Medieval Rome (or: Rome is a Medieval City)

Medieval portico of Casa Bonadies in piazza del Ponte. Reused Roman columns and medieval capitals.

Medieval portico of Casa Bonadies in piazza di Ponte S. Angelo. Recycled Roman column and frieze; medieval Ionic capital.

Rome, for me, is a medieval city. We all have our own interfaces of Rome, depending on who we are, what interests us, what we like, what we dislike, what we study or work with, what we find beautiful or not, or simply because someone taught us to. For some, Rome is the Roma aeterna or Roma aurea of Roman antiquity; for some, it is a baroque theatre clad in bright colours or a symmetrical Renaissance work of art. For some, it is the 20th century film, poverty and cruelty in black-and-white, with a backdrop of anonymous blocks of flats, and for some, it is the everyday alleys of Alberto Moravia’s Racconti romani or Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Monteverde boulevards bordered by cherry trees. But for me, Rome is in its essence medieval. Probably, this has something to do with my research field,  medieval epigraphy, and other various projects of mine with medieval focus: it began, during my PhD studies, with searching for 12th and 13th century Latin inscriptions, something which led me into looking for any medieval bell-tower which signalled a church from this period, and now, when I am trying to find my way along the medieval itineraries of the Einsiedeln manuscript, every medieval portico, tower or column tells me that I am on the right way. Funny enough, it turns out, now that I am looking into it, that almost all the streets I always loved the most in Rome are medieval. And if they are medieval, there most certainly is an antique structure underneath: either a road, or a monument, which has drawn up the outlines for the medieval constructions. And this is what I like about medieval Rome: how it re-interprets the Roman city, reuses it, re-scales it down to human measures; how antique ornaments are mixed up and cut to pieces to be combined in new ways for the sake of embellishing façades and interiors; how vineyards and cattle fields replace forums and baths. The creativity, the contrasts and the cut-up technique, the phoenix character, the transformation: medieval Rome has all this to offer, and it is there, everywhere, if you take the time to look after it. I hope that the itineraries of this blog will open your eyes for it, too.

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