Friday, 25 February 2011

Some curiosities about the Pantheon

The Pantheon was first built in the I century B.C. by Agrippa, (as it is written on the facade) son in law of Augustus. After two fires it was rebuilt by Hadrian in the II century A.D. The Pantheon, a temple dedicated to all the roman gods (Pan = all; Theon = gods) is the best preserved roman monument and this is because it became a church in VII century. Being a church the popes couldn't steal any marble or stone, differently from what happened to the Colosseum or to the Forums. The Pantheon is a sphere inserted inside a cylinder: in fact the height of the monument (from the pavement till the top of the dome) is 43.3 meters as well as the diameter of the base of the dome. Another curiosity: the dome of St.Peter is the biggest one in Rome (and in Italy) and it was designed by Michelangelo. But Michelangelo loved and admired the Pantheon so much that, when he realised the dome of St. Peter he wanted to make the diameter of the base few centimeters smaller than the one in the Pantheon: this was his personal tribute to the greatness of the latter. So, dimension wise, St. Peter has the biggest dome of Rome but the one with the largest diameter at the base is the Pantheon's one.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Fountain of the Four Rivers

The Fountain of the Four Rivers is in the center of Piazza Navona. It was realised according to a project of Bernini in 1651 and it is an imaginative baroque representation of the main rivers of the four continents known at those times: Rio de la Plata (South America), Nile (Africa), Gange (Asia) and the Danube (Europe). Australia will be discovered only many years later and this is why the statues are four and not five. Worth to notice is the statue of the Nile: he covers his face with a veil because at those times its source wasn't known yet. The obelisk on top of the fountain belongs to the roman period and it was found on the Appian Way. The dove at the top of the obelisk is the symbol of the family of the pope (Innocenzo X) who commissioned this fountain but also of the Holy Spirit which is spread through the four continents represented by the below statues. Recently during the last restoration, since the fountain is threatened by the dungs of the pigeons, they have put a mechanism (invisible from outside) which releases small electric shocks to prevent the birds from approaching the fountain.

The fountain of the Four Rivers
The statue of the Nile

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Fountain of the Old Boat

Why there is a fountain with the shape of an old boat in front of the Spanish steps? The fountain was built in 1627, a century before the Spanish steps, by Pietro Bernini (father of the more known Gian Lorenzo) with the help of his son. It was commissioned by the pope Urbano VIII who seems to have been impressed by a boat who was found exactly where today we see the fountain after a big flood of the Tiber. To remember this particular episode, the pope decided to commission this fountain which is now called by the romans Barcaccia, old ugly boat.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Where do all the coins thrown in Trevi's Fountain end up?

According to the tradition, who throws a coin from the back inside Trevi's Fountain, one day will come back to Rome. Thousands of people every day throw a coin hoping one day to see Rome again. But where all these coins end up? Every day early in the morning, few cops surround the fountain and draw all the coins in with some pumps. They gather all the coins in bags and then they hand them over to some employees of the Caritas, one the biggest charity organizations in Rome. The tourists who throw the coins in the fountain hoping one day to come back to Rome, don't know that they are helping the poor and the homeless people of the city. The coins are eventually counted, separated and invested in charity by the Caritas. The coins of foreign currencies are periodically sent with some trucks in Germany and England where there are special organizations which can change them in euro. But how much money Trevi's Fountain can "produce"? A huge amount: roughly 700,000 euros per year, on average a bit less than 2,000 euros per day. This fountain doesn't only delight who looks at it but also helps plenty of needful people.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The church of St. Clemente and the "comics"

San Clemente, very close by the Colosseum, is a church built on three levels: the upper and lower basilica and a roman house (II century A.D.). In the lower basilica it has been represented the legend of Sisinnio. He was the prefect of Rome and he married a woman called Teodora who has been convinced by Clemente, the saint to whom the church is dedicated, to remain virgin. Sisinnio, angry at his wife, decided one day to follow her with his soldiers and he found her in a catacomb attending a mess by Clemente. He then ordered to his soldiers to tie Clemente up and take him away but, according to the legend, he became istantaneously a marble column and because of his weight he couldn't be brought anywhere. The expressions readable from the fresco, which they make looking the story as a "comics", are from 1100 ca and they are the oldest known artistic utilization of the so called "vulgar" (a language between latin and italian). The most famous expression is "fili de la pute traite" meaning: son of a bitch pull him up! One of the first expressions in "vulgar" is an insult!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Protestant Cemetery

The Protestant Cemetery was built to bury all those people for whom the burial in a catholic cemetery was forbidden either because they were worshippers of other religions or not religious at all. Its construction dates back to 1738, the same date of its most ancient tomb. It is situated at the back of the Cestia Pyramid, of which it incorporates the back part. Many illustrious people have been buried here: poets, writers, intellectuals etc. The place is extremely suggestive also because of the antiquity of some of the monumental tombs. Among the famous people buried here: the english poets Shelley and Keats, Goethe's son, Gramsci, famous italian intellectual who died during the fascism period, Carlo Emilio Gadda, italian writer. The shrine of Gramsci reports a curious mistake: it is written in latin Cinera Antonii Gramscii but it should be Cineres Antonii Gramscii.