Treatment of monuments after the Sack of Rome

The Sack of Rome by the troops of the Emperor Charles V in 1527 brought the Renaissance papacy to an end. This battle caused the destruction of many ancient monuments and, even more, of archives, libraries, and patrician wealth. When the Emperor visited Rome in April 1536, a triumphal entrance was prepared for him from the Via Appia through the ancient triumphal arches of the Forum to the Capitol and to the Vatican. In order to prepare for this symbolic procession, 200 more houses and a few churches were demolished. One of the coordinators of the project was Latino Giovenale Manetti, an architect responsible for the maintenance of streets and the arrangement of the Piazza del Popolo. In a brief of 28 November 1534 (Fea, 1832:467), Paul III (1534-49) nominated Manetti the first Commissioner of Antiquities, and at the same time recognized the importance of the heritage of Rome, the centre of the universal empire and then of Christianity. He also acknowledged that in addition to barbarians, nature, and time, a great responsibility for the destruction of Rome's architectural heritage lay with the popes themselves, who had allowed trees to invade, had permitted ornaments and other material to be removed and reused elsewhere, destroyed, or even taken abroad. The pope felt a 'patriotic' obligation to ensure proper protection for the monuments that he considered the glory and the majesty of his land of origin. Detailed instructions were given in the brief on the types of monuments that needed protection; including arches, temples, 'trophies', amphitheatres, circuses, aqueducts, statues, marbles and anything to be conceived as Antiquity or Monuments. Manetti was given full authority to use penalties and punishment according to his judgement, and to see that the antiquities were conserved, kept free of vegetation, not taken from town, or covered by new constructions. The responsibility was clear in principle, but although similar orders were given by other popes, there were hardly any administrative structures to assist the commissioners. However the civic administration gradually acquired more concern about ancient monuments and their maintenance.

The Thermae of Diocletian were the largest baths of ancient Rome, measuring 380 by 370 m and accommodating over 3000 visitors. In the sixteenth century, substantial remains of these huge constructions were still standing, and some spaces even retained their vaults. A Sicilian priest, Antonio del Duca, believed it to have been built by Christian martyrs, and he had a vision that the baths should be transformed into a church dedicated to angels. On his insistence religious services were organized there during the jubilee of 1550; in 1561 Pius IV (1559-65) decided to build it into a church, Santa Maria degli Angeli, in order to augment divine worship as well as for the sake of conserving such an important historic building. The 86-year-old Michelangelo Buonarroti was invited to submit a design for the church, executed between 1561 and 1566, and praised by Vasari as one of the best proportioned churches in Rome. The project was conceived as a minimum intervention; new was added or changes made where absolutely necessary. The large cross-vaulted hall in the centre became a kind of transept and the main body of the church. There were three entrances, north, west and south; the main altar was in the centre of the north side in one of the three lower barrel-vaulted spaces, which continued behind the altar as a choir extending as a new construction over the ancient natatio. The exterior of the church was left in its ruined

Figure 2.5 The church of Santa Maria degli Angeli was designed by Michelangelo within the ancient Baths of Diocletian in Rome, in the sixteenth century, and was subsequently modified by L. Vanvitelli in the eighteenth century

state. One thus entered through a ruined antique wall into a vaulted space and opened a finely carved Renaissance door into the interior with eight of the largest granite columns in Rome supporting the plainly rendered spacious cross-vaults.

The whole construction was conceived as 'incomplete'. This reflected Michelangelo's state of mind at the end of his life, being concerned with the problems of death and the salvation of the soul. To Vasari, he wrote that there existed no thought within him in which Death was not sculpted. His last sculpture, the Rondanini Pieta, in fact, has been compared to some late works of Rembrandt, where 'the renunciation of ideal realism and rationalism also leads, not to abstraction (Mannerism), but to a more profound and more concrete language of the spirit' (De Tolnay, 1960:92). Santa Maria degli Angeli is a comparable work in the field of architecture; the idea of angels was also very close to him - especially after the death of his great friend, Vittoria Colonna, who had been an invaluable support. Pius V (1566-72) was hostile to this project due to its pagan implications, and it remained for Gregory XIII (1572-85) to continue the building. Sixtus V, in turn, quarried some 90 000 m3 of material from the thermae for use in building roads and other structures in the area of his neighboring Villa di Montalto. It was probably at this time that the calidarium was demolished. Transformations in the interior gradually changed Michelangelo's original concept. In particular, the works under Luigi Vanvitelli, after 1749, gave a new look to the building. The plan of the interior was modified and redecorated, and the entrance to the church was provided with an elevation in late-baroque style.

At the end of the sixteenth century, Domenico Fontana, the architect of Sixtus V, restored a number of ancient monuments in Rome; these included the Columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in 1589 to 1590. The pagan attributes of these memorial columns were transformed into Christian images; thus the first received the bronze figure of St Peter and the second, St Paul.12 Trajan's Column needed little repair, but the other column, erected in honour of Marcus Aurelius, had suffered badly from earthquakes and fire; it had cracked lengthwise, portions had broken off, and the upper drums were displaced several inches from the original position.

Fontana had the surface of the base cut away, and the core enclosed in a new marble base, for which the material was taken from the demolished Septizonium. The cracks in the column were secured with iron cramps and leaded so that the reliefs could be repaired in plaster. The missing parts of the column were integrated with new marble, cut to fit only the lost area in order to reduce the cost. Missing figures were recarved either by analogy or by copying figures from nearby areas. The whole seems to have been covered with a wash to unify the appearance.

Nicholas V was the first Renaissance pope to propose the re-erection of an obelisk on the square in front of the basilica of St Peter's. This idea also interested Paul II, who commissioned Aristotele di Fioravante di Ridolfo (1415/ 20-86),13 from Bologna, to transfer the obelisk then standing at the side of the church, 'acu July Caesaris ad sanctum Petrum', to the square. The works had already started when the pope died, and the project was interrupted. Obelisks14 were of considerable interest to the architects of the time, and recordings and reconstruction drawings were prepared of them. For example, Bramante, Raphael and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger made various proposals.

Sixtus V was the first to carry out this dream. He used obelisks as part of his urban master plan of Rome to mark major sites in the city, and to form recognizable signposts and embellishments at the end of the new straight streets that he created. In 1585, the first year of his pontificate, Sixtus V announced a competition for the transportation of the Vatican Obelisk from the side of St Peter's to the square in front of the basilica. The winner was Fontana, who had the obelisk taken down and transported to its new location. It took seven months' preparation and five months' work, and became a great spectacle, making Fontana famous. In September 1586, the obelisk was ceremonially consecrated; it had a cross on top and a long inscription in the base with reference to exorcism. Three other obelisks were erected under Sixtus V: in 1587 behind the choir of Santa Maria Maggiore (also marking the entrance to his own villa), in 1588 at the Lateran, and in 1589 in Piazza del Popolo, the main entrance to the city from the north. These obelisks were all broken in pieces and had to

be restored. The largest and most difficult to restore was the Lateran obelisk (from the Circus Maximus). The missing parts were completed with granite from the demolished Septizonium and fixed with dowels and bars; hieroglyphs were carved on new parts so that repairs could not be distinguished easily.

The interest in obelisks continued even after Sixtus V; two of them were erected in the seventeenth century. The first came from the Circus of Maxentius and was placed over the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona for Innocent X in 1651; the other was discovered near the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and erected in front of it for Alexander VII in 1667. Bernini was responsible for both projects, and showed a more dynamic and architectural approach in the treatment of the obelisks than had been the case in the sixteenth century, using them as an ornament in an architectural space. Anastasio Kircher, a Jesuit father, was invited to interpret the hieroglyphs, and he did this - erroneously, but with such self-confidence that he proposed some ' hieroglyphica genuina' of his own invention to integrate the missing parts. Four more obelisks were re-erected in the eighteenth century.

Since Roman times, tradition had connected the fate of Christian martyrs with the theatres of Rome. Particularly, the Colosseum had become associated with the death of long lists of martyrs, and was often chosen as a symbol for the passion of saints. The Colosseum thus was almost more famous for its Christian connotations than as a work of architecture. In 1490, Innocent VIII and the Conservatorii had given permission to inaugurate performances of a religious character in the arena, which later developed into a traditional Passion play at Easter. The pope's first idea had been to demolish it to provide space for a road, but, after the insistance of the Roman citizens, the proposal was put forward to adapt it for a socially and economically useful function. Fontana prepared a project for its use as a wool factory, providing workshops and workers' housing for the wool guild, but the plans were suspended at the death of the pope. In 1671, Father Carlo de Tomasi commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini to prepare plans for its use as a Temple for Martyrs, as well as being an illustration of the greatness of Rome and a model for architecture. He insisted that nothing of the old be touched, nor hidden. New elevations were proposed to mark the entrances, and, inside, a small chapel. The amphitheatre would thus have become a huge church - like Santa Maria degli Angeli, and a testimony to Christian martyrdom. These plans were never carried out, but it was consecrated to the memory of martyrs at the 1675 Jubileum. Twenty-five years later it was used as a manure deposit. In 1703 a part of the structure collapsed in an earthquake, and the material was used to build the Porto di Ripetta.

The last effort to transform the Colosseum into a church was made by Carlo Fontana (1638-1714), who urged the authorities to consolidate the eastern wall, and prepared a study in 1708 (published in 1725) proposing to restore the dignity of this ancient monument through its proper use as a Christian site. The arena was to be separated from the rest of the fabric by an arcaded colonnade bearing the statues of 42 martyrs. In the western part of the arena, he proposed a fountain in imitation of the antique Meta Sudante, the remains of which stood in front of the Colosseum. In 1744 Benedict XIV commissioned the Governor of Rome to publish an edict to prohibit the violation of the Colosseum. It was forbidden to remove stones from the fabric, and the arena was consecrated to the memory of Christian martyrs. In 1749, there was a further authorization for the building of permanent aedicules for a Via Crucis around the arena, and a cross was erected in its centre. Despite the pope's orders, a part of the arena was let for cattle, and the building continued to be used as a manure deposit. Nevertheless, it became a popular site for travellers.15

Having been turned into a church as Santa Maria ad Martyres in the seventh century, the Pantheon had been used and repaired continuously. In the fifteenth century it was partly freed from buildings attached to it. The building had also suffered and, in 1625, when metal was needed for military purposes, Urban VIII Barberini (1623-44) removed the antique bronze structures from the portico only to discover the metal mixed with gold and silver, and therefore not good for artillery. Hence the famous saying: 'Quod non fecerunt barbari fecerunt BarberinV Part of the bronze was used in the construction of the St Peter's

baldachin by Bernini and Borromini. As a result of protests by the Romans, the pope decided to build two new bell towers to replace the demolished mediaeval one. The work was carried out in 1626-32 by Carlo Maderno and Borromini who worked as a master mason on the site. Nevertheless, the Pantheon remained in a rather poor condition; the eastern part of the portico was damaged and two columns were missing. A part of the tympanum had broken off, and, in addition, the piazza was at a much higher level than the Pantheon. The interior marble decoration had suffered and there were many losses.

To Renaissance architects, the Pantheon represented perfection in architectural form, but the building also was a popular symbol of death. Alexander VII commissioned Bernini to make it a mausoleum for himself and his family, conceiving the monument as a representation of the continuity of the eternal and universal values of Christianity. The temple was seen as a central figure around which the townscape could be arranged with due respect and symmetry; the interior of the dome was to be decorated in stucco with symbols of the Chigi family and an inscription. The restoration of the portico started in 1662; the missing columns were replaced by those excavated in the piazza of S. Luigi dei Francesi, and antique capitals used in the restoration were carved with the emblems of the Chigi family. The tympanum was repaired with marble from the remains of an arch of Trajan (Arco della Pieta), which had stood in front of the Pantheon.

The Arch of Constantine had been related to the history of Christianity, and was reasonably well preserved. The statues of Dacian prisoners had, however, been decapitated in 1534 and one of the columns in giallo antico on the north side had been removed to be used under the organ in the Lateran basilica. In 1731, Clement XII and the Conservatori of Rome

Figure 2.8 The Roman Pantheon was 'rehabilitated' as a mausoleum for the family of Pope Alexander VII Chigi, starting from 1662. The east side of the portico was rebuilt with columns and marble from nearby excavations; the papal symbol and the emblem of the Chigi family were carved on the new work

ordered the restoration of the Arch under the supervision of Alessandro Capponi who 'carefully and accurately, restored the columns and their cornices, mending the statues and bringing them back to their original form' (Gaddi, 1736:117). The heads of the prisoners were recarved, the reliefs and the cornices were repaired and the missing column was replaced with an antique one of white marble. The work was completed in 1733, and commemorated with marble tablets and a publication.

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