Holy Saturday

Quiet day in Rome (literally!).

I’m about to head out and buy some artichokes to cook for dinner tomorrow (my colleague Christine is making a leg of lamb!). Easter Vigil tonight – I haven’t decided between the extremely convenient Chiesa Nuova or a mild trek to Santa Prassede — we’ll see if it’s raining by the time I need to leave.

Prayers for Cate tonight as she enters the Church!

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.


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.


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.


What have I been doing with my time? Midterms!

Well what’s killing my incentive to post is that I can’t post from Flickr! Grrr. I have to upload pictures individually here before posting.

FB 2 TemplesSo – why was I so busy this week?


Here’s what I do for the midterm in Layers of Rome — I give the students a relatively constricted neighborhood and expect them to be able to talk about any monument (building, fountain, etc) during a half-hour individual interview. I chose the Forum Boarium / Forum Holitorium, roughly from San Nicola in Carcere to Santa Maria in Cosmedin and from the Tiber back to San Giorgio in Velabro. That area includes all those churches, an ambiguous excavated area in front of Sant Omobono, two Fascist Era office buildings for the Commune of Rome, the Temple of Portunus (above), the Round Temple (above), and the so-called Arch of Janus (below, with San Giorgio and the Palatine beyond).

The students have about 10 days to read, visit, and learn about the monuments. Then we meet one on one (that’s why I was so tired – 13 appointments will take it out of you!). They choose the monument with which we start – and we talk about it for about 15 minutes. Usually the student explains what we can still see and I ask some questions to probe understanding. Then we move to a 2nd monument – my choice. So if the student starts with a church, I shift to a Roman monument. After #2, monument #3 is back to a student choice.

I have found this a great way to figure out how well they are doing to work – can they explain what’s obvious? Can they push beyond the obvious? Can they draw useful comparisons to other things we have seen? Can I hear anything that suggests they’re doing the reading and retaining what they read? Very time-consuming, but a lot more relevant to a semester abroad than any written exam can be.

Arch of Janus Giorgio

Spring is springing in Rome – and to celebrate I visited some blooming trees

I had seen a few blossoms in the Centro Storico – but the Centro is so paved over they’re hard to find here.

Blooming tree aqua feliceSo I went to the Parco degli acquedotti, where there were lots of blossoms! Click here to see the other photos from the park, including some of the Acqua Claudia. The arches in the background are the Acqua Felice, a Renaissance aqueduct, which feeds the famous Moses fountain.

I intended to do some drawing, but between going down into the Metro system and coming back up out in the periphery the clouds rolled in. It even sprinkled some – enough to make me cuss, but not enough to make me run away.


Worth the price of admission . . .

I went to an exhibition on Friday that I won’t bother to take the class to see. It wasn’t nearly as interesting as it could have been. Looking at this ivory up close (and taking a photo!)  was worth the price of admission for me, though.Symmachus Diptych, British Museum

An apotheosis – perhaps the apotheosis of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, late 4th/early 5th C. British Museum, London. M&ME 1857,10-13,1. 30.1×11.3 cm. Really something to see. Symmachus was one of the last great pagans – an opponent of Ambrose and Theodosius. The organizers of the show wanted to suggest that it was an emperor – but at the very least it’s a deeply nostalgic pagan senator recalling imperial funerals and apotheoses – or just apotheosizing himself. Hence, Symmachus.

Showery spring day

One of the nicest things about being somewhere for a semester rather than for a vacation is that one doesn’t feel compelled to go out in the rain.

Rome is showery today – and since I don’t have anything to do before Italian lesson at 2:15 (no HWS classes on Fridays, now that the students are out of Intensive Italian), I can stay home and read!

I just hope one of those sunny moments happens about 2 . . . .

Flavian Amphitheater. Colosseum. Whatever.

Christine, my colleague, asked me some day this week if there was anything in Rome I was over (though she put it more gracefully). I had to admit that I don’t go to the Colosseum except with students. You come visit me in Rome, I’ll point out that the Metro stop is called “Colosseo” and that admission to the monument costs €12 – but your ticket will get you into the much more interesting Forum and Palatine.

Flavian Amphiteater Long axisI dunno – it’s structurally very interesting, if you’ve never thought about that kind of thing before; Romans had been building things like this for more than a century, since the Theater of Pompey. The gladiator shows and beast shows tell us a lot about the unpleasant side of the Romans (human sacrifice and animal-torture?). The only thing that really interests me are the legally established seating arrangements – if you walked into the Flavian Amphitheater you would see senators (and Vestal Virgins) down front, the Equites (Knights) behind them, and then regular citizens. Slaves and women to the rear!

I could explain that at any number of sites, but I will say that everyone seems to enjoy at least one visit to the Colosseum. I just kind of wish I didn’t have to go, too! I hope that didn’t come across – unlike the poor fella at Rutgers who explained he was not teaching the “Human Aggression” course voluntarily, because it isn’t really his field. Never admit your weakness! You always know more than they do. God knows I know more about the Flavian Amphitheater than I care to tell my charges. On to the Ara Pacis tomorrow! THAT I care about.