Early practice and protection in Rome

Like Petrarch before them, the humanists of the fifteenth century criticized those who destroyed monuments and ancient works of art; they complained about the demolition of ancient statues under the pretext of claiming them to be images of false gods, and accused the popes for doing nothing to protect this patrimony (Gordan and Goodhart, 1974). A number of orders were issued, however, for the safeguard of ancient monuments and churches, even though it took a long time until any effective protection could be enforced. Some of the first measures were related to improving the general condition of Rome. When Martin V established his court in Rome, he recognized the need of restauratio et refor-matio. Therefore, on 30 March 1425, he issued a bull, Etsi in cunctarum orbis, establishing the office of the Magistri viarum, whose responsibility it was to maintain and repair the streets, bridges, gates, walls, and to a certain extent buildings. This organization was reconfirmed by his successors. Eugenius IV (1431-47) ordered protection for the Colosseum, even if he continued using it as a quarry himself. The humanist pope Pius II (1458-64) was the first to issue a bull, Cum almam nostram urbem of 28 April 1462, specifically for the preservation of ancient remains. In order to conserve the alma town in her dignity and splendour, the necessity was emphasized to maintain and preserve ecclesiastical buildings, as well as ancient structures that served to cover the burials and relics of holy men. Conservation was closely linked with Christianity, which provided the final argument for protection. The bull seems to have resulted from requests made by municipal administrators and the citizens of Rome, but the pope was not able to enforce it.

In this period repairs and improvement works dealt mainly with buildings that still had a contemporary use, such as churches, bridges, aqueducts, or even the mausoleum of Hadrian which was used as a residence for the popes. Even if Vasari had reason to accuse Pope Paul II of using building material from ancient monuments such as the Colosseum, thus further provoking their ruin (Vasari, 1973:472), the papal or municipal administrators (C onservatorii) carried out a number of minor repairs on ancient monuments. Repairs are reported on the Arch of Titus by Florentine masons in 1466, as well as on the Arch of Septimius Severus, and on several statues and architectural elements. Sixtus IV (1471-84), the 'Restaurator Urbis, established improved constitutions for the growth and splendour of Rome, leaving a significant mark on the city. His building activities included the rebuilding of the Ponte Sisto on the site of an ancient Roman bridge and the construction of a new hospital. Although his activities were more renewal than conservation, he was responsible for the repair and reconstruction of many palaces and religious buildings. He had to face problems of neglect and vandalism, and issued a bull, Quam provida (25 April 1474) against destruction and damage to ecclesiastical buildings, or removal of parts from them. This order was later confirmed by Julius II (1503-13), and recalled even in the nineteenth century (e.g., 1802).

When the popes returned to Rome in the fifteenth century, the Byzantine Empire was involved in the decisive battles against the Ottomans, ending in the siege and fall of Constantinople in 1453. Defence was therefore an important aspect in papal building programmes. Nicholas V (1447-55) repaired and improved fortifications in various parts of the papal states and also in Rome, where other aspects also needed attention. The biographer of Nicholas V, Giannozzo Manetti, has reported that the programme in Rome included five major projects concerning repair of the town walls, aqueducts, bridges, and of the forty so-called stationary churches, as well as building the Borgo Vaticano, the papal palace in the Vatican, and plans for St Peter's. The pope himself seems to have taken a lead in the formulation of these projects, gathering around him a 'pool of brains', of which Alberti certainly was one and the Florentine architect Bernardo Rossellino (1409-64) another. The works in churches often involved repairs of roofs or windows as well as redecoration. In the case of major interventions the aim was clearly not only to repair but to adapt the buildings to the new requirements of the time. Much was thus destroyed and transformed, but some respect was still shown toward old buildings, and attempts were made to keep something of the old. We may not be able to speak of restoration in its modern sense, but we begin to recognize its roots.

Of particular interest for the application of the principles of the treatises are the cases of the old St Peter's, Santo Stefano Rotondo, San

Marco, and Tempio Malatestiano of Rimini, which were repaired in the fifteenth century. Alberti's influence can be felt in each case. St Peter's had been built of spoils of ancient monuments; the huge columns supporting the nave walls ranged in material from serpentine and giallo antico to red or grey granite. Even though perhaps the most important of Rome's basilicas, it was in a rather poor condition -partly due to the structural system consisting of long and thin walls over many frequent and continued apertures without strengthening as noted by Alberti. The foundations were built over the remains of an ancient circus, and were laid partly on loose soil, partly on solid clay. Therefore the longitudinal walls were cracked and inclined by more than a palm at the top. Alberti proposed consolidating the basilica through systematic renewal of the masonry in the leaning sections.

Each leaning section of wall supported by a column I decided to cut out and remove; and to restore the sections that had been removed with vertical ordinary bond, having left stone teeth and strong clasps on both sides of the structure to tie the new sections to the old. Finally, where a section of sloping wall was to be removed, I proposed to support the roof beams with machines called caprae [goats], erected over the roof, with their feet secured on either side to more stable sections of roof and walling. (Alberti, 1988:362)

The scheme does not seem to have been executed. Instead, there was a proposal that the old building be encased within a new structure. This plan was a mixture of old and new; though the old nave was to be left intact, the transept was considerably enlarged and a new choir of monumental proportions was to be planned behind the old apse. The first works seem to have concentrated on the entrance; the mosaics of the main elevation were restored, and the roof, the pavement and the doors of the entrance portico were renewed; there were works also on the 'tribuna grande and the foundations. It is possible that the pope had initially intended to repair the old basilica but at a certain moment he changed his mind and initiated a renewal on a larger scale. This work was interrupted in 1452 until new plans were developed by Julius

Figure 2.4 Tempio Malatestiano, Rimini: Alberti designed the new structure leaving the existing mediaeval church inside. The elevation remained unfinished, and has not been completed later

II (1503-13) and his successors. It is interesting to compare this project with another one by Alberti, the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini commissioned by Sigismo di Malatesta as his own memorial. This work, in which Alberti seems to have been involved from 1449, remained unfinished. It involved the transformation of the thirteenth-century church of S. Francesco into a classical building. Here again the old structure was retained and encased inside a new building. In the interior, however, the construction of a new choir, which was never executed, would have meant destruction of the old transept and apse. Vasari considered this building 'beyond dispute one of the most renowned temples of Italy.' (Vasari, 1973:539).

One of the most extensively restored ancient churches was the fifth-century Santo Stefano

Rotondo, on the Coelian Hill, which had fallen into disrepair after the eleventh century. The work was carried out under the supervision of Rossellino, probably in consultation with Alberti, and consisted of closing the original arcaded colonnade of the ambulatory, demolition of the outer chapels, and building a new entrance portico. The circular nave, probably originally covered with a light dome, was roofed with a timber structure, as was the ambulatory. Surviving remnants of marble or stucco decoration were removed, the wall closing the arcaded colonnade was decorated with frescoes, the rest received a plain intonaco. The original round windows of the nave wall were closed, and new windows were opened. This work met with some criticism by contemporaries; Francesco di Giorgio Martini noted that Pope Nicholas re-made it, but in doing so he caused even more damage. Modern critics have been more severe, pointing out that the Early Christian space was remodelled, subordinating archaeological respect to the requirements of the day. The earlier concept of continuous space was transformed into a closed centrality according to the Renaissance ideal. Closing of the arcaded colonnade and its transformation into a decorative feature is, on the other hand, in agreement with Alberti's preference to use round columns with architraves and square pillars with arches.

When the Cardinal of San Marco, Pietro Barbo, became Pope Paul II (1464-71), one of his first undertakings was to construct a new residence for himself, the Palazzo Venezia at the foot of the Capitol next to his church San Marco, which also had a major repair on this occasion. The old nave walls and the arcaded colonnades of San Marco were reinforced by building a new wall tied to the old and supported on pillars on the aisle side. A richly decorated wooden coffered ceiling was added to the interior and the roof was covered with gilded lead tiles. In addition, an open loggia for benedictions, similar to the one created for the basilica of St Peter's a few years earlier, was built in front of the church. The interior was enriched with small shell-shaped niches in the side aisles. Vasari attributed the repair of San Marco to Giuliano da Maiano (1432-90) but Alberti's name has also been linked with the work. In fact, the solution adopted for reinforcing the nave walls corresponds perfectly to

Alberti's recommendation: 'If the wall is too slender, either add a new section to the old to make a single wall, or, to save expense, build only the bones, that is, pilasters, columns, and beams. This is how to add one section to another: in several places in the old wall insert small catches of tough stone; these reinforcements project into the new wall as it is built, and act as cramps holding together two skins. The new wall should be constructed of nothing but ordinary brickwork' (Alberti, 1988:359). Alberti further suggested that new constructions be made sufficiently strong to bear their loads, because otherwise the building would risk collapse. Even though San Marco was extensively renewed, it is interesting to note the care taken to guarantee the preservation of the original walls and columns of the church, thus showing that these ancient structures represented recognized values.

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