It’s so hard to wake up in Rome with resplendent views across the city. Actually the hard part is leaving the apartment.
This jewel in the airbnb crown with its vast terrace is really hard to depart from even just for a day while you trot around the beautiful city being wowed by everything.
Setting off through Villa Borghese Gardens it is possible to head up to higher ground where the park’s pathways are filled with busts of Rome’s nobility. I prefer to see busts to artists of thinkers rather than to folk with cash to splash but thankfully some poor rich guy had lost his head which allowed me to see just how I would look immortalised in stone haha.
The views of Rome from the top edge of the park were wonderful and such a different angle to my penthouse terrace that I stood for ages drinking in the new vista.
And so to my surprise this upper pathway eventually leads to the church of the Trinità dei Monti and those most famous Spanish Steps.
Which unless you go late at night are not possible to see for all the tourists sitting on them and standing with both hands in the air creating ‘V’ signs or quote marks as they ram themselves into the photos of Rome’s landmarks. I have to say that I’m still at a loss as to what makes people think that their presence will somehow improve on the beauty of a place or a landmark. If it is to just to prove you were there then might I suggest you get some friends who will just believe you when you say you visited there? Sorry but the endless strange repeat poses everywhere you turn seems to me a bit tragic. I did return at night to snap some extra photos for my blog though with empty steps.
“I want to see the Parthenon by moonlight.” Daphne du Marurier wrote but she was talking about the temple in Greece and I was in Rome staring at the Pantheon but the fullest and brightest of moons obliged me.
While the perfection of this building is renown throughout the world it is essential to step inside to fully appreciate why this is possibly one of the most geometrically perfect buildings ever constructed.
You also have to consider just when it was constructed and that it was also once entirely covered in white marble. Oh how much more it would have shimmered in the silvery glow of a full moon then. The amazing thing about this once temple to all the gods of Rome is that though it’s now a church, very little has been changed inside other than to remove the old roman statues and replace them with Christian iconography.
Most pleasing is that entrance here is free. Marvellous. I like to try and keep the costs of seeing wondrous things to a minimum for my blog so this perfect building is perfect for my website.
The Pantheon has a slightly mysterious origin. It is attributed Hadrian to but there’s speculation that there was an earlier building by Agrippa with a different orientation. Whatever the truth nothing can take away from the sheer simple beauty of this structure. Everything inside is symmetry and mathematical calculations. The dome’s rhomboidal design adjusts its proportions layer by layer.
The tidy consistency exists in the rings and the beams that that radiate from the open oculus at the centre of the dome. The light streaming in, creates a disk that moves around the interior throughout the day. And casts a feint moving moonlight circle at night too.
And when it rains outside, it rains inside this temple/church. This is why in the centre of the floor, in a cross formation there are small drainage holes.
The marble floor however is also geometrically patterned with squares, circles and frames in three types of differently coloured stone.
As a lover of details and patterns I find this building so calming in its perfect beauty. One other little gem hidden inside is the resting place of the artist Raphael. He is a truly honoured soul to be interred here.
The Pantheon is the very soul of Rome and all the architecture that follows. The simplistic neatness of the geometry eventually leads Andrea Palladio to create the Palladian style. Removing all the excesses of the Baroque and Rococo refining architecture stripping design back to elegant perfection and mirrored symmetry. Pantheon – “you rock!”
That’s in quote marks and just to prove my earlier point – I do not improve the perfection of this building but shoving myself in the photo. Though perhaps Saint Corbyn of Islington adds a pensive vacancy that I can’t?
Outside I meet my nemesis. A guy with the most terrific beard I’ve ever seen. Beard envy is not a good thing but what a *******! Hehe.
And now it’s off to the Piazza della Repubblica to bear witness to a ruin so enormous that I struggled to comprehend it properly until the very end when a video reconstruction allows a proper understanding of the space and the gargantuan proportions that Ancient Rome was capable of building. This complex blew my mind as the entire area once occupied by a public bathhouse had a larger footprint than most we build today other than shopping centres. But I guess they are the modern temples to the gods of consumerism and capitalisation. Yes skyscrapers are vast and tall but this is wondrous.
Outside in the Piazza is the Fountain of the Naiads and to the north are two curved terraced buildings in perfect symmetry that mark the ancient boundary of the bathing complex. To the south begins the remains of the complex itself. Firstly the most intact part of the original complex is, quelle suprise, a Catholic Church. Now ordinarily this would stress me out a little but here in the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri not only has the adoption by the church allowed the Roman structure to remain but the adaptation was carried out by Michelangelo and he certainly was a clever bugger.
Not only is the Trompe l’oeil that covers the walls inspired by the Pantheon but here the stretched cross that forms the church is dissected on the floor by a great brass meridian line.
Now here the very clever science bit – two tiny apertures are so perfectly positioned within that when the lights meet it predicts that most important and moveable feast of the Christian calendar, Easter.
Now that’s clever. And it’s powerful knowledge. For it to work perfectly a small chink was cut from one of the original Roman interior pediments to allow the progression of the sun to reach the floor and move along the meridian.
If ever there was a place to understand the ‘Everyman’ skills of these Renaissance artists it is here. Art meets maths meets geometry meets astronomy meets religion.
Behind the church is the Museo Nazionale Romano – Therme di Diocleziano. This very inexpensive Museum is not only just 7€ but is relatively unknown by the hoards visiting Rome. Yet it contains so much to see and many of the Roman statues that the Catholic Church no longer required.
It also houses the cloister by Michelangelo with its repetitious endless arches and all along the vaulted edges are gorgeous marble statues. All this surrounds a lush green baroque garden with a fountain in the centre and animal figures rising from hedges.
After all this splendid architecture you enter the vast multi-storey remains of the cold plunge pool of the Diocletian public baths. How high? Very very high!
As I keep mentioning the footprint of this complex was enormous but getting up close to the height of the walls rising around the cold plunge pool is breathtaking. And while I assumed that each of the three stories were separate floors I was totally staggered to discover that there were no floors just three stories of niches filled with statues layer upon layer. And at the very top were wide pedestals that had a life-sized representation of horses pulling chariots, in bronze.
Seriously you have to wonder at what those ancient romans were capable of building. And all the walls were painted yellow and highly decorated.
You can see where the desire for fresco and highly ornate biblical allogries was born. As the church requisitioned Roman spaces and temples they were inspired to enhance what they found inside.
We in Britain find it hard to comprehend the ornate bold colours of the medieval church as we whitewashed everything when we dissolved the monasteries and adopted the Protestant Church of England.
This former bathing complex has taught me to appreciate what Catholicism has done to old monuments from antiquity to preserve and enhance them for the future. My impetuous irritation at the church taking over Roman remains has now softened to a reasoned understanding. But I shall not go back and edit my previous erroneous posts, as this blog is about journeying and learning. And I am learning so much. However all this walking, looking and learning has left me terribly hungry and as I pass a basket of wild mushrooms my hunger is piqued.
I know that I must find white truffles to eat. And I do find them. Simple pasta but packed with flavour.
One Reply to “a simple ancient temple where geometrics were perfected”
What have the Catholics done for us ….?
Yes, the steps look so much more imposing without the V makers and devil doers.