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Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday Ground Up: Two Architectural Gems in Rome, Italy

Principles of Roman ArchitectureRoman architecture is classical and hardly practical. It could be described as masculine in a sense, with a hint of solitude. No matter how we interpret the structure, we can all agree that it exhibited a solid foundation and architectural form.

The Baths of Caracalla and the Arch of Titus are two such structures that on one hand side represent honor and resolve, but on the other relaxation and educational output.

Baths of Caracalla

Roman Emperor Caracalla reigned over Rome in 211 however his reign exemplified the true jealously of brothers. Caracalla killed his brother Geta in 212 shortly after they both succeeded Septimius Severus to the imperial throne in 211. The Baths of Caracalla, of course, had been created and named after the Emperor Caracalla in his honor.

The Roman bathhouse created a location of leisure, or civic amenity, for all those in attendance. Incredibly inventive in their own right, the baths were fashioned with underground heating that provided heat for the bathers. Roman bathhouses like Thermae in Bath, England, have been found all over Rome, however the Baths of Caracalla are the most remarkable.

The Baths of Caracalla are located in Caelian Hill and were constructed around 211, but weren't finished until 217. Close to 1600 individuals would flock to the baths at a time, meeting in the various chambers to partake in activities. The Caladarium included pools with very hot water. The Tepidarium, of course, included lukewarm water and the Frigidarium contained cold water. There was also an outdoors pool called the Natatio. For those that wished to stay dry, the stadium and gymnasium served for exercise purposes and Greek and Latin libraries provided an intellectual atmosphere.

Farnese Hercules

One of the statues that adorned the Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla operated until the 6th century when Goths destroyed the aqueducts supplying the water to the baths. The Caracalla Baths suffered enormous decay over the centuries, and during the 16th century, the Farnese family removed almost every marble fitting to decorate their palace. The Farnese family also inherited several sculptures during the time of Pope Paul III , which became a part of their private collection. Those sculptures can now be found in Naples.

Roman Imperial Architecture (The Yale University Press Pelican History of Art)Access is limited to certain areas to avoid damage to the mosaic floors, although such damage is already clearly visible. Also, a total of 22 well-preserved columns from the ruins are found in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, taken there in the 12th century.

During the 20th century, Benito Mussolini introduced the idea of open air operas at the Baths of Caracalla. It's been questioned, however, that the vibrations from the singer's voices are damaging the structure. Nonetheless, Pavarotti Domingo and Carreras performed at the Caracalla Baths in 1990, on the eve of the World Cup.

Arch of Titus

Traditionally, Roman arches were constructed as a focal point for the procession of victorious armies coming home. There are close to 34 arches built in Rome, the Arch of Titus being the oldest.

Detail from the Arch of Titus showing spoils from the Sack of Jerusalem

The Arch of Titus was created in 81 CE, shortly after Titus's death and commissioned by his brother Domitian who succeeded him as emperor. The Arch of Titus is a celebration of Titus's victories including the struggle against Jewish rebels that culminated in the capture of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Sculptures depict the looting of the temples of Jerusalem; some believe the Ark of the Covenant was taken at this time.

There are several scenes carved on the Arch of Titus, one being a new god parading in his chariot, crowned by victory; another in the vault of the arch shows Titus ascending into the heavens on the wings of an eagle.

The Arch in 1744, before restoration. Painting by Canaletto.

Over the centuries, the Arch of Titus changed considerably. Many believe there existed a sculpture of Titus on the top of the Arch, however it had been removed during the Middle Ages, and replaced by further sculptures depicting the times. It wasn't until 1822 that Giuseppe Valadier restored the site, dismantling the arch and reconstructing it in its present form.

Also check out:

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Read More: Monday Ground Up: Roman Achievements in Law and Engineering

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Read More: Monday Ground Up: The Catholic Church During Charlemagne

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1 Comment:

Unknown said...

Wonderful post as always...

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