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Rome, Architecture, Christian Era

ROME, ARCHITECTURE, CHRISTIAN ERA From the 4th to the 12th Century The era of church building in Rome may be said to begin with the reign of Constantine and the peace of the church. Before then Christian worship was conducted with various degrees of secrecy either in private houses or in the catacombs (q.t>.), according as the reigning emperor viewed the sect with tolerance or dislike. The type of church which in the beginning of the 4th century was adopted with certain modifications from the pagan basilica, though varying much in size, had little or no variety in its general form and arrangement. One fixed model was strictly adhered to for many centuries, and, in spite of numberless alterations and additions, can be traced in nearly all the ancient churches of Rome. It is fully described and illustrated in the article BASILICA.

The walls of these early churches were mostly built of concrete, faced with brick, left structurally quite plain, and decorated only _ with painted stucco or glass mosaics especially (intern- ally) in the apse and on the face of its arch, and (externally) on the east or entrance wall, the top of which was often built in an overhanging curve to keep off the rain. The windows were plain, with semicircular arches, and were filled with pierced marble screens, or in some cases with slabs of translucent alabaster; the latter was the case at S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura, and examples of the former still exist in the very early church formed in the rooms of some thermae on the Esquiline (possibly those of Trajan), below the 6th-century church of S. Martino ai Monti. Almost the only bit of external architectural ornament was the eaves cornice, frequently (as at the last-named church) formed of marble cornices stolen from earlier classical buildings. Internally the nave columns, with their capitals and bases, were usually taken from some classical building, and some churches are perfect museums of fine sculptured caps and rich marble shafts of every material and design. 1 At first the nave had no arches, the columns supporting a horizontal entablature, as in old St Peter's, S. Clemente, and S. Maria Maggiore, but afterwards, in order to widen the intercolumniation, simple round arches of narrow span were introduced, thus requiring fewer columns. The roof was of the simple tie-beam and kingpost construction, left open, but decorated with painting or metal plates. The floor was paved either with coarse mosaic of large tesserae (as at S. Pudentiana) or with slabs of marble stripped from ancient buildings. A later development of this plan added a small apse containing an altar at the end of each aisle, as in S. Maria in Cosmedin and S. Pietro in Vincoli. 2 The type of church above described was used as a model for by far the majority of early churches not only in Rome, but also in ,.. . England, France, Germany, and other Western countries.

churches Another form was, however, occasionally used in Rome, which appears to have been derived from the round temple of pagan times. This is a circular building, usually domed and surrounded with one or more rings of pillared aisles. To this class belong the combined church and mausoleum of Costanza (see fig. 14) and that of SS. Marcellinus and Petrus, both built by Constantine, the former to hold the tomb of his daughters Constantia (or Constantina) and Helena, the latter that of his mother Helena. The latter is on the Via Labicana, about 2 m. outside Rome; it is a circular domed building, now known as the Torre Pignattara, from the pignatte or amphorae built into the concrete dome to lighten it. The mausoleum of S. Costanza, close by S. Agnese fuori, is also domed, with circular aisle, or rather ambulatory, the vault of the latter decorated with mosaic of classical style (see MOSAIC, vol. xviii. p. 885). The red porphyry sarcophagi, sculptured richly with reliefs, from these mausolea are now in the Vatican. On a much larger scale is the church of S. Stefano Rotondo on the Coelian, built by Pope Simplicius (468-482), with a double ring of pillared aisles, the outer one of which was pulled down and a new enclosure wall built by Nicholas V. Other round churches are S. Teodoro (by the Vicus Tuscus), restored in the 8th century, and S. Bernardo, which 1 S. Lorenzo and S. Agnese fuori, S. Maria in Trastevere, Ara Coeli, and numberless other churches are very rich in this respect.

J See Heinrich Holtzinger, Die altchristliche Architectur (Stuttgart, 1889-99); Dehio and von Bezold, Die kirchliche Baukunst des Abendlandes (Stuttgart, 1884-99).

is one of the domed halls of Diocletian's thermae, consecrated as a church in 1598.

Space will not allow any individual description of the very numerous and important churches in Rome which are built on the basilican plan. The principal examples are these: S. Pudentiana, traditionally the oldest in Rome, restored in 398 ; S. Clemente, restored under Siricius (384-399), now forming the crypt of an upper church built in the 12th century; S. Sabina, 5th century; S. Vitale, sth century, founded by Innocent I. (401-417); S. Martino ai Monti, c. 500; S. Balbina, 6th century; church of Ara Coeli, founded by Gregory the Great (590-604) as S. Maria in Capitolio; S. Giorgio in Velabro, rebuilt by Leo II. (682-683); S. Cesareo, 8th century; S. Maria in Via Lata, restored by Sergius I. (687-701); S. Crisogono, rebuilt in 731 by Gregory III.; ^~ S. Maria in Cosmedin; S. FIG. Pietro in Vincoli, and S. Giovanni ad Portam Latinam, rebuilt c. 772 by Adrian I.; S. Maria in Dominica, rebuilt by Paschal I. (817-824), who 1zz 4. Church and Mausoleum of Costanza. A, Recess for altar. B, Porphyry slab in floor where the tomb stood. C, Modern altar. D, D, Slabs of white marble, part of ancient paving. E, E, Recesses with mosaics. F, F, Ambulatory with mosaic vault.

also rebuilt S. Cecilia m Trastevere and S. Prassede; S. Marco, rebuilt by Gregory IV. in 833; S. Maria Nuova, rebuilt by Nicholas I. (858-867), now called S. Francesca Romana; the church of the SS. Quattro Coronati, rebuilt by Paschal II. about 1113; and S. Maria in Trastevere, rebuilt by Innocent II. in 1130.* Though the apses and classical columns of the naves in these churches were built at the dates indicated, yet in many cases it is difficult to trace the existence of the ancient walls; the alterations and additions of many centuries have frequently almost wholly concealed the original structure. Except at S. Clemente, the early choir, placed as shown in fig. 26, has invariably been destroyed ; the side walls have often been broken through by the addition of rows of chapels; and the whole church, both within and without, has been overlaid with the most incongruous architectural features in stucco or stone. The open roof is usually concealed either by a wooden panelled ceiling or by a stucco vault. The throne * and marble benches in the apse have usually given place to more modern wooden fittings, to suit the later position of the choir, which has always been transferred from the nave to the apse. In many cases the mosaics of the apse and the columns of the nave are the only visible remains of the once simple and stately original church.' From 1200 to 1450; and the Papal Palaces The loth and nth centuries in Rome were extraordinarily barren in the production of all branches of the fine arts, even that of architecture; and it was not till the end of the 12th that any important revival began. The 13th cbs/natf. " century was, however, one of great artistic activity, when an immense number of beautiful works, especially in marble enriched with mosaic, were produced in Rome. This revival, though on different lines, was very similar to the rather later one which took place at Pisa (see PISANO), and, like that, was in great part due to the great artistic talents of one family, the Cosmati, 6 which, for four or five generations, produced skilful architects, sculptors and mosaicists.

8 This list does not include the great basilicas of Rome, for which see BASILICA. On the churches of Rome see Armellini, Le chiese di Roma (2nd ed. 1891) ; Tuker and Malleson, Handbook to Christian and Ecclesiastical Rome (1900); Marucchi, Basiliques el eglises de Rome (1902); Frothingham, Monuments of Christian Rome (1910).

4 Some of these marble thrones which still exist are very interesting relics of Hellenic art, much resembling the existing seats in the theatre of Dionysius at Athens. Examples of these thrones exist at S. Pietro in Vincoli, S. Stefano Rotondo, and in the Lateran cloister.

6 The interior of S. Maria in Cosmedin has in recent years been restored according to primitive tradition.

6 On the Cosmati see Boito, Architettura del Media Evo (Milan, 1880, pp. 117-182); Clausse, Les Marbriers remains et le mobilier presbyteral (Paris, 1897) ; Crowe and Cavalcaselle, History of Painting in Italy (ed. Douglas, 1903), ch. iii.

The first member of the family of whom we have knowledge was Lorenzo, who, with his son Jacopo, made the ambones of S. Maria in Ara Coeli and an altar-canopy (ciborium) in SS. Apostoli. Jacopo decorated the door of S. Saba in 1205 and, together with his son Cosma (who gave his name to the family), that of S. Tommaso in Formis; the father and son worked together at Civita Castellana in 1210. Cosma made a ciborium for SS. Giovanni e Paolo in 1235, and worked with his sons Luca and Jacopo at Anagni and Subiaco during the first half of the 13th century. So far the inscriptions enable us to trace the relationships of the Cosmati with certainty ; it is not so clear whether the Cosma above mentioned is to be identified with the master who decorated the chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum belonging to the old Lateran palace which was rebuilt by Nicholas III. (1277-1280). This Cosma was, however, almost certainly the father of Giovanni, the last of the family, who made the tombs of Cardinal Durand (died 1299) in S. Maria sopra Minerva, Cardinal Rodriguez in S. Maria Maggiore, and Stefano de' Surdi in S. Balbina. Another artist who seems to have belonged to this family, Deodato, made the ciboria of S. Maria in Cosmedin and (probably) of S. John Lateran; he is probably identical with the Deodatus Jilius Cosmati who, together with another Jacopo, executed a pavement at S. Jacopo alia Lungara. A large number of other works of this school, but unsigned, exist in Rome. These are mainly altars and baldacchini, choir-screens, paschal candlesticks, ambones, tombs, and the like, all enriched with sculpture and glass mosaic of great brilliance and decorative effect.

Besides the more mechanical sort of work, such as mosaic patterns and architectural decoration, they also produced mosaic pictures and sculpture of very high merit, especially the recumbent effigies, with angels standing at the head and foot, in the tombs of Ara Coeli, S. Maria Maggiore, and elsewhere. One of their finest works is in S. Cesareo; this is a marble altar richly decorated with mosaic in sculptured panels, and (below) two angels drawing back a curtain (all in marble) so as to expose the open grating of the confessio.

Besides the Cosmati, other artists, such as Paulus Rpmanus and his sons in the 12th century, and Petrus Vassallectus in the 13th, contributed to the revival of art. The beautiful cloisters of S. Paolo fuori le Mura, begun by " Magister Petrus," and those of S. John Lateran, the work of Vassallectus, are the finest architectural works of this school. In the latter part of the 13th century we find the sculptor Arnolfo del Cambio at work in Rome. His altarcanopy at S. Paolo fuori le Mura (1285) seems to have been imitated by the Cosmati in their latest works; his tomb of Cardinal de Braye (d. 1282) at Orvieto also shows his intimate connexion with that school. Another artist of the same period, Petrus Oderisius, worked in England; the shrine of the Confessor at Westminster (1269) was made by him.

The earlier works of the Cosmati are Romanesque in style, but in the 13th century Gothic elements were introduced, especially in the elaborate altar-canopies, with their geometrical tracery. In detail, however, they differ widely from the purer Gothic of northern countries. The richness of effect which the English or French architect obtained by elaborate and carefully worked mouldings was produced in Italy by the beauty of polished marbles and jewellike mosaics, the details being mostly rather coarse and often carelessly executed.

Chiefly to the 13th century belong the large number of beautiful tampanili, which are the most conspicuous relics of the medieval period in Rome. The finest of these are attached to the churches of S. Francesca Romana, SS. Giovanni e Paolo, and S. Maria Maggiore. Others belong to the basilicas of S. Lorenzo fuori and S. Croce in Gerusalemme, and to S. Giorgio in Velabro, S. Maria in Cosmedin, S. Alessio, S. Giovanni ad Portam Latinam, S. Cecilia, S. Crisogono, and S. Pudentiana. They occupy various positions with regard to the church, being all later additions; that of SS. Giovanni e Paolo stands at some distance from it. In design they are very similar, consisting of many stages, divided by brick and marble cornices; in the upper storeys are from two to four windows on each side, with round arches supported on slender marble columns. They are decorated with brilliantly coloured ciotole or disks of earthenware, enamelled and painted in green or turquoise blue, among the earliest existing specimens of the so-called majolica (see CERAMICS). Sometimes disks or crosses made of red or green porphyry are inlaid in the walls. In most cases on one face of the top storey is a projecting canopied niche, which once contained a statue or mosaic picture. The walls are built of fine neat brickwork. The largest and once the handsomest of all, that of S. Maria Maggiore, has string-courses of enamelled and coloured terra-cotta. 1 The slender columns of the windows 1 This campanile was restored and enriched in 1376.


have often proved insufficient to support the weight, and so many of the arches are built up. 2 Though but little used for churches, the Gothic style, in its modified Italian form, was almost universally employed for domestic architecture in Rome during the 13th and Domestic 14th centuries. Tufa* or brick was used for the anhltecmain walls, the lowest storey being often supported ture ' on an arcade of pointed arches and marble columns. The windows were usually formed of large marble slabs with trefoilshaped heads or cusped arches. As a rule the upper storeys projected slightly over the lower wall, and were supported on small ornamental machicolations. The top storey frequently had an open loggia, with rows of pointed arches. When vaulting was used it also was of the pointed form, usually in simple quadripartite bays, with slightly moulded groin-ribs. The finest existing specimen of this style is the palace built about 1300 by Boniface VIII. (Benedetto Gaetani), enclosing the tomb of Cecilia Metella on the Via Appia, with a graceful little chapel within the precincts of the castle. This building is well worthy of study; the remaining part is well preserved. Many houses of this period, though generally much injured by alterations, still exist in Rome. They are mostly in out-of-the-way alleys, and, not being mentioned in any books, are seldom examined. The Ghetto (now destroyed) and the quarter near the Ponte Rotto contained many of these interesting buildings, as well as some of the most crowded parts of the Trastevere district, but most have disappeared owing to the wholesale destruction of old streets. Among those which may possibly escape for a while is the 13th-century house where Giulio Romano lived, near the Palazzo di Venezia, and the Albergo del Orso, at the end of the Via di Tordinona, of the same period, which was an inn in the 16th century and is one still; this has remains of a fine upper loggia, with rich cornices in moulded terra-cotta; the lowest storey has pointed vaulting resting on many pillars. Another graceful but less stately house exists, though sadly mutilated, opposite the entrance to the atrium of S. Cecilia in Trastevere. 4 Few now remain of the once numerous lofty towers built by the turbulent Roman barons for purposes of defence. The finest, the Torre delle Milizie on the Viminal, was built in the 13th century by the sons of Petrus Alexius; of about the same date is the Torre dei Conti, near the forum of Augustus, built by Marchione of Arezzo; both these were once much higher than they are now; they are very simple and noble in design, with massive walls faced with neat brickwork.

Till the 14th century the Lateran was the usual residence of the pope; this was once a very extensive building, covering four times its present area. The original house is said to have belonged to the senator Plautius Lateranus in p a i ace , the reign of Nero; but the existing part on the line of the Aurelian wall is of the 3rd century. This house, which had become the property of the emperors, was given by Constantine as a residence for S. Sylvester; it was very much enlarged at many periods during the next ten centuries; in 1308 a great part was burnt, and in 1586 the ancient palace was completely destroyed by Sixtus V., and the present palace built by Domenico Fontana. The Cappella Sancta Sanctorum (see list of Cosmati works) is the only relic of the older palace. 5 2 See De Montault, Les Cloches de Rome (Arras, 1874).

"For many centuries wall-facing of small tufa stones was used, e.g. in the medieval part of the Capitol; this was called "opera saracinesca " from its supposed adoption from the Saracens; it is fargely employed in the walls and towers of the Leonine city, built by Leo IV. (847-855) to defend the Vatican basilica and palace against the inroads of the Moslem invaders. The greater part of this wall is now destroyed and built over, but a long piece with massive circular towers well preserved exists in the gardens of the Vatican.

4 The house of Crescentius, popularly called the " house of Rienzi," near the Ponte Rotto, is perhaps the sole relic of the domestic architecture of an earlier period the 12th century. Its architectural decorations are an extraordinary mixture of marble fragments of the most miscellaneoussort, all taken from classical buildings; it has an inscription over the doorway, from which we learn that it was the property of " Crescentius, son of Nicolaus."

6 See Rohault de Fleury, Le Latran au moyen dge (Paris, 1877).

The present palace has never been used as a papal residence; in the 18th century it was an orphan asylum, and is now a museum of classical sculpture and early Christian remains.

The Vatican palace originated in a residence built by Symmachus (498-514) adjoining the basilica of S. Peter. This was rebuilt by Innocent III. (c. 1200) and enlarged by Vatican. Nicholas III. (1277-80). It did not, however, become the fixed residence of the popes till after the return from Avignon in 1377. In 1415 John XXIII. connected the Vatican and the castle of S. Angelo by a covered passage carried on arches. But little of the existing palace is older than the 15th century; Nicholas V. in 1447 began its reconstruction on a magnificent scale, and this was carried on by Sixtus IV. (Sistine chapel), Alexander VI. (Torre Borgia), Julius II. and Leo X. (Bramante's cortile and Raphael's Loggie and Stanze), and Paul III. (Sala Regia and Cappella Paolina by Antonio da Sangallo). Sixtus V. and his successors built the lofty part of the palace on the east of Bramante's cortile. The Scala Regia was built by Bernini for Urban VIII. and Alexander VII., the Museo Pio-Clementino under Clement XIV. and Pius VI., the Braccio Nuovo under Pius VII., and lastly the grand stairs up to the cortile were added by Pius IX. 1 The Quirinal palace, now occupied by the king of Italy, is devoid of architectural merit. It stands on the highest part of the hill, near the site of the baths of Constantine. Oulrtnal This palace was begun in 1574, under Gregory XIII., by Flaminio Ponzio, and was completed by Fontana and Maderna under subsequent popes.

The only important church in Rome which is wholly Gothic in style is S. Maria sopra Minerva, the chief church of the Dominican p l l order. This was not the work of a Roman architect, but was designed by two Dominican friars from Florence Fra Ristpri and Fra Sisto about 1289, who were also the architects of their own church of S. Maria Novella. It much resembles the contemporary churches of the same order in Florence, having wide-spanned pointed arches on clustered piers and simple quadripartite vaulting. Its details resemble the early French in character. 2 It contains a large number of fine tombs; among them that of Durandus, bishop of Mende (the author of the celebrated Rationale divinorum officiorum), by Giovanni Cosma, c. 1300, and the tomb of Fra Angelico, the great Dominican painter, who died in Rome, 1455. The most elaborate specimen of ecclesiastical Gothic in Rome is that part of S. Maria in Ara Coeli which was rebuilt about 1300, probably by one of the Cosmati, namely, the south aisle and transept. During the 14th century (chiefly owing to the absence of the popes at Avignon) the arts were neglected at Rome, and a period of decadence set in. The sculptured effigy and reredos of Cardinal d'Alengon (d. 1403) in S. Maria in Trastevere, executed by a certain Paulus Romanus, is a fair example of the works produced during this period ; the effigy is a very clumsy and feeble copy of the fine recumbent figures of the Cosmati.

Florentine Period, c. 1450-1550.

The long period of almost complete artistic inactivity in Rome was broken in the 15th century by the introduction of a number of foreign artists, chiefly Florentines, who during this and the succeeding century enriched Rome with an immense number of magnificent works of art. The dawn of this brilliant epoch may be said to have begun with the arrival of Fra Angelico (see FIESOLE) in 1447, invited by Nicholas V. to paint the walls of his small private chapel in the Vatican dedicated to S. Lorenzo.

In the latter half of the 15th century a large number of sculptured tombs (as well as tabernacles, altar frontals, rereFiorea- doses and the like) were made for Roman churches by tine ana sculptors from Tuscany and north Italy. The earliest Lombard o f these tombs is that of Eugenius IV. (d. 1447) in S. Salvatore in Lauro, by Isaia da Pisa. It presents the typical form of a life-sized recumbent effigy resting on a richly ornamented sarcophagus over which is a canopy decorated with reliefs and statuettes. The type was brought to perfection by the Florentine Mino da Fiesole (see MINO DI GIOVANNI), 1 See Letarouilly, Le Vatican et le basilique de St Pierre A Rome (Paris, 1882).

2 The absence of a triforium is one of the chief reasons why the large Gothic churches of Italy are so inferior in effect to the cathedrals of France and England.

who worked in Rome under Pius II. and succeeding popes, being assisted in some cases by another artist of almost equal skill, Giovanni Dalmata. A Lombard sculptor, Andrea Bregno, came to Rome under Paul II. and worked there until the closing years of the century; his tomb is in S. Maria Sopra Minerva. The works of these artists and their followers are to be found in a great number of churches, notably S. Maria del Popolo.* The architecture no less than the sculpture of the latter part of the 15th century was mainly the work of Florentines, especially of Baccio Pontelli, who is said by Vasari to have built S. Maria del Popolo, S. Agostino, 4 and S. Cosimato in Trastevere. He also was the architect of S. Pietro in Montorio, erected in 1500 for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Other buildings were carried out by another Florentine, Giuliano da Majano. The Palazzo di Venezia, begun for Cardinal Barbo, afterwards Paul II., about 1455, a very massive and stately building of medieval character, was built by Giuliano da Sangallo and Francesco di Borgo San Sepolcro.

During the latter part of the i5th and the first few years of the succeeding century Rome was enriched with a number of buildings by Bramante (q.v.), one of the greatest architects the world has ever seen. He combined the delicacy of detail and the graceful lightness- of the Gothic style with the maate. measured stateliness and rhythmical proportions of classic architecture. Though he invariably used the round arch and took his mouldings from antique sources, his beautiful cloisters and loggie are Gothic in their general conception. Moreover, he never committed the prevalent blunder of the 16th century, which was a fruitless attempt to obtain magnificence by mere size in a building, without multiplying its parts. His principal works in Rome are the Palazzo della Cancelleria, built for Cardinal Riario' (1495-1505), with its stately church of S. Lorenzo in Damaso; the so-called Palazzo di Bramante in the Governo Vecchio, built in 1500; and the Palazzo Giraud, near St Peter's, once the residence of Cardinal Wolsey, * built in 1503. He also built the cortile of S. Damaso in the Vatican, the toy-like tempietto in the cloister of S. Pietro in Montorio (1502), and the cloisters of S. Maria della Pace (1504).' In 1503 Bramante was appointed architect to St Peter's, and made complete designs for it, with a plan in the form of a Greek cross. The piers and arches of the central dome were the only parts completed at the time of his death in 1514, and subsequent architects did not carry out his design.* Baldassare Peruzzi (g.i>.) of Siena was one of the most talented architects of the first part of the 16th century; the Villa Farnesina and the Palazzo Massimi alle Colonne are from his designs. Peruzzi. His later works bear traces of that decadence in taste which so soon began, owing mainly to the rapidly growing love for the dull magnificence of the pseudo-classic style. This falling off in architectural taste was due to Michelangelo (q.v.) more than to any other one man. His cortile of the Farnese palace, though a work of much stately beauty, was one of the first stages towards that lifeless scholasticism and blind following of antique forms which were the destruction of architecture as a real living art, and in the succeeding century produced so much that is almost brutal in its coarseness and neglect of all true canons of proportion and scale. During the earlier stage, however, of this decadence, and throughout the 16th century, a large number of fine palaces and churches were built in and near Rome by various able artists, such as the Villa Madama by Raphael, part of the Palazzo Farnese by Antonio da Sangallo the younger, S. Giovanni de' Fiorentini by J. Sansovino, and many others. 7 (J. H. M.; H. S. J.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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