Views into an Ancient Time
08.03.2011 51 °F
Bongiorno from Rome,
We arrived in Rome by train after about a 2 ½ hour ride which was delightfully uneventful. We had chosen a hotel that was within walking distance from many of the sites we wanted to see in the old city. When the taxi dropped us off at the address we had the only evidence of the hotel was a small brass plate with a buzzer and camera mounted to the face of the building. We soon learned that the hotel was on the 3rd floor of the building and once we found the elevator it was a breeze to get checked in our room. We have been so lucky with the weather on this trip and our luck would hold out through our stay in Rome with nice sunny but cool days and moderately cold evenings. We arrived mid afternoon so we just got acclimated to the room and got caught up on our email as we did not have much internet access in Assisi.
The next morning we began to discover the city starting in the ancient city area with the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II which honors the first king of the newly unified Italy in the early 1900’s. We continued our tour visiting the Trevi Fountain, the forum which was the heart of the ancient city of Rome, the coliseum, the Vatican and the Pantheon.
So let’s get to the pictures…………………..
Above is a picture of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II which seems to be the monument the locals love to hate. From this outsider’s perspective it does a great job of presenting a grand example of Romanesque architecture. Being completed in 1935 some locals say it is far too new to be of that architecture and thus a fraud. I thought it was cool.
Here is a statue of king Vittorio Emanuele II on his trusty steed.
The monument also houses the tomb of the unknown soldier with an eternal flame and the Alter of the Country which is guarded 24/7. Above is a picture during the guard changing ceremony.
This is the famous Trevi fountain which was built between 1732 and 1762 lies at the intersection of three ancient roads thus the name (tre Vie) meaning three roads. It was the terminal end of the aqueduct that would serve Rome for more than 400 years.
This column is known as Trajan’s Column and was completed in 113 AD. It was built to commemorate emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian wars of the early 100’s AD. It has a spiral sculpture that wraps around the column 23 times and tell the story of the battle and subsequent victory.
The next seven pictures are of the old Roman Forum. This was the main town center of ancient Rome and some of the most early remains here date from the 8th century BC. This was the main center of government and market for the citizens of Rome until the fall of Western half of the empire in about 500 AD. So much history occurred here you can almost imagine being back in those times as you walk down the street here.
Next we visited the very famous Roman Colosseum which was originally the Flavian Amphitheatre. It was built between 72 AD and 80 AD. It is the largest of the many amphitheatres built by the Romans throughout their empire and could seat more than 50,000 people. Originally it was flooded with water and reenactments of famous naval victories were held for the people’s amusement. Of course later after a wooden sub floor was added it was used for games with battles between man and animals as well as gladiators. The History Channel estimated that more than 1.1 million people lost their lives in this coliseum. That number seems amazing to me once you realize that is about 5.5 people per day for 500 years.
This picture shows you one of the many hallways that surround the coliseum. The holes in the walls were caused by people stealing the embedded Iron fasteners used to hold the stones together when the building was no longer being used.
Ancient graffiti but instead of spray paint they used a chisel and hammer. This was the name of one of the most popular gladiators “Vindicomvs”
One of the mosaics found representing a hunter’s battle with a large cat of some type. Animals were brought in from all over the world and hunters with spears or swords would fight them to the death.
The next two pictures show the current state of the building. You can see in the center the complex system of walls and structures built to route both animals and gladiators in and out of the arena through a system of lifts and ramps. This underground area was supplied by a few underground passageways one of which was dedicated for the emperor to get to and from his box without risk of being exposed to the public.
Next we took the metro and then climbed to the North of the coliseum to visit the church of San Pietro where Michelangelo’s Moses resides. It was commissioned as the burial tomb of Pope Julius II in 1505 and remains today as one of his best works. The next two pictures show how beautiful it really is.
The first thing the following day we walked across town to join a morning tour of the Vatican museum, The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Cathedral. It is a bit weird to think you are going into another country within Rome. It was really nice to once again have a tour guide explain some of the history of the artist and culture in the times these works of art were created and provide some popular interpretations about the message in the art.
The front of St. Peters Cathedral from the square.
The garden where the late pope John Paul II would often stroll while talking to visiting heads of state and friends. I’ll bet there were some interesting conversations held here.
The Vatican has amassed and amazing amount of art over the years. I suspect every piece of art has a story but however they were obtained the size of the collection really surprised me. Here is just one corridor of small sculptures.
The two pictures above show some early thoughts about recycling. The fountain you see above used to be a statue of a man, an engraved tomb (only gently used) and a water pot. Someone decided to reuse them together as a fountain. The second picture shows an example of recycling the beautifully engraved sides of previously used tombs to decorate building facades.
Susan was convinced this was a long lost ancestor of mine. I don’t see it. I don’t want to. You can’t make me.
Ahhh this guy has earned special distinction and is well known among past generations at the Vatican for contributions to the museum. This is Pope Leo XIII who is called the “penis catcher” because of his campaign to find and cover every example of exposed male genitalia on every painting by over painting it and on every sculpture by placing a fig leaf over “it” . OK I’m sure he did other good stuff…I mean he was a pope!
Some examples of really nice tapestries they had on display.
The very highly decorated ceiling of the map room. The images on the ceiling correspond to the geographical locations of the maps on the side walls below.
The Sistine chapel……an amazing collection of works.
Probably the most famous section of the chapel ceiling “The Creation of Adam” my Michelangelo. A widely held belief about this painting is that the cape of god is spread to be the shape of a skull or brain suggesting among other ideas this may have been Michelangelo’s suggestion that God was only in Adam’s mind. It was certainly true that Michelangelo wasn’t as convinced about religion as most of the people he worked for.
The next three pictures were taken inside St. Peter’s Cathedral. It is the largest Christian church in the world.
This is the famous Pieta sculpted by Michelangelo between 1498 & 1499. When the French Cardinal who had commissioned the work asked how Mary could still look this young with a 33 year old son…..Michelangelo replied “If you believe she was a virgin you should have no trouble believing she doesn’t age”
It was amazing to realize that there are no paintings in St. Peter’s cathedral. Every picture in the church including the one in this picture are all mosaic’s. Among the best Mosaic examples in the world.
One of the Swiss guard showing in a visitor.
The two pictures above are of the Castel Sant’Angelo which was constructed as a mausoleum to the Roman Emperor Hadrian about 135 AD. It has been many things over the years including a fort for St Peters Basilica but today it is a museum.
Here is Susan at the Castle bridge across the Tiber River.
The two pictures above were taken as we were trying to navigate our way on foot to the Pantheon from across town. It is the sacred area of Largo Argentina and was only recently discovered in 1926. It houses four separate temples of worship the oldest from around 100 BC.
Next to our final tour stop in Rome…the Pantheon. It might be the best preserved of the ancient Roman buildings remaining. Originally built in 31 BC the building we can see today was largely built in about 126 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The next three pictures show some of the face of the building with its beautifully intact columns and some pictures of the interior.
I thought this was a funny picture as the late afternoon sunlight shining through that round opening in the center of the domed ceiling make all almost perfect image of the alien in the old Space Invaders video game.
Well..that does it for Rome. We enjoyed some great Italian food and wines while we were here and would be happy to share recommendations via email about Rome or anyplace we have been. Next we travel further South to Napoli and Sorrento to taste Olive Oil and Limoncello from where they were born.
Until next time….Ciao