Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cloister Garden and Interior of San Lorenzo, Rome

I am busy scrabbling around trying to finish up a chapter on something I originally worked on in early 2006. I have been flicking through files from that time and thought I should put up some pictures I took in Rome in February, just before a conference where I gave a paper on the topic I am currently writing on. Possibly I should have been in the library instead of wandering around old churches (just like I should now be writing instead of blogging!), but the offer was there to go with a few experts on late Roman and Early Christian antiquity, so I could hardly resist.

A few facts. The church was founded on the burial place of St Lawrence, or San Lorenzo, who was famously 'grilled' to death. A topic favoured by Baroque painters who loved nothing more than a good ole grisly martyrdom. Here is in a painting by Valentin de Boulogne (1621-2, now in the Prado, Madrid). He makes it look easy.

There has been a church on the site since Constantine founded one there in the fourth century. The church was entirely rebuilt by Pope Honorius III in the 13th century to make it more suitable as a site for future coronations of eastern emperors (though shortly after Constantinople was retaken and there was no more of that!) It was restored in the 17th century by Pope Innocent X. It is one of the seven basilicas you would visit if you were to do a pilgrimage to Rome.

The nave. You can see the old granite columns that were salvaged from classical buildings are use as supports along the nave. Very common practice in Rome where so many churches, and other buildings, have bits and pieces of architecture from a huge range of eras. Something I always think of when I hear people spouting off in discussion over retaining 20th century architecture that if you can't keep a whole building there is no historical/cultural value in keeping anything any of the building. Clearly places like this demonstrate the ridiculousness of such theories. They also demonstrate that so many historical buildings struggle to 'fit' a specific historical era.

The throne, the decoration of inlaid stone and gold leaf is known as 'cosmati'. The throne would date to the 12th century, the columns seen behind would be from an ancient Roman building.

The pulpit.

The cloister garden, most large basilicas have these spaces, always worth seeking out.

Fragments of ancient inscriptions, columns and stonework set into the walls.

More columns, notice how the one closest and slightly cut out of the picture has a completely different base, a sign that the columns have been mostly salvaged from older buildings.
The garden, simple yet effective. Generally these gardens were (and are) used to grow vegetables and herbs that are used by the monks.

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