet. Also, the eagle and lion motif of the Pio da Carpi family makes another appearance in the ceiling fresco of the seminar room. In conclusion, presently the University of Washington Rome Center occupies the first, third, and fourth floors of the Palazzo Pio, a building with a rich past and promising future.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Early Christian Art and Architecture

Jeff Okada
Honors in Rome - Winter 2007

My presentation topic was on Early Christian Art and Architecture and concentrated mainly on two churches, the Santa Pudenziana and Santa Prassede basilicas. In this presentation, I tried to give a brief historical background of the churches and then to compare and contrasts their similarities and differences. Ultimately, I concluded that these two churches were similar in that they exemplified trends of early Christian churches, and were different due to their uncommon historical backgrounds.

The Santa Pudenziana basilica was named after Saint Pudenziana, the daughter of Pudente. Saint Pudenziana, along with her sister Saint Prassede, washed and collected the remains of thousands of early Christian martyrs and their relics. The grounds of Santa Pudenziana was originally the site of two ancient Roman buildings, a thermal bath and a large, two-storied house, both of which were owned by Senator Pudente. Senator Pudente came from a rich and powerful family known as the Acilii Glabriones, who had to their credit several generations of Roman senators. Living in the apostolic age, he was St. Paul’s first Christian convert in Rome and is referenced in the New Testament as a layman in the Roman Church (2 Timothy 4:21). It is also recorded that he lodged St. Peter for seven years during the Roman Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians in the first century. The original basilica, the titulus Pudente, was built in remembrance of the hospitality given to St. Peter and was consecrated by Pope Pius I in 145 AD. The current Santa Pudenziana basilica was built between the papacies of Siricius and Innocent I and probably began in 398 AD.

After the death of her father Pudente, her sister Pudenziana and her brother Novatus, Prassedes inherited the family wealth and constructed a church which sheltered many Christians from the persecution of Emperor Antonius Pius. In the middle of the first century AD, Pope Pius I built an oratory over the present site of the church. Pope Paschal I (817-824) re-built the titulus Prassede into the present day church and added the focal piece of the building, the elaborate and ornate glass mosaics.

The Santa Pudenziana and Santa Prassede basilicas are two of the oldest Christian churches in Rome. Both of these churches have common art and architectural features that exemplify a trend in early Christian churches. On the other hand, they differ in the historical context in which they were built. The mosaics and the main architectural forms of Santa Pudenziana are mainly concerned with the exultation of Jesus Christ and the Christian ideology, and remain unchanged since their completion in the early fourth century. The mosaics and decorations of the Santa Prassede basilica were completed in the ninth century and are thus influenced by the transition of Christian art toward a more secular agenda (i.e. the glorification of Pope Paschal I and his anti-iconoclastic stance).

The proliferation of Christian churches and Christian art in the fourth century occurs because of two main factors: the end of Christian persecution and the gradual promotion of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire. During the first three hundred years after the apostolic age, early Christians faced waves of persecution at the hands of the Roman government. The Christian belief in one omnipotent God in heaven clashed with the idea of the Roman emperor as divine; the idea of pledging allegiance to an other-worldly God instead of to the emperor threatened the legitimacy of the emperor’s rule. Often, Christians were forced to hide from authorities and to perform their ceremonies and worship services in private. These early Christian churches usually comprised of a room or section in a private home, known as the domus ecclesias, that was used exclusively for worship.

The frequency of Christian persecution diminished as more and more people converted to the new religion. In 313, the council of Nicea pronounced that all citizens had freedom of religion, thereby clearing the last hurdles for Christians to worship in public. It was now one’s protected right to practice Christianity. The status of the Church changed again with the conversion of Constantine and the promotion of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire towards the end of the fourth century. With this new status, the Christian church could for the first time build permanent structures that were utilized exclusively for worship and ceremonies.

Architecturally, Christian church buildings posed many novel problems for their designs. Thomas F. Mathews argues that the architectural inventions of the early Christian church were directly tied with providing for the functionality of the church. He writes that the Christian church differed in many ways from their pagan predecessors. Pagan temples were merely a holding ground for the statue of the cult and the revenue of the temple. Actual worship was carried out either in front of the structure or in a designated courtyard. The Christian church, on the other hand, was meant to house worshippers and to function as a public meeting ground. Public meetings often included feasts to celebrate the birth dates of dead family members or patron saints. Moreover, Christian worship was much different in the early church than it is today. The pews and chairs, so ubiquitious in the modern church, were absent in the early Christian church and in the ceremonies of the liturgy there was a great deal of enthused and boisterous movements.

The new challenges posed by this difference in function led to the architectural themes in both the Santa Pudenziana and the Santa Prassede basilicas. The church buildings would be designed from a Roman basilica. Basilicas were used in ancient Rome for business transactions and law courts. They consisted of two rows of marble columns that both delimited a main center area and offered several separate side arcades. Towards one end was an apse that provided the seat of a high command or magistrate to preside over business deals and lower officials. Natural light was allowed through the top row of clerestory windows.

The design of the Roman basilica was used for Christian churches because of the practical purpose that they had the capacity to fill a large and often hectic congregation. To orient the worshipper, the Santa Prassede and Santa Pudenziana basilicas were rotated so that as one entered there stretched a long, instead of a wide, hall; the worshipper would now be led down a long building to the high altar instead of one that stretched out from the viewer’s sides. In both basilicas, the arches that would support the roof of the long nave were bolstered by marble columns from Roman antiquity. Since Christians generally faced the East to pray, the nave of the churches also had to be rotated so that it faced the easterly direction. In both the Santa Pudenziana and the Santa Prassede the area of the nave was significantly widened to accommodate large crowds of people.

Once the basic architectural model was established, a new problem arose for early Christian artists. The directionality of the church now provided a fresh space in which to educate and inspire the worshipper. The central nave ended with an apse, which housed the high altar. This served to conclude the space of the congregation and demarcate a space for the clergy. The wall space above the apse could now function to hold the object of prayer for the congregation. Artists were pressed to figure out how best to fill this space so that it accurately portrayed scenes from the New Testament, educated the illiterate in Christian concepts, and inspire those motivated more easily by images. Their solution was the apse mosaic made with glass, which is present both at Santa Prassede and Santa Pudenziana.

Mosaics were popular in Roman buildings, but mostly as decorations for the floor. Accordingly, they were designed to please the viewer but also to satisfy the practical purpose of paved flooring. Thus, mosaics were almost exclusively made of robust material such as marble. Christian mosaics were the first to be made from glass and were unusual in that they were the central object of focus for the viewer. The glass mosaics could now be adorned with a range of rich and magnificent coloring, the most important of which was gold. Gold conveyed to the viewer warmness and comfort during the day, while reflecting the intense burning from candlelights at night. The apse mosaics were also novel in that they were not broken into sections as was popular in Roman art.

The subject matter of the mosaics also represented a separation from the past and can be seen as sending messages to the worshippers. The figures of Jesus, the Apostles, or the Virgin Mary are staring out towards the viewer, engaging him or her into the mosaic. This contrasted with figures from classical art, which were removed from contact with the audience. The message being sent is that the Bible and the redemption offered by Jesus are accessible to all.

Other themes of these mosaics included the symmetry, hierarchy, and the frontal portrayal of the figures. These characteristics gave the viewer a sense of order and harmony; these images reminded the congregation that there is an order to their seemingly chaotic existence and that the key, central figure of this order is Jesus Christ, who is predominately placed in the center of the work.

The mosaics in both the Santa Prassede and Santa Pudenziana basilicas conformed to the themes of the early Christian church. The apse mosaic in the Santa Pudenziana basilica presented Jesus in the center with the twelve apostles flanked below Him on either side. Jesus holds up His hand and seems to be instructing His followers. The scroll in His left hand reads “Dominus Conservator Ecclesiae Pudentianae” or “the Lord, protector of Santa Pudenziana.” The Apostles whisper to one another and a few are looking directly at their audience. Jesus is seated over a lamb that stretches its head to a dove, which represents the Holy Ghost. Two women that personify the two parts of the original Christian community (Hebrew and pagan) are crowning St. Peter and St. Paul. Above Jesus, there is a huge gemmed cross on the Golgotha. Four evangelists at the sides of the Cross are represented in tetramorfo: St. Matthew as the angel, St. Mark as the lion, St. Luke as the calf, and St. John as the eagle. In the background are the Holy places in Palestine: the Anastatian church in Jerusalem, the basilica on Golgotha, the Constantinian Nativity church, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

This mosaic suggested the order provided by Christianity through the artistic tactics of symmetry and hierarchy. Jesus is at the center of the mosaic, flanked by his subordinates (the twelve apostles). All of the figures present are symmetrical about a vertical axis of Jesus, the dove, and the gemmed cross. The hierarchy can be seen mainly between Jesus and his apostles. Jesus is depicted much larger than the subordinates and spatially above them on the Holy See. This not only sends a message of Jesus as above that of his apostles, but also of Jesus as presiding over the events and ceremonies of the church.

The mosaic was also very engaging to the viewer. Aside from the eye contact made by the characters depicted in the mosaics, the buildings in the background correspond to an actual landscape of Palestine that had existed at the time. The presence of actual, real buildings beside Jesus Christ and His Apostles suggest the accessibility of God to the common worshipper.

The Santa Prassede basilica contained stunning mosaics on the triumphal arch, the arch of the apse wall, the half dome of the apse, and in the chapel of St. Zeno. These mosaics provide additional evidence of the early Christian themes presented above, while also conveying the switch of Christian art as propaganda in service of the patron. These four mosaics all formed the original decorations of Paschal I’s church and, like those found in the Santa Pudenziana basilica, are made of glass tessarae.

Both the mosaic of the arch of the apse and the mosaic adorning the arch of triumph have elements of symmetry and hierarchy similar to the mosaics found in early Christian artwork. The mosaic of the arch of the apse features the lamb—Christ resurrected—on a book of God’s plan for salvation, symbolizing that only through Him can one hope to partake in God’s salvation. On the sides there are seven chandeliers (or lamps) that symbolize the “seven churches of Asia” or all Christian communities in all places at all times. There are four angels on either side representing the four evangelists in tetramorfo form. Next comes the depiction of twenty four elderly men dressed in white offering a gold crown of wisdom to Christ. Again in this mosaic, the composition is very balanced and is symmetrical about the lamb. There is a less pronounced hierarchy in this mosaic as the church is closer to Jesus than the Apostles.

In the mosaic on the arch of triumph, there is a depiction of the apocalypse and there is a gem-decorated enclosure with towers idealizing the celestial Jerusalem. Inside the celestial city, Jesus, wearing a gold tunic and outlined in red, holds a scroll and motions with a wave of a hand a blessing, while two angels look on from His sides. Underneath and to the right of Jesus is the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. Underneath and to the left of Jesus is St. Prassedes. Further to the left of Christ is Elias, extending out his arms to Christ, and to the right of Christ is Moses with a tablet of written “Laws.” Outside the walls lies the elect awaiting entrance into the celestial city. On the left are men and women of different ages who were martyred. On the right, the elect are led by St. Peter and St. Paul. On the lower register are characters that represent figures from the book of Revelation. They are standing and facing Jesus, suggesting that they are alive and share a personal relationship with God. They are wrapped in white gowns, suggesting that they live in this relationship permanently and participate in the Resurrection of Christ. The palm leaves that they are waving represent their victory over evil. Again, this mosaic is very symmetrical around Jesus and there is a clear hierarchy in the proximity of the figures to Christ at the center of the celestial Jerusalem. The more important figures are depicted nearer Jesus than those that are not central to either the theme of the piece or Christian doctrine in general.

In the mosaic of the half dome, symmetry and hierarchy is also present suggesting a link in styles between Christian art of the eighth and fourth century. However, an important difference can be seen in the subject matter found in the newer work. Christian doctrine and ideology is no longer the sole benefactor of Christian art. The mosaic of the half dome shows how art was now produced so as to boost the reputation of the patron and his causes.

The mosaic of the half dome portrays Jesus in the center with his right arm raised to show the scars of the crucifixion on his palm, while His left arm holds a scroll. He is being crowned by God (depicted by the hand from the clouds) in recognition of His glory and honor. To the left of Christ, there is an image of St. Peter with his arm around Pudenziana, whom he presents to God. She is richly dressed and wears a crown and a white veil, which symbolizes her status as a velatio viginis. Further to the left is a deacon recognizable by a dalmatic, a large-sleeved robe used in liturgical ceremonies. To the right of Christ, there is an image of St. Paul presenting St. Prassede to God. St. Prassede is also luxuriantly dressed and wears a crown, indicating that she has been recognized for her work and eventual martyrdom. Further to the right of St. Prassede stands Pope Paschal I. He presents to Christ a model of the church that he has built and around his head is a square halo indicating that he was still alive at the time the mosaic was constructed. On either side of these seven characters are two palm trees. There is a phoenix that rests on top of one of these palms; thus this palm represents the idea of resurrection and rebirth. The palm tree to the right represents paradise.

Symmetry and hierarchy are again present in the mosaic of the half dome. The seven characters and the palm trees form a mirror image (although imperfect) about a vertical axis with Jesus in the center. The hierarchy is especially explicit; Jesus is at the center above the other characters, but is below that of His Father who is crowning Him. A priest standing below this mosaic continues the trend, so that he can be seen as being directly endowed from Jesus and God Himself.

In the lower part of the basin is present a lamb above a mound of four rivers of Paradise that stretch to the end of the Earth. Twelve lambs on either side of the center represent the twelve Apostles. They are walking away from Bethlehem (symbolic of the church of the pagan) and Jerusalem (the church of the Jews). Under the basin of the apse is written: (translation):

This resting-place in honour of the noble Prassedes beloved of the Lord in heaven, is resplendent with decoration of diverse precious stones thanks to the kindness of the Sovereign Pontif Paschal disciple of the Apostolic See. He it was who placed under these walls the bodies of numerous saints gathered from every part, confident that, by their own means, they have merited admittance to the resting-place in heaven.
Symmetry is also maintained on the lower part of the basin. Christ is portrayed at the center and is surrounded on both sides by six lambs and an ancient city. Hierarchy is also evident as Jesus, symbolized by a lamb, is again above the other figures in the mosaic and at the center of the piece.

The inscription along the bottom of the basin and the figure of Paschal I in the half dome mosaic show how Christian art has, by the eighth century, been hi-jacked by patrons for their own self-aggrandizement. The mosaics featured in the early Christian churches concentrated mainly on conveying the values of the church. Little or no ancillary agenda was pursued in these early works of art. However, the decorations in later centuries were often replete with favorable images of the patron or the overseer of the project. This is exemplified by the mosaic of Santa Prassede. Paschal I allowed himself to be conveyed in the mosaic, the only living figure in the image. His appearance, especially his regal clothing and square halo, suggested that he has enjoyed personal favor from God. Paschal I’s presence with Jesus in paradise suggested to the viewer that Paschal I has somehow obtained entrance into this holy place. The mosaic successfully painted Paschal I as holy and close to Jesus, and thus a legitimate leader of the church. This message is echoed by the inscription on the bottom of the mosaic. Paschal I is portrayed as being the patron of the church and also as champion of the preservation of remains and relics of ancient martyrs. In his role as Sovereign, Paschal I has graciously provided elaborate decorative elements for his congregation and worked industriously to secure the relics for future generations and thus proves himself a righteous ruler.

Aside from exhibiting early Christian art and architectural themes, the basilica also was meant to send political messages for the patron. In Santa Prassede, the mosaic of the half dome establishes that images and relics are valuable to God and thus furthers the cause supported by Paschal I.

Starting in the early eighth century there was a faction in the Church who viewed images as corrupting. Christian doctrine specifies that there is but one God and that all prayers and admiration must be afforded to Him. The Iconoclasts saw the proliferation of Christian art and Christian images as a dangerous way to succumb to the Christian sin of idolatry. In 724 AD, an Iconoclast, Leo VII, rose to become the Eastern emperor in Constantinople. He issued an edict calling for the destruction of all images and relics. Pope Gregory III countered by issuing an edict against destroying images. This feud between Eastern and Western factions continued into the ninth century and the papacy of Paschal I. Paschal I, aligned with the pro-images group, worked to search the ancient catacombs for relics and increase the number of art pieces being commissioned for the church. Santa Prassede was re-built to house the relics from the catacombs and as a medium space for grander and more elaborate mosaic work.

The mosaics of Santa Prassede’s basilica depict Saints Prassede and Pudenziana in regal attire and as highly favored by God and the Apostles. Since the Saints’ good deeds are based on the preservation of relics, the mosaic suggests the importance that God and the Christian faith places on relics and images. The mosaic suggests the holiness of relics and images and serves to bolster the claims of the counter revolutionaries. In this way, Christian art can be seen as transitioning into providing a platform in order to further the reputation of its patron and his political agenda.

The architecture and art of the Early Christian church is interesting to the viewer because of the interesting mix of novelty and traditional. They show the observer the limits of contemporary ideas and norms, and how new ideas and innovations arise from novel challenges. Although there are major changes that take place in the Gothic age, the Christian basilica still possesses the main attributes first designed in the early fourth century: three aisles leading to an apse, the columns supporting lateral arches, and the long corridor leading to the main altar. Also, the themes of early Christian art live on to the present day. When the apse mosaics of the early Christian period were ousted to make room for stained glass, the themes of the apse mosaics were retained and carried over to the sculptures adorning the façade.

The most interesting thing that I learned while researching these churches was that both of them had rich and convoluted histories. Both churches can trace their roots back to antiquity and Santa Pudenziana still possesses two thousand year old structures beneath it. It was also interesting to learn about how propaganda could be used in the service of the church and how subtle points of the piece (say, the relative sizes of the characters) made a huge difference in terms of how the viewer understands the work.

Lloyd, Joan Barclay. “The Medieval Church and Canonry of S. Clemente in Rome.” Tipo-Litografia Dini s.n.c., Rome, 1989.

Mancinelli, Fabrizio. “Catacombs and Basilicas: the Early Christians in Rome.” Scala Books. Distributed by Harper & Row Publishers, Italy, 1989.

Male, Emile. “The Early Churches of Rome.” Ernest Benn Limited, London, 1960

Brandenburg, Hugo. “Ancient Churches of Rome From the Fourth to the Seventh Century: The Dawn of Christian Architecture in the West.” Brepols Publishers N.V., Turnhout, Belgium. 2005.

Kane, Eileen. “San Clemente: The Saint Catherine Chapel.” Collegio San Clemente, Rome, 2000.

Minor, Vernon Hyde, “Medieval Theory: Christianity, the Human, the Divine” Art History’s History. New Jersey, 1994

Mathews, Thomas F. “The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art.” Princeton, 1993.

Krautheimer, Richard. “Profile of a City: 312-1308.” Princeton, 1980.

Introduction to the Campo de’ Fiori

Lauren Garvin
Honors in Rome - Winter 2007
Short Presentation

Campo de’ Fiori, which translates to “field of flowers,” was given its name for two possible reasons. Some scholars say that it gets it name because during the Middle Ages it was only a meadow with flowers. Others say that it could possibly be named for a woman Pomey had a relationship with, who’s name was Flora.

The Campo was largely unoccupied up until the 15th century. Except, in the 13th century the Orsini family purchased property along the south side. Eventually houses, towers, warehouses, and shops started appearing on the south edge of the field. By 1450, Count Everso dell’ Anguillara, an Orsini family rival, bought houses in the area as well. This purchase seemed to have signified the opening of the Campo to other important families.

The Campo de’ Fiori became of growing importance, so Ludovico Cardinale Trevisan ordered the field to be paved in 1456. It then became a place for people of all different social classes and was used for dueling, talking, buying/selling, horse racing, foot racing, lodging, and eating.

Another activity the Campo played host to was public punishment and executions. The via della Corda, which connects the Campo with the Piazza Farnese, was given its name because of this association. One of the Campo’s focal points, the statue of Giordano Bruno (executed on February 17, 1600 for heresy) is a testament to the executions that were so prevalent.

Commercial and street culture have always been a focus of the Campo. The surrounding streets are named for trades. For example: Via dei Balestrari - crossbow makers, Via dei Baullari - coffee makers, Via dei Cappellari - hat makers, Via dei Chiavari - key makers, Via dei Giubbonari - tailors.

In 1858, the Campo de’ Fiori was enlarged by demolishing block housing, making room for the flower and vegetable market. The late part of the 19th century provided many enhancements, such as adding electric street lights, curbing, and a raised center. There actually used to be a fountain, La Terrina, where Bruno’s statue stands today; however, it was moved in 1889 to make way for the statue. The fountain’s inscription said, “Fa Del Ben E Lassa Dive,” which means “Do well and let them talk.” People seemed to miss the old fountain so much that a new fountain was put in the piazza, which still stands today, but has no name.

By the early 20th century the Campo was the place it is today (330 feet long and 150 feet wide). It was never designed by any specific architect; it has just managed to evolve into its present state naturally. Thankfully the daily flower and vegetable market that has been going since 1869, still happens every day.