The Eternal City of Rome
Part 3 of 3 Celebrating Saints, Reformers & Heroes
When I think about the history of Rome, I’m humbled by the legendary characters of history who were the martyrs, saints, reformers, free thinking philosophers, revolutionaries & soldiers. The ancient & antique monuments pay homage to the stories of their lives.
My top three emotionally poignant sites are as follow:
Unsplashed photo by Christopher Czeermak
The Vatican is an enclave of Rome, an autonomous state within the city. It’s the auspicious home of St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum & the Pope’s residence. The Basilica has become the greatest church of all Christendom. It began as a very humble memorial for the martyred Apostle St Peter in 67AD during the time of Christian persecution when emperor Nero ruled.
The Apostle Peter was crucified in the most gruesome way hung upside down on a cross in the circus of Nero, where St Peter’s square is today. A tiny memorial was made by the early Christians to remember the area Peter the Apostle was killed. The original old St Peter’s Basilica was about a third of the size of the current Basilica, it was a five aisles church that was ordered to be built by the Roman emperor Constantine circa 330 & took around 30 years to build. It was Pope Julius II in 1506 who initiated the building’s reconstitution & completed under Pope V in 1615.
Unsplashed photo by Alan Liu
The outside façade featuring 13 giant Corinthian columns topped with 13 statues depicting Saints & Martyrs. My favourite part of the outside of the Basilica is the square meticulously designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it’s grand & impressive, welcoming people to the ultimate church experience. There are 284 columns & 88 minarets that surround the square in a colonnade of rows in perfect symmetry. Above the columns are 140 statues of the saints created in 1670 by the devotees of Bernini. The basilica is designed as a Latin cross with the dome above the high altar covering the Apostle St Peter’s shrine.
The inside of the Basilica has many priceless treasures including Bernini’s Baldacchino, the four posted bronze structure above the altar. My favourite is Michelangelo’s Pietà, the masterpiece is the tragic tender scene of the Virgin Mary holding her lifeless crucified son when he was removed from the cross. Michelangelo carved the Pietà, taking only one year to complete when he was just 24 years old, from one perfect single block of Carrara marble he specially selected. The Vatican City featured in the 2006 movie “Mission Impossible 3” & 2009 in “Angels & Demons”.
Campo de’ Fiori
Unsplashed photo by Gabriella Clare Marino
Campo de’ Fiori, meaning “field of flowers” as in the Middle Ages this was literally a meadow of flowers. It was Pope Callixtus III in 1456 who ordered Campo de’ Fiori to be paved with the intention to increase the real-estate value, which led to important buildings being constructed. The square had a dark time, in the Middle Ages it was known as “Execution Square” during the time of the Roman Inquisition. A monk Giordano Bruno, who was a free thinker, philosopher & mathematician was one of the heretics that was burned alive at the stake in 1600.
The square retuned to a place of flowers (Fiori) in 1886 becoming the famous flower & produce market that still operates Monday to Saturday mornings. In the square a giant statue of monk Giordano Bruno was installed 1889 & is an eternal symbol of freedom of thought. These days after sunset the square becomes an outdoor dining area that is very popular for both Romans & visitors with lively cocktail bars & restaurants. Campo de’ Fiori featured in the 1943 movie “the Peddler & the Lady”, 2004 in “Ocean’s Twelve “& 2010 in “Eat Pray Love”.
Unsplashed photo by Michele Bitetto
Piazza Venezia is easily one of Rome’s most iconic piazzas, it’s the elegant, magnificent monument to Victor Emmanuel II built in 1885 by architect Giuseppe Sacconi. His vision was to build an imposing classical structure. It was inaugurated in 1911, intended to celebrate the unification of the Italian nation. Integral & emotional parts of this monument are the “Altar to the Homeland” & the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”. Over the years you would have seen this in countless movies & fashion shoots including “Roman Holiday” in 1953, “The Belly of an Architect” in 1987 & “Under a Tuscan Sun” in 2004.
To find out more about Rome you can read my blog stories “The Eternal City of Rome Part 1 where it all began” & “Part 2 a Classic Roman Holiday”.
Reflection Summary: Rome has a long history of its citizens believing in a higher power & willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater public good of society. It’s a sobering thought to know our freedom of speech, religious & public securities are built on a foundation of selfless scarifies. History calls these people as martyrs, heretics, agitators & soldiers; legend say these people are saints, philosophers, reformers & heroes.