About crankyprofessor

I'm an associate professor of the history of art and architecture at a small liberal arts college in Upstate New York.

San Carlino and Sant Andrea

S Carlino domeBorromini – San Carlo alle quattro fontane – dome. Teaching under this . . . life doesn’t get much better.

Tuesday I got to do one of the great comparison questions live. Borromini’s San Carlo alle quattro fontane and Bernini’s Sant’Andrea al Quirinale are a five minute walk apart. So we visited both of them. I prefer San Carlino, but there’s is lots that is great about Sant’Andrea – especially the broken pediment with St Andrew being carried up to heaven on a cloud. Still, the interlocking coffers in decreasing size as the eye runs up the dome at San Carlino? Magic.

S Andrea DomeThat second opening close to the bottom of the photo – a little cupola designed to light the altar. One of Bernini’s habits – and quite a good one.

Annoying laundry complaint

So I washed my new black sweater (thanks, Cate – I love it!) for the first time on Saturday. It had picked up some little spots of this and that across the semester. Our rendezvous Monday morning was at 9, and it was chilly enough for a sweater. I had cappuccino and a cornetto con ciocolato at a bar up on the Quirinale close to the rendezvous point. It wasn’t firm chocolate or creamy nutella – it was runny delicious chocolaty goodness which dribbled down my sweater front.

Alas – it’s in the wash again, and I’m sure it’s fading.

A new bridge in Rome

Ponte Musica from P Duca d'Aosta


This is the Ponte della Musica, a 21st century pedestrian/bike bridge that connects the Flaminio neighborhood to the Foro Italico/Monte Mario area – and yes, that’s the dome of St Peter’s in the distance.

Ponte Musica toward FlaminioThe center is a paved bike zone, but most people seem to prefer the boardwalk sides. He’s pedaling toward Flaminio, MAXXI, and the Auditorium. This far up the Tiber there are lots of rowers and kayakers – if you look closely, one of those 4s is kayaking rather than rowing.

Ponte Musica rowersI was on my way to meet the class at Foro Italico to talk about Fascist architecture – it’s nice to see some other Modern work in Rome. Otherwise, Rome doesn’t have a lot of very interesting architecture since World War II.

There’s another 21st Century bridge about as far downstream from Tiber Island as Ponte della Musica is upstream – I thought I had blogged about it earlier, but evidently not! So I promise to rustle up some of those pictures and post them.

Busy weekend

And not the good way. I had a lot of grading to do, and it’s not done yet (though we will be able to hand back sketchbooks tomorrow morning). I had to preview the site for tomorrow – construction is all too frequent at Foro Italico! But that’s the good news. We’re going to Stadio dei marmi tomorrow, one of my favorite places in Rome to show people the neuroses of Fascism.

The stadium is a track venue surrounded by more than 50 monumental marble statues of athletes – most of the nude, like Skiing in the center of the picture. Ice Hockey, just beyond, is clothed. Go figure.

Skiing and HockeyThe big modern stadium to the right is where both A.S. Roma and S.S. Lazio play soccer. I’ll never figure that one out, either.


I like Milano

Well, I like Italy in general. I like scruffy Napoli. I like grandiose Roma. And I like Milano. It’s easy to think of Milano as Italia Lite – the way my sister once described Singapore as Asia Lite. She thought Singapore was a great place for an American family to live while the one of them works all over Asia. She spent a lot of time in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. – but her family was back in Singapore. Milano always looks like it would be a relatively easy place for an American to get used to.

But Milano is as Italian as anywhere. Their proudest moment is a 5 day uprising against the Austrians in 1848, le Cinque Giornate. But you still run into San Carlo Borromeo around every corner, or his cousin and successor Federigo. We  went into the library at the Brera Institute where Manzoni wrote I Promessi Sposi, the set text of Italian secondary education that teaches Italians to read and write Standard Italian, even if they speak dialect at home. But I also saw the Borsa – Italy’s stock exchange (I was wandering on my own). Milano really is Italy’s financial capital in very much the way NYC is America’s.

If I were rich I’d love to live in the Brera neighborhood.Brera Neighborhood glimpse

It was a great trip – more to follow, interspersed with Rome again.

Back from Milano with a few hundred pictures to sort

We had three fun-filled days in Milano and got back last night around 9 pm. I’m still tired!

Probably the best thing for me was the contemporary art fair – MiArt. But I have been to Milan before, so I was mainly revisiting (though I spent more time in San Lorenzo than before – pictures to follow!).

This could be a poster for Layers of Rome

Layered CapitolineWow am I happy with this photo – Saturday I was all over the Centro enjoying the sun and taking photos. This is a view from the via Fori Imperiali – street of the Imperial Fora. Mussolini called it the via del’Impero, the street of Empire, to celebrate the conquest of Abyssinia. So the name changed, but not much.

We’re looking across the Forum of Julius Caesar – the standing column is from his temple of Venus Genetrix. Then as we look up the Capitoline Hill, to the left we can see the back of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. That’s where the Franciscan friars were singing vespers and set Gibbon off on his quest to prove that IT WAS ALL CHRISTIANITY’S FAULT. Nothing like a failed convert to write history, hunh? You do remember that Gibbon was a brief convert to the Church at Oxford who was shipped off to Lausanne for deprogramming, which left him at least agnostic, if not atheistic, for life.

It was Rome, on the fifteenth of October 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefoot friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind.

If you squint, in the upper left you can see an arch or so of Michelangelo’s Renaissance exterior for the pre-existing Palazzo dei Senatori on the Campidoglio – Medieval and Renaissance Rome’s re-setting for the Capitoline, turning its back on the Roman Forum to face papal Rome. Then over to the right is the Vittoriano – the monument to Victor Emmanuel II, Father of the Fatherland. It’s still fashionable to dislike it, but I take it as it is – an expression of the 1890s – that febrile fin de siècle. Italy’s was triumphalist, whatever was up in Vienna. And to bring us up to the 21st Century, the green glass extrusion on the back of the Vittoriano is an elevator up to a new viewing terrace with a 360 degree vista of Rome. They charge €7, and I’ve never bothered – but maybe this spring!

I’ve seldom taken a photo that sums up so well what I love about Roma.



We’re headed to Milan this weekend and I’m scrambling to reread everything I can about the cathedral – it’s a VERY big building with a VERY complicated building history!

further: and I remembered to pop my battery into the charger this morning! The battery on my new (last fall) Nikon D3100 lasts approximately forever – and I’ve already had one “damn it, my battery’s dead!” incident this semester because of that.

Armes Abendland! Rom ist zu teuer für Bücher

Poor West! - Rome is too expensive for books!

I’d walked by one of my favorite bookstores in Rome once or twice this semester but had failed to google until this morning (I’d jotted a note to remind myself, finally). Herder has closed! It’s not the only recently dead bookstore, but it’s one I’ll miss. They had great Patristics stuff in every language (actually it was the best French bookstore in town for my interests, too).

Herder was on a corder of the Piazza Montecitorio facing the Parliament (one of the reasons I hadn’t been by much – they’re exercising somewhat more security on the Palazzo, which couldn’t have helped Herder!). One might have thought it was just a matter of the rent – but the store is still vacant, and the article from Die Welt is datelined September 2012.

Saint Agnes outside the walls

I took the class today to one of my favorite places in Rome – the Sant’Agnese complex on the via Nomentana. The mosaics are splendid – both these early Byzantine ones and the late antique mosaics in the mausoleum of Santa Costanza.

S Agnese flm apse Honorius Agnes 1The pope is a bit of a problem child – Honorius I (625-638), the possible monothelete. I tend to think with the Church on this one – he may have had erroneous beliefs, but he didn’t teach them ex cathedra.

Click here for more pictures.


Present friends

The Spring 2014 Rome Program has the pleasure of hosting Walter Bowyer, next Fall’s director, this week. He’s spending his spring break scouting for next semester.  He joined us this afternoon for a visit to an interesting (really interesting – I’m still thinking about it) multimedia-meets-archaeology site in the basement of the headquarters of the Province of Rome (really – Domus Romanae). This evening Christine, her family, and I took him out to dinner. Well, the budget took him out to dinner. Thanks, Tom!

“Italy is nothing but a geographical expression.”

Metternich said something along those lines (I wanted to confirm the wording and found several different versions online, but also claims that he wrote several different versions to different correspondents over the years). He’s still right.

Monday started with a lecture on the multiplicity of Italies – the students had read a book chapter by John Dickie called “Imagined Italies.” The news cooperated with us splendidly – the Veneto began voting Sunday on secession from Italy. It’s a non-binding resolution, but they seem to be interested in creating alternative avenues of taxation. Venice was the last big part taken from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (however sentimental the Italians got over Trieste). Now, La Serenissima wants out?

Even better, one of the students had read BBC online and knew about it – so she got to tell the class!