Travel: In the Steps of Michaelangelo

English: Capitoline Hill, Rome. Image:Fratelli...

Before we could enter the Roman Ruins that day, my new friend and I stumbled upon the tail-end of a parade in celebration of some unknown national holiday. I’m still not clear on what it was, but I would have been thrilled if I had managed to catch sight of all the festivities. Unfortunately for us, we discovered that it delayed the opening of our attractions for the day. Rather than being open that morning, neither the Imperial Forum, nor the Colosseum were going to open until that afternoon. Instead, we took a long stroll around Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome and the original Citadel of the first generation.

The Abduction of the Sabine Women, by Nicolas ...

It is at this site that the Sabines, were granted access by the Roman maiden Tarpeia. For her treachery, she was the first to be flung from a steep cliff overlooking the Roman Forum. Later named the Tarpeian Rock after the Vestal Virgin, it became a frequent execution site.

The first Sabines immigrated to Rome following the Rape of the Sabine Women.

You may recall an earlier post from the beginning of my trip when I went to visit the Fatima Sanctuary, the following brings to mind how individuals can be so devout to subject themselves to pain in the name of their faith. Legend says that  Julius Caesar approached the foot of the hill and Jupiter’s Temple on his knees in penance for his actions in the civil wars and to avert an unlucky omen of Jupiter’s wrath. He was moved to do so after he suffered an accident during one of his triumphs. Despite this, he was murdered six months later, and Brutus and his conspirators barricade themselves within the temple.

Excuse me, I’ve gotten a bit off track from my original topic., back to Michelangelo!

What I’ve come to love about Rome are the subtle nuances that pervade every cornerstone and recess of its ancient culture and architecture. A prime example of this is the Piazza del Campidoglio.

Michelangelo's design for Capitoline Hill, now...

In his prime, he was commissioned by the Farnese Pope Paul III to design a plaza. The Pope wanted a symbol of the new Rome to impress Charles V, who was expected in 1538. Having an opportunity to build such a monumental civic space, granted Michelangelo the opportunity to make a resonating statement reestablishing the grandeur of Rome.  His initial designs for the Piazza date from 1536 and were formidably extensive.

In an emblematic display, he chose to accentuate the reversal of the classic orientation of the Capitoline. Instead, the gesture turned Rome’s civic center away from the ancient Roman Forum  to face the direction of Papal Rome and the Christian church  represented by  St. Peter’s Basilica.

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His made a bold metaphorical statement:

“This full half circle turn can also be seen as Michelangelo’s desire to address the new, developing section of the city rather than the ancient ruins of the past.” ~In the wise words of Wikipedia

I have so much more I want to say about how Michelangelo used his ingenuity to address problems such as a sloped site and the lack of building facades facing each other squarely, however, I will leave that to your research. The structural engineer in me is trying her hardest not to bore you with devious architectural solutions.

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Travel: Roman Ingenuity

I suppose I could have visited these vestiges of Roman Power earlier on during my stay in Rome, but those days were fraught with cloudy skies and doubtful rain. The scenery and the nobility of these shrewdly crafted sprawling complexes is best observed by admiring their height against the deep, blue sky, and pondering the shadows they leave behind. Still standing 2 Millenia later, the longevity of these structures are a testament to the Roman Empire‘s influence and power.

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The word awe-inspiring has certainly been used by me more times on this trip than I can count. In this case, I feel that it is well deserved, although my tender feet may not acknowledge this compliment since the square area that was traipsed across tested their limits.

As you can imagine, the lines to get into these archaeological ruins tend to be lengthy, I ventured there with a girl who was staying at the same hostel as me, unfortunately, it is at the lines that we split up. I had invested in the Roma Card, a visitor pass that allowed me to bypass the lines, and I was simply not eager to bide my time with her.

My first stop was the Roman Forum.

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This complex was located in the center of the city and houses the important government buildings of this ancient civilization. It was the main social environment for its citizens, a square for public speeches, criminal trials, triumphal processions and elections. The venue was used for gladiatorial matches and was the nucleus for the commercial affairs of the city.

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I literally lost more than half my day here! There are so many towering structures and secret little niches that are delicately foiled in bright green moss. It’s definitely not an area that you can rush through, because smelling the air, and envisioning the daily lives of Roman Citizens is a must.  Believe me, my feet were absolutely KILLING me by the end of it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to rush through the subtle nuances of heritage that are exuded with each step. (I think that is a grammatically correct sentence…)