Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Italian countryside

 Day 3 we are off to Rome via train from Venice.  We were able to order online our tickets at a steal at 19 euros each.  Not bad, seats were comfortable.  Actually better than the airplane. 

We arrived in Rome 4 hours later and then went out siteseeing. 

Santa Maria Maggiore stands on the site of a temple to the goddess Cybele. According to a 13th-century legend, the first church was built here by Pope Liberius (352-66), on the site of an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The legend has it that the Virgin appeared to Pope Liberius and the patrician Giovanni Patrizio on August 4, 352 (or 358), instructing them to build a church on the Esquiline Hill. That night, the floor plan was outlined by a miraculous snowfall.

Archaeological evidence, on the other hand, indicates that the church was probably first built in the early 400s and completed under Pope Sixtus III (432-440). This was a time when churches dedicated to Mary were beginning to spring up all over the empire, prompted by an increasingly popular devotion to the Virgin and the official acceptance of her title "Theotokos" (Mother of God) at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

The church has had many names over the years: first Santa Maria della Neve (St. Mary of the Snow) after the snowfall, then Santa Maria Liberiana after Pope Liberius. After the basilica obtained a relic of the Holy Crib, it was called Santa Maria Del Presepe (St. Mary of the Crib). It was finally named Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major) because it is the largest of the 26 churches in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Santa Maria Maggiore was fully restored and renovated in the 18th century - the facade and most of the interior decorations date from this period. Today, the basilica is served by Redemptorist and Dominican fathers and remains very popular with pilgrims and tourists alike.

Piazza Vittorio , the largest square in Rome ( 316 x 174 meters ) , is the heart of the Esquilino quarter , built when the city became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy (1870). At that time there were only 226,000 inhabitants, and to adapt to his new role as the city launched a development project is massive (First Plan of 1873) , which provides for the construction of large important buildings, neighborhoods of housing for the bureaucrats of the new administration , wide roads.

Within three decades the city was turned upside down . Via ( Vittorio) Veneto , Corso Vittorio Emanuele II , Via Nazionale, Via Cavour, Viale TrastevereAnd then Piazza Venezia, Piazza della RepubblicaPiazza Cavour : As a growing Umbertine ( Umberto I, King between 1878 and 1900) disappears, papal Rome , inside the ancient Aurelian walls which still retained its plant Renaissance and Baroque.

The worst destruction is the loss of "crown villas and gardens"Surrounding the city, and also work as required embankments of the TiberConstructed to block the frequent flooding of the river, is accompanied by real urban crime . It's the price , very high , that Rome pays to become "modern "(as Paris a few years ago with the restructuring of Baron Haussmann ).

The work is supervised by a Communal Archaeological Commission, Who has absolute authority on the conservation and maintenance of the antiquities found : demolitions, in fact, bring to light an enormous amount of archaeological material .

In the north of the garden Piazza Vittorio there are the ruins of a great monument to Roman times, called the Middle Ages " Trophies of Marius " .

This name, in fact, appears for the first time in a guide for pilgrims of 1140, the Mirabilia Urbis Romae, and is derived from two large marble sculptures that decorated the monument until 1590 ( as shown in the engraving of Etienne Dupérac) , when Pope Sixtus V had them removed and placed on the balustrade of the Capitol, where they still are .

In reality it is a monumental fountain , built in 226 by Emperor Alexander Severus in the Roman sources and known as Nymphaeum Divi

Alexandria: is the only survivor of the 15 nymphs monuments that speak ancient sources . To be precise , it is the " water shows Claudia ", built at the end of the Claudian (some of it arches are Via Turati) : a great dramatic device that adorned a functional public work . The same principle we find in some modern fountains , as Fontana di Trevi, Shows the Virgin of water , and Fountain of the Acqua Paola on the Gianicolo.

Today there  is only the skeleton of the brick fountain, which had to be huge ( 25 meters wide , at least 20 meters high ) and very rich , covered with slabs of marble and decorated with numerous statues . What did he look ? The nymph is represented on a gold ( gold coin ) of Alexander Severus , and in the past many have tried to reconstruct the appearance, beginning with Pirro Ligorio around 1550 , when the trophies were still in place . A beautiful reconstruction dates back to 1821, and is the work of Antoine- Martin GarnaudA scholar Villa Medici.

The facade had to be magnificent. The upper part was characterized by a large central niche ( 6.50 meters wide ), with perhaps the statues of Alexander Severus and his mother Giulia Mamea on the sides of it two open arches , decorated until 1590 by the statues of the trophies that have given the name of the monument. The whole was concluded by a penthouse at the top , decorated with a chariot and other statues , and down from a roof catchment , dominated by a statue in the middle of the Ocean lying .

From this basin the water was coming down, no one knows how, at the bottom of the front , where there were a series of rectangular and semicircular niches (perhaps decorated with statues ) from which flow more water . All the water was collected in a large semi-circular pool , street level , where it can draw on.

For several centuries the magnificent ruins of the " Trophies of Marius " have faced the entry of Villa Palombara - a huge Baroque residence disappeared in the late nineteenth century for the construction of Piazza Vittorio - as you can see a beautiful engraving of Giovan Battista Piranesi, 1772, full of charm as the views of all 'Venetian artist.

The villa is the "Magic Door ", located on the back of the Roman monument and the subject of many fanciful legends .