Thoughts of Brianna

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rome Week

What happened to September??? Honestly, I can't remember a month ever passing that fast. And whatever happened to Rome posts every day? Well, a week ago I was asked a big question, and all thoughts turned to this:


It's crazy. I don't think it's fully sunk in yet. But yes, Colin proposed last Saturday, I said Yes, and we'll be getting married in the spring. All last week was spent in calling all my friends and relatives, looking at dresses, making guest lists, and coming up with ideas for save-the-dates.

So I'm afraid I'm pretty far behind with Rome posts. What I had planned to be a "Rome Week" turned out to be something completely different. My solution is to put you on a whirlwind tour of Rome, as if you only had one day to explore it (which is sacrilege. Don't do it. Spend at least a week there!) Here goes:

September 21

Far away from the clouds of cigarette smoke and the buzz of Vespas, we followed Dr. Hatlie along the ancient stones of the Via Appia.

Via Appia

Sheep on the Via Appia

Gorgeous skies, ruts worn by Roman chariot wheels, brick tombs, sheep grazing without fences. We walked until we reached Rome.

September 24

The Roman Forum, stripped of its marble columns by church architects and buried under dust for decades, opened the eyes of a hundred students to the reality of our history and literature.

Someone has decorated Julius Caesar's tomb with a few wildflowers. Basilicas (law courts) are gutted of all former splendor, hollowed out and honeycombed.

the Roman Forum

Only one facet of the round Temple of Vesta remains, where the Vestal Virgins tended a sacred flame.

Temple of Vesta

Dr. Flusche had us learn the difference between the various Temples, and how to tell apart the Triumphal arches by their carvings of Victory, battles, and prisoners of war.

The Curia. (Senate House)

Would be a better view from higher up, but there's just such variety here! Churches, museums, ruins, tombs, temples...

September 25

The Colosseum.

With hundreds of years of weather erosion, it appears to be melting, like a Dali painting.

The tunnels underneath the arena floor, where wild animals and gladiators waited for their battles.
Needless to say, there was lots of listening to the Gladiator soundtrack on iPods, and photos of us staging gladiatorial battles. On the Palatine hill, we saw the foundations of the palaces of Augustus and Nero. Below was the long track of the Circus Maximus, where chariot races took place.

Also that week we saw Santa Maria Maggiore, a church with incredible mosaics. And we took lovely walks in the vineyards, which are a little bit terrifying at night.

We're almost caught up! One more day:

October 1

The class visited San Clemente, which like San Giovanni in Laterano, is one of my favorite churches in Rome. In fact, this article said "If you only see one church in Rome, make it San Clemente!" I'm not sure I agree, because next to giants of beauty and history like Saint Peter's and San Giovanni, San Clemente is just a younger brother. However, you'll see why it truly is worth putting on your list.

It's not the most beautiful, but it has an incredible history. The Church from the year 1100 gleams with colorful floor tiles and mosaics, but the real attraction lies below the floor. This church is built on top off a 4th century church, which in turn is built on top of a 1st century Roman house and warehouse. I loved the feeling of descending deeper into the rooms of cold stone, hearing water rushing behind the walls in the Cloaca Maxima (ancient sewer) and peering into dark halls lit by slender electric lamps. This lowest level also has a Mithraic temple, the site of a pagan ritual in which a bull was sacrificed.

Up a level in the 4th century church, frescoes in bright red, golden yellow, and royal blue depict the lives of St. Alexis and Pope Saint Clement. In one mural, a speech bubble next to an authority figure reads "Pull, Fili dele pute" (you sons of bitches!) in Italian. This seems pretty shocking for a church, but then again, think of the personal lives of some Renaissance popes.

As I've hinted at before, some of Rome's attraction for me is the blend of old and new, how pieces of the past are taken from their homes and incorporated into something new, giving them new life. The history of Rome is so varied, and yet so seamless, one long tapestry where time repeats, regresses, and races forward into the eternal. San Clemente is Rome in miniature, pagan and pious, death and life, decay and beauty.

Finally, a shout out to Jamie, whose birthday is today! In Rome, we celebrated by eating gelato and staring up at the Colosseum...may today rival it in awesomeness!

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