Thursday, October 31, 2013


21/23 AD for Tiberius (14/37) on the advice of the praetorian prefect Sejanus
Barracks for the Praetorian Guard set up by the emperor Augustus, but until then stationed in various parts of Rome
Inside there were the PRAETORIUM (Headquarters), the AERARIUM (treasury), the ARMAMENTARIUM (armory), the VALETUDINARIUM (hospital) and the HORREA (warehouses)
Enclosure 440 x 380 m (1443 x 1246 feet) surrounded by walls 4.73 m (15 feet) high in bricks with four doors. They were included by Aurelian (270/275) in the new city walls and elevated of 3 m (9 feet)
First major work in opus testaceum or latericium
Honorius (395/423) doubled the height of the Aurelian Walls and lowered the level surrounding the Castra Pretoria revealing the foundations for a maximum depth of 3.5 meters (11.5 feet)
Rodolfo Lanciani discovered inside the remains of the Castra and foundations of the ARC OF GORDIAN quoted by medieval scholars, whose materials were reused for the Palace of the Chancellery
Most of the area is now occupied by the second largest Italian library, the BIBLIOTECA NAZIONALE VITTORIO EMANUELE II
The army of ROMAN LEGIONNAIRES was made up in the Severan period of 30 legions of 5,000 men each, plus 5,000 auxiliaries for a total of about 300,000 men
In the late empire the army units came to be between 400,000 and 500,000 for a population of the empire of about 50 million inhabitants
The army of the late empire was made up of Limitanei or border fortifications troops and Comitatenses or the actual army divided into three groups: the Rhine, the Danube and the East the border of the Roman Empire in its greatest expansion ran for more than 10,000 kilometers - 6,213 miles - nearly a quarter of the circumference of the earth
They had to learn to march for 36 km (22 miles) in five hours with a weight of at least 25 kilos (55 pounds)
They had to take an oath on the symbol of the legion which was the EAGLE OF SOLID GOLD saying to never let go even in danger of death. During the difficult task of the landing in Britain by Julius Caesar an Aquilifer, bearer of the eagle, started off alone and that triggered the reaction of the legions who followed him as one man, carrying through a successful landing
The legionnaires were SKILLED BUILDERS:
Julius Caesar's men built a bridge of boats on the river Rhine in just ten days and their feat scared to death the barbarians on the other side of the river
In the 328, well 380 years after Caesar, Constantine (306/337) had built the largest river in ancient times on the Danube: 2.5 km (1.5 miles) ong, 6 m (20 feet) wide, it was destroyed in 355. It was not until 1,626 years later, in 1954, that another bridge spanned over the Danube again, the Ruse-Giurgiu built at the behest of Stalin
In his book De Bello Gallico Caesar says that 300 legionnaires resisted for hours to 6,000 enemies with no loss and only a few wounded. The historian Ammianus Marcellinus says that during the battle of Strasbourg in 357 (400 years after Caesar's Gallic War!) between 13,000 Romans at the orders of Giuliano and 35,000 Alamanni barbarians controlled by Chnodomar, the Romans won with only 247 deaths (including four officers) while among the barbarians about 6,000 died on the field, many more drowned in the Rhine
They could be RUTHLESS:
Caesar himself says that after the siege of Avaricum in Gaul there was an almost total massacre: of a population of about 40,000 men, women and children, only 800 survived

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Also known as VILLA PONTIFICIA DELLA MAGLIANA, the papal Magliana's villa, because in the past it was used as a country residence by the popes
The castle is mentioned in the eleventh century as a possession of the Monastery of St. Cecilia in Trastevere, with an adjoining chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist, also medieval
Restored and adapted about 1480 for Sixtus IV Della Rovere (1471/84)
Rebuilt 1490 by Graziadeo Pichi da Brescia for Innocent VIII Cibo (1484/92) who also added a new building that bears his name
Julius II della Rovere (1503/13) ordered Giuliano Giamberti aka Giuliano da Sangallo (1445/1516) to design a NEW SMALL PALACE with a porch and large windows, added a NEW WING maybe by Donato Bramante (1444/1514) and restored the old CHAPEL OF St. JOHN THE BAPTIST where also Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael) (1483/1520) worked: he had designed the fresco in the apse "Eternal Father" executed by his pupils and now at the Louvre
Leo X Medici (1513/21) transformed the villa into a place of literary meetings, concerts and theatrical performances
Eventually the castle fell into disuse and was gradually abandoned
It was given back to the Monastery of St. Cecilia in Trastevere and it was rented
In 1957 the entire complex was bought and restored by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Today it houses offices and the direction of the nearby HOSPITAL OF St. JOHN THE BAPTIST 1960/61 designed by the architects Julio Lafuente (1921) and Gaetano Rebecchini, also owned by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Begun maybe in 130 and completed in 139 as HADRIAN'S MAUSOLEUM maybe by Demetrius for Hadrian (117/138)
Burial place for members of the imperial family until Caracalla (211/217) with some exceptions
Square base in opus latericium (concrete covered with bricks) with sides 86.3 m (283 feet) long. Cylinder above with a diameter of 64 meters (210 feet) in opus caementicium covered with tufa stone and travertine marble slabs
Aurelian (270/275) had it included in the Aurelian Walls
It took its present name from an event that took place in 590 during a plague: during a procession Gregory I the Great (590/604) had a vision of the Archangel Gabriel on top of the castle who was placing the sword in its sheath. This was immediately interpreted as a sign of the approaching end of the plague that effectively ended shortly thereafter
In the ninth century it was inserted by Pope St. Leo IV (847/855) in the circuit of the Leonine Wall around the Civitas Leonina that surrounded the Vatican and Borgo
He wanted to prevent new invasions by the Muslims Saracens like the one that had just occurred in 846
The first document that describes the castle as Castellum Sancti Angeli dates back indeed to the time of Leo IV
It was disputed by the Roman nobility and it was used in 928 by Marozia to imprison Pope John X (914/928) who was killed the following year
Marozia was a beautiful and unscrupulous woman who ruled for about twenty years over Rome and the papacy in the age of moral decay known as Roman Pornocracy (about 904/964) during which the fate of Rome was decided by beautiful courtesans
It became permanently prison and fortress after the return of the popes from Avignon, especially with Boniface IX Tomacelli (1389/1404) and the architect Niccolò Lamberti (1370/1451)
It kept the most secret archives and the treasure of the Church
Nicholas V (1447/55) built three BASTIONS, later enlarged by Alexander VI Borgia (1492/1503), who added a fourth one (St. Matthew, in front to the left)
Pius IV Medici (1559/65) raised the ramparts and built the pentagonal fortification
The ENTRANCE GATE of 1556 by Giovanni Sallustio Peruzzi (?/1573) has been moved among the bastions of St. Luke and St. John (to the right)
The PARK was arranged in 1935 by Attilio Spaccarelli (1890/1975)
The DROMOS or corridor with a marble vault leads to the ATRIUM where there was a statue of Hadrian the head of which is visible in the Museum of the Castle. Now there are models of the mausoleum
From the Atrium the SPIRAL RAMP begins: it is 125 meters (410 feet) long with a difference of 12 meters (40 feet) in level from beginning to end
The DIAMETER RAMP follows, built in late fourteenth or late fifteenth century to allow access only by a drawbridge
After having crossed the 1822 BRIDGE by Giuseppe Valadier (1762/1839), one passes through the HALL OF URNS
After a RAMP on the left maybe by Raffaello da Montelupo (about 1505/57) there is the MAIN COURTYARD, also known as Angel's Courtyard for the 1544 statue of the angel by Raffaello da Montelupo that remained on the castle until 1752 replaced by the present bronze one by Pieter Anton van Verschaffelt (1710/93), the sixth one
In 1798 the French painted the angel with blue, white and red, they put a red cap and called it the Genius of France liberator of Rome
AEDICULA OF THE CHAPEL designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475/1564) under Leo X Medici (1513/21)
To the right of the courtyard rooms of the OLD ARMORY
To the left ROOMS OF CLEMENT VIII Aldobrandini (1592/1605) and so-called APOLLO'S ROOM with frescoes painted in 1547 by Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga (1501/47) and artists of his workshop who completed the work after the death of the master
From Apollo's room one goes into the JUSTICE ROOM with a fresco of the "Angel of Justice" maybe by Perin del Vaga and into the CHAPEL OF LEO X Medici (1513/1521) with high-relief "Madonna and Child" end of sixteenth century maybe by Raffaello da Montelupo
Also from Apollo's room one goes into the TWO ROOMS OF CLEMENT VII Medici (1523/34) with paintings including:
"St. Jerome in the Wilderness" about 1509 by Lorenzo Lotto (about 1480/1556)
Panels "Redeemer and St. Onuphrius" by Carlo Crivelli
"Cupid" by Girolamo di Benvenuto
"Madonna and Child with saints" by Luca Signorelli (1445/1523)
COURTYARD OF THE WELL from which there is access to the BATHROOM with stucco and frescoes maybe by Giovanni da Udine and to the COURTYARD OF LEO X
A door in the courtyard of the well leads down to the HISTORICAL PRISONS
From another door there is access to OIL ROOM with eighty-four jars containing about 22,000 liters (almost 6,000 gallons) and the silos for grain (about 3,500 quintals - 386 tons) some used as prisons. Here the reserves in case of siege were kept
From the courtyard of the well stairs lead up to the LOGGIA OF PAUL III Farnese (1534/49) overlooking the garden maybe by Antonio Cordini aka Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1483/1546) with "Stuccos and grotesques" by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta (1521/80)
ROUND CORRIDOR OF PIUS IV Medici (1559/65), lined up with small rooms used as homes for the families of the pope and later as prison's cells
LOGGIA OF JULIUS II della Rovere (1503/13) 1504 Giuliano Giamberti aka Giuliano da Sangallo (1445/1516) overlooking the bridge
Continuing the corridor there are four rooms with antique weapons and the ARCHAEOLOGICAL GALLERY with:
"Fragments of molded cornices and friezes in high relief with heads of bulls and sacrificial tools"
"Square Corinthian capital for a pilaster"
Returning to the loggia of Julius II one passes through the small vestibule with niches by Antonio Cordini aka Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1483/1546) into the APARTMENT OF PAUL III
Frescos: faux columns resting on a base decorated in turn with panels "Sea creatures' fights" in between hermaphrodites "Caryatid"
Illusionistic niches between the columns with "Cardinal Virtues" and great paintings in monochrome imitating reliefs in bronze with "Stories of Alexander the Great"
Above the six doors "Allegorical figures" hold round panels with "Stories of St. Paul" 1545/47 by Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga (1501/47) and pupils
"Adrian" by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta (1521/80)
"Angel" by Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527/96)
"Perin del Vaga gives us a monumental summary of the contrasting legacy of Raphael and Michelangelo. The apparatus ornamental and illusive, with an extraordinary richness of composition, was the culmination of the entire decorative complex, intended to have a profound effect on the next great Tuscan-Roman decoration for his crucial role as a hinge between the first and second phase of the Manneristic period" (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)
Square panels in the vault: "Six stories of Alexander the Great" starting from the box above the angel toward left:
"Alexander meets with the supreme pontiff at the gates of Jerusalem"
"Alexander praying in the temple of Jerusalem"
"Alexander set fire to the booty to lighten the wagons"
"Pore attacked by Macedonian soldiers"
"Alexander has ships built to cross the River Hydaspes"
"Alexander enters triumphantly into Babylon" by Marco Pino aka Marco da Siena (about 1525/87)
Stuccos maybe by Guglielmo Della Porta (1515/77)
Coat of arms on the floor of Innocent XIII Conti (1721/24) who restored the hall in 1722
"Frieze with stories of Perseus and Andromeda" by Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga, (1501/47) who also designed the ceiling with "Archangel Gabriel"
"The quantity of jobs that would have been assigned to Perino in that period must have been enormous. (...) His position in Rome was dominant. It must also be added that his influence went far beyond painting and extended to the other arts: around Perin del Vaga gravitated sculptors, stucco experts, tapestries' weavers and many other artisans who were given by the artist projects for decorations and figures. Therefore one can say that his role for the development of the taste for art was far greater than any other artist. The multifaceted talent of Perin del Vaga had no equal" (Hermann Voss)
On the walls:
"Christ Carrying the Cross" by Paris Bordon (1500/71)
"Woman with the Unicorn" (perhaps a portrait of Giulia Bella, sister of Paul III) by Luca Longhi (1507/80)
Sculpture carved in wood and painted "St. Michael the Archangel" 1736 by Pietro Bracci (1700/73)
Flemish tapestries from the seventeenth century
"Frieze with stories of Cupid and Psyche" by Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga (1501/47)
On the walls:
"Christ Carrying the Cross" workshop of Sebastiano Luciani aka Sebastiano del Piombo (1485/1547) and "Portrait of Alexander VI Borgia (1492/1503)"
Connecting the Pauline Hall to the Library
Remarkable example of "Grotesque" by Perin del Vaga and his school
"The prevalence of gestures and the use on a large scale reduces the proud and strong Grottescanti technique to border on the repetitive nature of craft practice. These are areas, in sixteenth-century decoration, where the teamwork, the sharing and fragmentation of tasks and means of mechanical reproduction are the order of the day. The fact remains that the technique of a sixteenth-century grotesque rarely lacks in verve and fluency, or fails the task of stimulating the eye with the immediate effect of its optical effects. Albeit often these qualities, rather than in the hand and brain of the artist, are already incorporated in the technical tricks that he uses" (Antonio Pinelli)
Fresco on the vault "Stories of the Emperor Hadrian" and stucco frieze "Sacrificial scenes" 1544 by Luzio Luzi (about 1509/77) pupil of Perin del Vaga
Marble fireplace by Raffaello da Montelupo (about 1505/57)
Frieze with "Reconstruction of Roman monuments" 1544/45 Luzio Luzi maybe executed by Prospero Fontana
On the walls:
"Ecce Homo" Giovanni Baglione (1566/1643)
"Education of Bacchus" school of Peter Paul Rubens (1577/1640)
"Bacchanal" Giovanni Luteri aka Dosso Dossi (about 1486/1542)
"Feast of the Gods" maybe by Nicolas Poussin (1594/1665)
Frieze with "Garlands" 1544/45 by Luzio Luzi maybe executed by Prospero Fontana
Large canvas "The Cardinal Gozzadini receives James III Stuart in Imola" 1717 by Antonio Gionima
Climbing a ladder it is possible to climb to the CAGLIOSTRO ROOM with 1544 frescos by Luzio Luzi. It was here that Giuseppe Balsamo aka Cagliostro was kept prisoner
From the library there is access to the TREASURY with wardrobes and chests, perhaps true burial chamber of Hadrian
From the vestibule it is possible to climb to the ROUND ROOM with eighteenth-century armor of the angel
Decorated in 1926 by Duilio Cambellotti (1876/1960) to house memorabilia of the Italian army and the flags of the dissolved regiments
Sculptures in the two rooms:
"Holy Franciscan" by Jacopo della Quercia (about 1374/1438)
"Ciborium" in marble from the church of St. Lawrence in Lucina by Carlo Rainaldi (1611/91)
"Bust of Salvator Mundi" maybe by Isaia da Pisa
The round room leads up to the TERRACE where it is possible to enjoy one breathtaking view of Rome

Monday, October 28, 2013


Beginning of the seventeenth century. The architect is unknown: maybe it was Francesco Borromini (1599/1667) who was then in the service of the Giustiniani, or, more likely, Carlo Lambardi (1545/1619)
In 1802 Prince Giustiniani was forced to sell to the Marquis Carlo Massimo who rebuilt the house
Originally it spread over an area six times larger than at present
Since 1947 is the headquarter of the Delegation of the Franciscans in the Holy Land
The wings around the garden were only built in 1951
In the GARDEN funerary altars and great ancient statue known as "Justinian" with modern head
Fresco on the ceiling "Allegorical figurations" early 1800 by Domenico Del Frate (1765/1821), who also made the ceiling of the Gallery of Tapestries in the Vatican Museums with the chiaroscuro technique that gives the illusion of ancient bas-reliefs
Eight ancient statues from the Giustiniani collection including:
"Young Dionysus", "Apollo with his lyre", "General Pompey", "Marcus Porcius Cato aka the Censor" and "Bona Fortuna"
Famous frescoes of the NAZARENES painted in the years 1818/29
They diverged from the classic-academic model, and strove for a new art, especially based on patriotism and religion, a language that gave archaic characteristics, using a strong pronunciation of the tract and a raw coloring made of uniform, solid strokes
They took the name Nazarenes for their long and elegant hair and their monastic attitudes
In these three rooms they performed their last collective work as well as their Roman masterpiece:
"Scenes from the Orlando Furioso" most notably that of "Angelica and Medoro" 1822/27 by the German Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794/1872)
TASSO'S ROOM (on the right)
"Scenes from the Gerusalemme Liberata" ceiling and "Preparing for the assault on Jerusalem" on one wall 1819/27 by Johann Friedrich Overbeck (1789/1896)
Other three walls "Rinaldo in the enchanted garden", "Rinaldo and Armida", the lovely "Death of Odoardo and Gildippe" and the great "Conquest of the Holy Sepulchre" 1827/29 by the Polish Joseph von Fürich (1800/86)
Fürich replaced Overbeck who, after the death of the Marquis Carlo Massimo, considered himself free of the contract and went to paint religious subjects in the Portiuncula in Assisi
DANTE'S ROOM (on the left)
Initially entrusted to Peter Cornelius, who, however, made only a draft and went into the service of Prince Ludwig Bavaria
"Scenes of Hell and Purgatory" 1825/28 by the Austrian Joseph Anton Koch (1768/1839) who made the most of Dante's dramatic effects even in a room of such a small size. Some nude figures painted were censored at the behest of Princess Massimo
Ceiling "Allegory of Paradise": "Empyrean" in the center and four sections with the eight heavens visited by Dante 1818/24 by Philipp Veit (1793/1877)
"The Nazarenes were so called because of the great religious sensitivity and the fashion of long blond hair. They argued that art should represent religious themes, which would indeed be a means of religious propaganda, and they referred to the painters of the Italian Quattrocento up to Raphael, devaluing the neoclassical canons of beauty keeping away both from abstraction and formalism of ideal beauty and from imitation of vulgar nature. Their proposal was also existential: their association involved a model of community life, performing collective work and referring to the condition of the ancient craftsmen. Their example will be followed also by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, born in 1848 in England" (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)


Built in 1538 for Prospero Boccapaduli
It was originally built in a vineyard popularly known as VIGNOLA
It was formerly located on the opposite side of the square
It was reconstructed here in 1911 by Pietro Guidi with modifications to enhance the archaeological walk ordered by the Minister of Education Guido Baccelli
It is the home of the Roman Institute for Italian history from Fascism to Resistance

Sunday, October 27, 2013


House of the sixteenth century on the site of the HORTI SALLUSTIANI belonging first to Cardinal Del Nero and later to Cardinal Del Monte, who was the protector of Caravaggio hosted by him in the current Palazzo Madama
Renewed 1621/23 for the Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi
Expanded in the nineteenth century
It is all that remains of the buildings of the VILLA LUDOVISI with the Palazzo Grande now incorporated in the U.S. Embassy
Vault with "Janus quadrifronte"
HALL OF THE AURORA (Sala dell'Aurora)
Lovely temper "Chariot of Aurora" and, in a lunette a wonderful allegory of "Night" 1621 by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri aka Guercino (1591/1666) with decorations imitating architecture by Agostino Tassi (1578/1644)
It was inspired by the book "Iconology" by Cesare Ripa already published in 1593 and reissued in 1618 and it was the answer to the "Aurora" which had been painted by Guido Reni seven years before for the Borghese family in the current Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi
"Guercino creates a visual effect in the infinite space: he goes beyond the Carracci solutions of images within frameworks and conceives a vast, limitless and celestial light in which the chariot of Dawn suddenly appears. The full effects of light and shadow as well as the mobility of the air give emotional quality to the representation. Moreover the extreme freedom of execution gives sketchy effects to the whole composition, especially to the beautiful pastoral landscapes that break up the rigors of architecture. Compared to the balanced and composed interpretation of Guido Reni, Guercino's one announces the suggestions of aerial illusionism. Guercino's naturalist sensibility inspired by Carracci is particularly evident in the personification of Night, where she manages to infuse a feeling of sweet melancholy evoked by the moonlight of the night sky" (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)
"Four Landscapes" Giovanni Francesco Barbieri aka Guercino, G.B. Viola, Paul Brill (1554/1626) and Domenico Zampieri aka Domenichino (1581/1641)
Ceiling maybe by Antonio Circignani aka Pomarancio (about 1568/1629), son of Niccolò Circignani
The landscapes were executed before the Aurora and it was perhaps the test case for the choice of the painter of the Aurora
Ceiling with "Procession of Cupids" maybe by Antonio Circignani aka Pomarancio
In the vault "Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto with zodiac signs" 1597 only known work painted with oil on plaster by Michelangelo Merisi aka Caravaggio (1571/1610)
Audacious and breathtaking close-up perspective view, rich in mysterious symbolism where the three faces are probably Caravaggio's self-portraits. It was cleared from the layer of soot and virtually rediscovered only in 1990 after the revealing restoration by Maria Grazia Bernardini
"Caravaggio shows a deep grasp of illusionary achievements in northern Italy, with particular reference to Giulio Romano and his frescoes in the Palazzo Te in Mantua. The theme and the interest in the chemistry of Cardinal Del Monte gave rise to many controversial allegorical interpretations" (Caravaggio Monograph - Mondadori)
"Really it must have seemed incomprehensible the natural rendition of the bodies of naked men and animals resulting not from the timeless world of classical mythology, but from observation of concrete models chosen in the Roman streets: Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto have abandoned for a moment their clothes of Roman butchers, innkeepers and porters to climb a ledge and offer Caravaggio a new perspective from which he could look at the world of the ancient gods without any awe" (Vincenzo Farinella)
Ceiling "Fame with Honor and Virtue" by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri aka Guercino with painted architectonical decorations by Agostino Tassi


1816/37 Giuseppe Valadier (1762/1839)

He reworked in Neoclassical style the former seventeenth century Casino della Rota (Mansion of the Wheel), which used to belong to the Augustinian Friars of S. Maria del Popolo and it had been built in turn on the ancient CISTERNS OF THE ACILII GARDENS of which are clearly visible in the basement 61 sqm (657 square feet) of Roman ancient walls built with the opus reticulatum technique

"The extant documentation (...) confirms the choice of the Roman architect to regularize the remaining part of the building, providing it with open-air elements such as the two side porticos on the north and south, and a semicircular porch on the rear façade facing east. The final result is that of an updated architecture in the style of a French ‘Maison’ of the late eighteenth century - early nineteenth century, therefore Neoclassical" (Alessandro Cremona – Verdi Delizie: Le ville, i giardini, i parchi storici del Comune di Roma)

Painted decorations in Pompeian style by Tommaso Parravani

Renovated for use as café-restaurant by Gioacchino Ersoch (1815/1902), who also oversaw the rearrangement of the PINCIO GARDEN

1922 restoration of the decorations and new paintings by Raffaele Ojetti (1845/1924)

After the liberation of Rome on June 4, 1943 it became a center of command of the Allied Forces
New restoration in 1964 with decorations by Mario de Paolis

It is one of the historical restaurants of Rome and it reopened in 2004 as a restaurant after a long period of decline

The large EMPIRE ROOM on the first floor was repainted and decorated by Federico Forquet in imitation of the Neoclassical style