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San Paolo fuori le Mura - Nave.
On a rainy winter day I took the opportunity to visit this major basilica which I had not seen during my previous stays in Rome. I knew that the basilica of St Paul had been entirely rebuilt after the fire of 1823, and thus expected to see a somewhat banal remake, during the 19th century, of the original church. I was mistaken and much amazed when I discovered this architectural wonder.
I entered by the large transept at the Via Ostensie near the clock tower and already in this part of the Basilica I got lost in admiration looking up at the coffered ceiling with his blazons of the popes.
When I arrived in the middle of the transept I could discover in the darkness the immense nave divided into five aisles by 80 imposing monolithic columns made of granite.
The Basilica of Saint-Paul is imposing by the force of its proportions and the relative simplicity of its decoration. It preserved the plans of a Roman Empire basilica since it was built on order of the emperor Constantine in the 4th century.
I found a drawing showing how the Basilica looked after the fire of 1823. Actually the "Ciborio" above the Tomb of St Paul was preserved from the destruction.
The frontage is preceded by a large atrium surrounded by colonnades. This part dates from the 19th and 20th C.
The cloister, on the right of the transept, is remarkable by the elegance of the small columns of various forms decorated with pieces of marble and gildings.
During my visit in 2012 I saw that since my first visit in 2007 the Basilica has increased its services to visitors: book and souvenirs shops, large toilets, and cafeteria
Open 7 - 18 h. Free entrance.
Address: Via Ostiense 190
Directions: The Basilica is at only 200 m from the metro B station "Basilica S. Paolo".
San Paolo - tombstone
If the basilica is so sumptuous, and this since the 4th c., it is by no doubt because the Apostle Paul, in fact the number two of the Church, is buried here.
It was under Nero, around 64, that the decapitated Apostle Paul - he had this privilege being a Roman citizen - was buried along the Via Ostiense leading to the port of Ostia.
According to the uses in Rome people were buried along the roads leaving the city; the best known example to-day being the tombs along the Via Appia Antica.
Presently the shrine of St Paul is located at the junction of the nave and transept under the "ciborium". The pilgrims go down there by a double staircase. The tomb of the Apostle Paul is hidden behind a grid under a marble flagstone from the 4th c.
A reproduction of this marble flagstone is visible with the details in the small museum which is next to the sacristy.
The stone on which is written “PAULO APOSTOLIMART” is about 2,10 x 1,30 m and placed 4,50 m above the actual sarcophagus of the Saint. The largest hole in the stone is used to descend a censer in the tomb. By the other two smaller holes pilgrims would introduce objects in the tomb which were then kept for worship.
Carbon dating tests (June 2009) on bone fragments found inside the sarcophagus confirmed that they date from the first or second century.
Interesting are also the wooden statues from the 14th c. which decorate the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament on the left of the apse.
The Basilica has increased its services to visitors and pilgrims: book and souvenirs shops, large toilets, and cafeteria.
Navona - renovation of the fountain 2007-08.
Piazza Navona is my preferred square in Rome but at the time of my visit in December 2007 I felt extremely disappointed by the way she looked.
First of all the large central fountain “Fontana dei Fiumi” of Bernin was in restoration. This marvellous fountain was hidden behind panels with some glazed openings. The unhappy tourist could only see some sculptures supported by scaffolding.
Since the summer of 2008 the marvellous central fountain is again visible, a great relief for those who love this piazza like me and were disappointed by what they saw.
My disappointment did not stop there, in December the beautiful perspective of the Piazza Navona is destroyed by fairground stalls mixing a fun fair and a kind of Christmas market without anything of the charm of the Christmas markets of Germany or Alsace.
Don't expect to sit at the nice terraces of the cafes or restaurants; they look at the back of the shacks.
On a sunny Sunday in February 2008 I came back with my wife. The last time she had been on the Piazza Navona was in the early nineties. Although the December fairground was gone she also felt very disappointed. She discovered in the sixties what was once a so romantic piazza. Now all romantic has gone at Piazza Navona and has left room for a commercial market.
Of course this is a personal totally subjective appreciation of persons who have seen this piazza before the great tourist invasion. I'm sure that most first visitors love the present lively Piazza Navona. Elder visitors have found other, still hidden, romantic places in Rome.
Note - May 2008.
From comments received from much younger people than myself (so not influenced by romantic souvenirs of thirty or forty years ago) my disappointment appears to be shared not only because of the works at the main fountain but also because of the somewhat "seedy" aspect of the piazza.
Vittoriano - renovation works.
One of the most photographed monuments of Rome (see the number of pics here on VT) is undergoing restoration works. The central part of the frontage is covered with a sheet.
For how long? Non lo so!
Photographers will be disappointed but the two monumental chariots (Quadriga del Unita) in bronze with the winged Victory on the top of both corners at 81 m high and the colossal equestrian statue of King Victor Emmanuel II are not so bad for a pic.
Capitoline Museum - Entry.
If you have only time to visit one museum in Rome I advise you this one.
You will not be waiting in a long line as with the museum of the Vatican and you will see very famous pieces of the Antique art. Moreover the site of the museum is one of most beautiful of Rome.
In fact there are 3 museums on Piazza Campidoglio. They are called "Musei Capitolini" and belong to the city of Rome. The sole entry is on the right by the “Palazzo dei Consevatori”. Here on two floors and about thirty rooms is the main part of the collections. The most outstanding artefacts are statues of bronze or marble of the ancient Rome. Most known are “the She-wolf”, “the Spinario” and the equestrian statue of Marc-Aurelius.
By an underground gallery the visitors reach, after a right turn, the arcades of the antique “Tabularium”, located under the "Palazzo dei Senatorio" and present town hall, from where one has imposing sights on the Foro Romano and the Palatine hill.
By this same underground the visitors join, on the other side of the Piazza Campidoglio the “Palazzo Nuovo” which comprises a dozen rooms with statues of which most known are the “Faun” and “the dying Gaul”.
The exit of the Capitoline Museums is by this palace.
The collections of statues and archaeological artefacts of the “Musei Capitolini” were made up as from 1471 by the Popes and Roman important families like the Horti and the Castellani. The Pinacotheca, art gallery of the second floor was founded by Pope Benoit XIV in the 18th century. There is also a cabinet of currencies and medals.
Open (2012): 9 - 20 h. Closed: Monday, 25/12, 1/01 and 1/05. (This year closed 24/12 and 31/12)
Price: 12 €, reduced 10 €.
Nice cafeteria with terrace on the 2nd floor.
Address: Piazza del Campidoglio.
Capitoline Museum - Marcus Aurelius
Since 2005 a new large glass hall built, inside the garden of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, contains the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (the one on the Piazza is a copy).
It is likely that this bronze statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161 - 180 AD) was erected a few years before is death. Where is not sure but probably in the Roman Forum although medieval sources mentioned its presence on the Lateran.
These equestrian statues called "equi magni", larger than life-size, were much diffused in the imperial Rome but from the twenty mentioned in documents this is the only one which reached us through the centuries.
The statue was placed on the Capitol's Hill in 1538. Corrosion and fissures in the legs made a removal of the statue in 1981 for long restoration works necessary. In 1990 Marcus Aurelius became again visible in the courtyard of the Capitoline Museum sheltered by a large window. In the present prestigious hall Marcus Aurelius has got for company some of the major Capitoline bronzes, the Hercules in gilded bronze from the Foro Boario and the remains of the bronze colossus of Constantine.
Open (2011): 9 - 20 h. Closed: Monday, 25/12, 1/01 and 1/05.
Price: 12 €, reduced 10 €.
Address: Palazzo dei Conservatori, Room 25.
Capitoline Museum - Spinario.
Best known, of course, is the Lupa Capitolina or She-wolf (Why is there no specific English word for a female wolf like in other languages!?). This famous Etruscan bronze statue (room VII Palazzo dei Conservatori) of the emblem of Roma goes back as far as the 6th c. BC. The twin brothers Romulus and Remus were added during the Renaissance period. There is a lot of controversy about the age of the "Lupa Capitolina". Carbon-14 dating would indicate that the statue is from the 7th - 8th century AD.
A most beautiful statue is that of the Spinario: "Boy removing thorn from foot". Certainly one of the most gracious statues of all times, it is probably an original Greek work of the 1st c. BC. (room VI). In the same room, I very much liked the bust of consul Junius Brutus dating from the 3rd c. BC. (nothing to do with the Brutus who killed J. Caesar). Have you seen the expression of the eyes!
I also admired a bronze statue of a horse of the 5th c. BC which is being restored. What a perfection!
Open: 9 - 20 h. Closed: Monday, 25/12, 1/01 and 1/05.
Price (2012): 12 €, reduced 10 €.
Capitoline museums - "Galata Morente"
If you are an amateur of ancient sculptures you will find here very fine pieces coming mainly from private collections belonging to high-ranking churchmen and noble Roman families.
Among the marble statues I did admire is the very famous "Galata Morente" (Room VIII, Palazzo Nuovo). The English translation of "dying Gaul" is confusing because the Galates were Celtics living in Asia Minor (far away from the "Galli" Gaul's of the present France). The statue is a copy of a bronze statue from the school of Pergamo (3-2nd c. BC) it is one of the most beautiful pieces of the antic art.
In the large room VI of the same Palazzo Nuovo are five masterpieces of black marble among which the "Old Centaur" and the "Young Centaur" of an extraordinary technique are my preferred. They were found at the Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli as well as another highlight of the museum, the red marble statue of a "Faun".
But these are just a few among many good statues. I also liked that elegant statue of Hygeia and the portrait in marble of a lady with an imposing wave hairdressing which was typical for the family of the Severi Emperors.
Closed: Monday, 25/12, 1/01 and 1/05.
Price (2012): 12 €, reduced 10 €.
Capitoline Museum - Orazi and Curiazi fresco.
The museum is much more than a display of antique statues. On the first floor are richly decorated rooms used for the meetings of the Conservators (magistrates). The decoration of these apartments consist of frescoes, carved ceilings, stuccoes, tapestries and has for main theme the history of Ancient Rome, from its foundation to the Republican Age. The earliest frescoes go back to the 16th century.
The most imposing room is that of the Horace's and Curiaces so called because its walls are decorated of a series of historical frescos due to Cavalier of Arpino.
The first, on the left of the entry, is that of the combat of the Horace's and Curiaces.
I recognize that according to my Latin readings of Tite-Live and his “De Viris Illustribus” I saw that fight of the sole Horace, left unscathed after the first combat, against the three Curiaces brothers wounded to various degrees, in a different way. In my imagination there was much more space than what the painter represented on the wall.
This room comprises also two monumental statues, that of the Pope Urbain VIII out of marble by Bernin and that in bronze of Pope Innocent X by Algarde. This is a masterly work.
Palazzo Altemps - Galate committing suicide.
In this Palazzo from Cardinal Altemps, from the late Renaissance, is on display an important collection of antique sculptures belonging to the "Museo Nationale Romano".
The Museo Nationale Romano Altemps is located about 100 m north of the Piazza Navona.
The most famous part of the collection was given by the family Boncompagni Ludovisi.
The sculptures belong to the Hellenistic, Roman republican and imperial periods as well as from the baroque periods.
The amateurs of antique sculptures will be interested by the explanations (Italian and English) about the restoration work on these sculptures which most often reached us in pieces and were also often Roman copies of Greek sculptures.
This museum shows also Egyptian statues as the cult of Isis was practised in Roma.
The most striking statue is that of the Galate committing suicide with his sword after having killed his wife to avoid her falling in hands of the enemy.
There is also a beautiful statue of the Aphrodite (Venus) of the temple on the Greek island Cnidos. The original, work of Praxiteles, of this nude figure seeking to cover herself was very popular in the Greek and Roman world. Many copies exist of the original.
A very famous Roman sarcophagus with Battle Scene modelled from a single block of marble is shown in this museum. All details of Roman weapons and uniforms are very well preserved.
When visiting the Piazza Navona it is worthwhile to visit (1 hour) this museum. As the ticket is combined with the Museum of Palazzo Massimo (near Termini station) it is good choice if you are an amateur of Greek and Roman art.
Open 9 - 19.45 h. Closed Monday, 1/01 and 25/12. Tickets office closes 1 hour before.
Price. Combined ticket for Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, Terme di Diocleziano, valid during 3 days: 7 €, reduced 3,50 €, free for EU citizens less than 18 or more than 65 years old.
Address: Piazza Sant’Apollinare 46
Directions: 100 m north of Piazza Navona.
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