Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rome Guide 4: Art and Architecture: Rome by Brigitte Hintzen-Bohlen

Like the Archoeological Guide, Art and Architecture: Rome starts with the history of Rome too, but continues past the end of the Roman empire to the modern day.

After 476AD, when the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed, the ancient buildings became more and more dilapidated. The Visigoths were now in charge, but their capital was Ravenna, which was fairly close to Venice. The inhabitants of Rome left, until by the 6th century it had only 50,000 people.

Pope Gregory I (pontificate 590-604) was a great leader. At the end of the plague he went on a mission to northern Europe and people flocked into the city as a result. Later popes allied with Frankish kings which allowed the popes to rule over Rome, while the kings were appointed 'emperor' by the grace of God in St Peters. The first such alliance was in 754. This was the start of Holy Roman Empire with a spiritual base in Rome, but power centre further north.

In the 8th and 9th centuries Rome enjoyed a moment of prosperity, but afte this it suffered, because unlike Florence, Venice and other northern cities, was outside the trading centre, and the population decreased further to 25,000.

In the 12th century the population rebelled against the pope and there was a brief democratic government. In 1303 the Roman pope Boniface VIII was deposed (as described in the Cathar Book) , and the next pope, Clement V, was French and moved to Avignon. Rome sank to its lowest depth. Several popes claimed the holy chair at St Peter (Great Western Schism) until in 1417 Martin V elected. This ushered in the Renaissance.

In the 15th century, the popes secured increased power which enabled the city to be reconstructed. Popes preferred to give key positions to their own relatives ('nepotism' come from this - word for nephew). It soon became the centre of the High Renaissance and Raphael and Michelangelo entrusted with the decoration.

In 1527 Rome was sacked by Charles V, but although damaged, it recovered quickly.

The Counter Reformation came after the Council of Trent 1545-1563. One of the more famous sacrifices demanded by the Jesuits of the counter reformation (against the reformation movement) was Bruni due to heretical philosophising about the earth going round the sun in 1600.

The church grew in strength until the end of the 17th century. New churches and palaces enhanced the appearance of the city. Under Sixtus V (1585- 1590) there was huge urban planning. The Renaissance was succeeded by the flowing lines of the Baroque e.g. internal designs in St Peter's.

In 1600 there was new inspiration: for example in the works of Caravaggio. The Baroque enticed many people to Rome and papal power began to decline. In 1798 Napoleon surrounded the city and declared it a republic. The Pope was removed but restored in 1814.

In contrast, the French provided help when Rome wanted to resist the revolutionary troops of Mazzini and Garibaldi. Rome was declared capital, but when Franco-Prussian war forced France to withdraw, the pope was obliged to renounce his claims to secular powers. The people of Rome voted to become part of a unified Italy in 1870. It became the capital of Italy in 1871, but by this time the pope had withdrawn behind the Vatican walls in protest.

Mussolini (Il Duce) recognised the sovereignty of the papal state in 1929. He then cut through the city and built a magnificent stadium and dreamed of restoring the old empire. He was executed by partisans in 1945 after defeat in the second world war.

In 1946 monarchy abolished. Rome has been the capital ever since. However, it cannot hold its own in comparison with northern cities. The main problem is its chaotic traffic and high levels of pollution. However, there have been improvements in terms of archeology, and there are large new excavations.

After this short history, Art and Archeology: Rome then goes through landmarks with pictures and explanations. There is just the right amount of detail. At the back there is a great glossary and biographical section, and a pull-out time-line. These are great for quick reference. It is an interesting and very useful book - and although fairly heavy (because of the pictures) is just about small enough to be carried on a sight-seeing trip.


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