Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jeffery's Tours Part I

Thursday we had our first tour with Jeffery Blanchard, an art history professor who works for Cornell over here in Rome.  He's lived here for over thirty years, and really knows his historic buildings.  Yay for me!

We first met in the Piazza del Campidoglio, on the Capitoline Hill (the smallest hill in Rome), where the modern city govenrment of Rome meets.  The Piazza in its current form was designed by Michelangelo.  There is a great statue of Marcus Aurelius, by Michelangelo in the Piazza (the original one is in one of the Capitoline muesums, now the one in the Piazza is a replica).

The current buildings here are really cool, because some of them were started in the Middle Ages, but were updated several times, so you can see the layers of time.  The Senatorial Palace is a good example of this.  Starting on the left side of the Photo, you can see the oldest portion of the building, which actually faced in the opposite direction, towards the Roman Forum.  As you move from left to right, the building gets progressively newer, ending with the Renaissance facade designed by Michaelangelo on the right.

The Captioline offers a great view of the ancient Roman Forum (which I'm planning on visiting in-depth one of these Saturdays, so I'll write more about it then).

On the Capitoline Hill, there is a church called Santa Maria in Aracoeli which we visited.  Built in the 13th century, it has the Santissimo Bambino (Statue of the Holy Child), and therefore is the church for Christmas masses, and instead of writing to Santa Clause, children here write to the Holy Child.  This church is special, architecturally speaking, beacuse of its coffered wooden ceiling (donated after a war, therefore displaying lots of war ships), and its unusual Cosmatesque floor.  Also interesting is the fact that all the columns in this church (and lots of other buildings, I've learned) are recycled from ancient buildings, so very few of them match.

After this Church, we stopped briefly by the Vittorio Emanuele Monument which was completed after World War Two.  Originally a monument to the first king of unified Italy (Vittorio Emanuele), it also became a monument for the soldiers in the war.

Then we stopped by the Theatere of Marcellus, which is an ancient open-air theatre completed towards the end of the Roman Republic.  After that, it was used as fortified residences for various families, and part of it is still used as apartments today.

The we stopped by the House of Crechenzie (or Kreshenzie, or something like that), a Midevial house which was really cool because they re-used pieces of ancient buildings, but without trying to recreate any particular type of ancient building, so it is just an ecclectic mass of ancient building parts!

Then we stopped at the Forum Boarium (Cattle and Vegetable Market), where two ancient temples are located.  The rectangular one was a temple to the port (the site is right by the river), and the circular one was a temple to Hercules.

Then we went to Santa Maria in Cosmedin which is the church where Bocca della Verita (the Mouth of Truth that supposedly bites off your hand if you're lying.  You know!  The one Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck put their hands into in Roman Holiday!)  The line to see the actual thing was too long, though, so we just saw the church, which is pretty cool, too.  It was built in the 8th Century, on the site of two ancient temples.  In the case of one of the temples, the columns were still standing, so they just reused them where they were!  Also, it has its original trussed roof showing (it doesn't have a suspended ceiling, like the last one), and a Dominican Monk buried in the more usual type of Cosmatesque floor (people buried in the floor of churches, where you walk, was pretty normal, I guess).

Don't worry guys!  We're almost to the end of Jeffery's first tour (I know, they're intense!)

So, after Santa Maria in Cosmedin, we went to Santa Sabina (on the Aventine Hill, a very nice part of town), which was built in the 5th Century, and is a great example of an Early Christian Church (thanks to Historic Preservationists who are still working on restoring parts of it!).  This church is cool because of its remarkable size, and the fact that all of its columns match (whether they were carved for this church, or just all came from one ancient building, we don't know).  Also, it has mica windows with awesome stone grills, and St. Catherine of Sienna is buried there.

Lastly, we went to the Knights of Malta Complex, where we got to look through their key hole to the beautiful gardens and a stunning view of St. Peter's Dome (which my camera is too weak to see).  Just, don't open the door, or the armed police will come over and make you leave. . .

That's all for now! Ciao!

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