Essays for the 2010 Trip to Rome    


Fr. Gregory Gresko, OSB
The Disk of Porphyry and the Imperial Coronation of Charlemagne

In November 800, Charles arrived in Rome with the purpose of investigating allegations against both Leo III’s behavior as pope and also the physical attacks that had transpired against the Roman Pontiff by a gang hired by Hadrian’s nephews in April 799.  The pope exonerated himself of all charges on December 23 by way of an oath of compurgation, which he professed to the satisfaction of all parties involved.  At a Christmas evening Mass that year, as Charles either arose from his prayers or came from the tomb of St. Peter, Leo III placed a crown on Charles’ head.  The Frankish king was standing upon a disk of red porphyry in front of the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, which at that time constituted the edifice that had been constructed by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century.  Upon this crowning during an oriental-rite liturgy, the Roman clerics and people claimed him to be Augustus, or emperor, by way of a revised and lengthened rendition of the imperial laudes.  Pope Leo III then made the eastern sign of reverence, the proskynesis, by laying down prostrate in front of Charles, and in this manner, Charles became emperor of the western empire.

While western Medieval scholars have attributed the eastern role of Constantinople in the coronation event to that more of ritual, other Byzantine researchers have conjectured that possibly Empress Irene of Constantinople might have been responsible for the whole event all along.    Judith Herrin, in her book The Formation of Christendom, counters this theory by asserting that the empress would have had no desire to share her power with anyone, including ideas of seeking an alliance with Charles as part of any plan to revive the western empire.  Herrin maintains that a likely explanation of Charles’ coronation might rest in a combination of other Western factors.  In the curia of Pope Leo III; in Charles’ court; in the monastic and episcopal libraries of Alcuin, Paulinus, and Theodulf; and in the thoughts of many of the participants, it seems that some pressure had been mounting for Charles to enjoy increased recognition of status.  Regardless of some level of planning, Leo III and the monarch might not have been in total agreement about the exact nature of the coronation ceremony.  According to Herrin, we can be certain that the Mass of 25 December 800 did not involve any official Byzantine ritual of coronation; different interpretative accounts are preserved related to the event, regarding Leo in the Liber pontificalis, and concerning Charles in the Royal Frankish Annals.

The coronation ceremony accentuated the increasing rivalry between East and West.  Charles’ behavior at the Synod of Frankfurt (with its more universal character), and the more practical results of Charles’ responsibility as guardian of the Faith, brought to light Aachen’s more directive strength in western orthodoxy.  Charles’ political pursuits, Church responsibilities, and religious beliefs together had the tendency to highlight greater rivalry between East and West rather than to demonstrate accommodation of East by West.  Aachen would come to be constructed as a “Second Rome” in such a manner as to exemplify such an attitude.  Although some of Charles’ territories reflected the provinces of the ancient Roman Empire in the West, they did not include Spain, North Africa, the British Isles, Sicily, Dalmatia, or southern Italy; thus, the Holy Roman Empire served more as an imaginary rather than a de facto reconstruction of ancient Roman rule.  With the extension of the majority of Christian administration to numerous areas of Europe before 800, it had been held that Charles merited a title greater than that of a monarch, and with the concurrent reality of his power over the Carolingian kingdoms seeming to have more of an imperial atmosphere, the according of a new status seems to have been inevitable.  Consequently, the name of Emperor appeared more aptly to reflect superior rule over what had become truly an Empire.

In light of this general atmosphere, Leo III had appealed to Charles in 799 about the duty of the monarch to protect the Holy See, lying in the fact of Charles’ rights within Rome as patricius Romanorum.  Such a plea by Leo to Charles had given the Frankish king the chance to demonstrate his authority in a way not finding its source in military victory.  Charles’ power as patricius Romanorum had been accepted by all parties who had been involved in accusations against the pope concerning the quite serious offenses of stock crimes, adultery, and perjury.   In the Paderborn epic, likely written by Einhard in the early 800s, Charles appeared willing to help Leo return from his refuge there, back to Rome as its bishop, in a manner seemingly connected to Leo’s desire to proclaim Charles emperor.

The coronation on Christmas Day in particular reflected Charles’ desire to celebrate in person the 800th anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ in Rome.  It seems, from all surviving sources, that Charles’ welcome at Rome had been arranged, along with his visit to St. Peter’s and entrance into Rome at that time.  The Coronation of Charles as emperor entailed special preparations that consequent would have additional, extensive ramifications to those aforementioned, including the condemnation to death of Hadrian’s nephew (later commuted by Leo to imprisonment and exile in Francia), Charles’ new imperial stature in official papal documents, minting of coins in Charles’ name that also contained the papal monogram, precedence of the emperor’s name over that of the pope in official acclamations and prayers, and primacy of place of the imperial portrait.  These rights held traditionally by eastern rulers had been redirected without hesitancy to the new western emperor, reflecting the clear goal of Leo III to reestablish the previously held spiritual relationship of cooperation between emperor and pope as modeled by Pope Sylvester and the Emperor Constantine, and leading to Leo’s enjoyment of more prominent authority as Bishop of Rome.

Bibliography:  Herrin, Judith. 1987. The Formation of Christendom. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton
University Press, 454-62.


Fr. Gregory Gresko, OSB
The Mission of the Roman Church to the Anglo-Saxons: Gregory the Great and Augustine of Canterbury

Two people mark in particular the great mission of the Church of Rome to the Anglo-Saxon people of the British Isles:  Gregory the Great, and Augustine of Canterbury.  History notes well that one of Gregory the Great’s most notable achievements as Roman Pontiff was his significant papal influence abroad, especially in the highly successful mission of Augustine to Canterbury.  Gregory gave specific instructions for Augustine and the monks to follow as they led the papal missionary effort to Kent.  Queen Bertha, who was the daughter of Charibert of Paris, had introduced Christian worship to the Anglo-Saxons prior to their arrival in the British Isles, however the Frankish bishop in charge of winning converts in the territory had not enjoyed any notable success.   After Pope Gregory the Great had sent Augustine and these 40 monks on their mission to the Anglo-Saxons, from the pallia niche of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in 597, they arrived at Thanet and proceeded in solemn procession, chanting the Roman litany and carrying an icon of Christ and silver cross, to meet King Ethelbert.  By means of Frankish interpreters, the missionaries enunciated the purpose of their visit:  To proclaim the Gospel by promising the kingdom of heaven to all who would believe and follow Jesus Christ.  Augustine and his monks were prepared to argue persuasively concerning the superiority of Christianity over local pagan religions, however the Saxon leader became convinced more by example of the Truth they proclaimed. 

Ethelbert received the sacrament of Baptism on Whitsunday 597, and by that Christmas, a large number of Anglo-Saxons came to be converted to the Christian Faith.  Consequently, Augustine contacted the pope to inquire about how best to establish the particular church of the new diocese, appoint and consecrate suffragan bishops, and formulate ritual for use in the English churches.  In response, Gregory sent additional missionaries, including monks who would become the first bishops of London, Rochester, and York, and the abbot of St. Augustine’s monastery at Canterbury.  These new arrivals also brought with them liturgical vestments and vessels, relics, gifts, ornaments, service books, and letters for the king and queen.    The pope also instituted Augustine with the pallium of his office as well as three letters of particular import:  1) Answers to Augustine’s questions (known as the Responsa); 2) an overview of how to develop the church under his supreme pontifical authority; and, 3) personal correspondence regarding Augustine’s supposed power to carry out the working of miracles, with a reminder that God was the true One acting through Augustine to carry out these awe-inspiring miracles. 

By way of the first two letters, the Roman Pontiff communicated that he was able as pope to tolerate and adapt to non-Roman customs, even telling Augustine that he should choose rites from any church provided that they could serve as a liturgy suitable for the English.    Consequently, Augustine was able to blend aspects of the Gallican rite familiar to Queen Bertha along with his own Roman and eastern traditions; no single ritual was ruled as superior liturgically for the new diocese.  Gregory evidently was not aware, though, of the various Celtic influences used in services throughout western England, and parts of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.  Augustine encountered his greatest pastoral problems amongst these churches, which had their own monk-bishops, forms of worship, and monastic houses.   Although Augustine sought to compromise with the local ecclesiastic authorities, Gregory’s detailed instructions, which included the Pontiff’s expressed designation of Augustine as supreme authority over the entire Christian community on the British Isles and over even the bishops of England, made it difficult for Augustine to work with the stubborn authorities of the Celtic lands.

Pope Gregory, in a letter to Mellitus, the first bishop of London, changed his position regarding heathen temples.  Instead of having them destroyed, Gregory called for a purification of the edifices and their subsequent conversion into Christian church buildings.   The pope sought to be pastoral towards the Anglo-Saxon peoples in encouraging this gradual approach, hoping that it would help the local peoples to convert more easily and fully to the Catholic faith by way of their usage of previously pagan structures.  Gregory certainly mandated the destruction of idols, however any animal sacrifices of the pagan rites were to be transformed into a church feast that would recognize the feast day of the martyr whose relics were present to consecrate the new church building.  Gregory held that Christian liturgies could be held in these buildings after they had been restructured to have an altar for Mass and relics, and upon the sprinkling of consecrated water throughout the edifice.  Although he had allowed the free choice of appropriate texts to formulate the rite of worship to be used, his sending Augustine and his fellow monks in this important mission to the British Isles also enabled some degree of Roman influence to be secured.  Consequently, monastic learning and discipline were able to spread and develop further among the Anglo-Saxons.
Gregory the Great also secured successfully the secular protection of King Ethelbert for the Church of the British Isles, leading that church and its royal supporters to have a notably strong allegiance to the Roman Pontiff and the Holy See.  Augustine failed, though,  in 602-603 to resolve his problems with the Celtic monks regarding his maintainance of the more ancient Roman tradition versus that of the Irish.  However, at the Synod of Whitby in 664, King Oswy of Northumbria agreed to take upon himself his wife’s Roman customs, leading the Irish monks of Lindisfarne to depart from the king along with their Ionan tradition, and thus finally leading even the furthermost lands of Europe to submit to the Holy See.

Bibliography:  Herrin, Judith. 1987. The Formation of Christendom. Princeton, NJ, USA:
Princeton University Press, 162-269.


 A.J. Discepolo
The Necropolis

The Necropolis Scavi or “city of the dead” in Latin refers to the tomb located under St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.  The Necropolis is one of the suspected burial places of St. Peter. The Necropolis was used as a large grave site in the time of the roman emperor Nero full name Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus near the Circus of Nero. The Vatican sponsored first excavation started in 1940 – 1943, which revealed only a small part of the Necropolis. The Vatican has been conducting Archaeological research in the Necropolis since it excavation in 1940. Recently while trying to build and underground parking garage in 2003 the builder accidentally unearthed another portion of the Necropolis where the proposed parking garage was to be built. Visits to the Necropolis are restricted in size and overall only two-hundred visitors may enter daily, the restrictions were set by the Archaeologists to attempt to preserve the Necropolis as well as possible. 
The word Necropolis derives from the Greek polis which means city and kekro,“of the dead”. The Necropolis was in direct proximity to Nero’s Circus where the Christians were persecuted during Nero’s reign as emperor. Artifacts found in the Necropolis have been dated back to Imperial Roman times. The tomb of Julii or the “Mausoleum M” which has mosaics depicting various bible scenes including Johna and the whale, the Good Shepard carrying a lamb on his back, and the fishermen. As this reiterates the Necropolis has played a prominent role in history.  
One reason the Necropolis is known for is that it is the presumed burial place of St. Peter the Apostle. During Imperial times when Nero’s Circus was still being used to martyr Christians the Necropolis was one of the closest burial sites that a majority of the martyrs were buried in. Also, during the early excavations many pagan tombs were found in the Necropolis. Pope Pius XI had the excavation started because he wanted to be buried as close a he could to St. Peter. St. Peter’s tomb lies directly below the High Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica. During the first excavation of the necropolis, Monsignor Ludwig Kaas, the administrator of St. Peter’s had St. Peter’s remains moved secretly for safe keeping. After , Monsignor Ludwig Kaas’s death Professor Margherita Guarducci discovered the remains by chance and after proving that they were the remains of a man in his sixties reported it to Pope Paul VI and on June 26, 1968 he announced that the remains of St. Peter had been located in the Necropolis.

The first excavations started in 1942 and continue today under strict archaeological observation. In 1942 remains were found behind the “Red Wall” along with the bones of various farm animals. Though the remains had once been moved to an undisclosed location they are fairly certain that the original resting place of St. Peter the Apostle.  Though today the excavations are done under careful supervision of archaeologists it was not always that way in fact when St. Peters remains were moved by Monsignor Ludwig Kaas no archaeologists had any say in where or how the remains should be kept for preservation purposes. Often during the attempted construction the security guards stopped trucks loaded with dir, remains, and tombstones inscribed with Latin.  Archaeologist and Professor Andrea Carandini, who led the archaeological excavations on Palatine Hill ( the mythical birth place of Rome, started by Romulus) is quoted as saying "I don't believe that death should always triumph over life. Sometimes the two can live together, as is the case for the Athens metro.” Archaeological work is still going on in the Necropolis and because of that no more than two-hundred visitors may enter a day and the group sizes are limited to around fifteen per language group. No recording equipment is allowed in the Necropolis flash or not.

The Necropolis is one of the most history rich and important historical sites in the world. The fact that St. Peter was originally buried there is on of the most important facts that can be stated about the Necropolis Scavi but also that many Christian martyrs were buried there during the times of the Roman persecution of the Christians. I believe that the Necropolis is one of the most important historical sites you can visit in the world definitely worth visiting.


John Mosier
Montecassino, St. Benedict’s Tomb

I graduated from St. Benedict School.  I have received the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion and First Reconciliation at St. Benedict Church.  My parents and my grandparents were married in St. Benedict Church.  As you can see, Saint Benedict has played a significant role in my family.  That is why I chose to research the tomb of Saint Benedict in the Abbey of Montecassino in Italy.

Saint Benedict was born around 480 AD.  When he was a young boy he was sent to Rome to study.  Benedict did not like what he saw.  He thought the students were focused too much on pleasure and not enough on looking for the truth.  So, Benedict left Rome and lived as a hermit in prayer.  He lived in a small cave about fifty miles from Rome in the mounts of Subiaco.  Monks nearby heard of Benedict’s holiness and came to him and asked Benedict to lead them.  Benedict told them that he would be too strict for them.  They insisted and tried to poison him when they realized Benedict was too strict.  Another group of monks asked him to be their leader.  They set up twelve monasteries.  Benedict left those monasteries when other hermits who were envious attacked.  In 528 AD, Saint Benedict moved to a monastery in Cassino, Italy.

The site of the monastery had originally been used to build a pagan temple to Apollo.  The first thing Benedict did when he got there was destroy the altar and statue of Apollo.  Saint Benedict built a church on the site and he dedicated the church to Saint John the Baptist.  Around the church he built walls with towers.  Saint Benedict lived in one of the towers and that tower is still preserved today.
This monastery was different than other monasteries at the time.  Other monasteries were lots of small communities.  Montecassino was one whole community.  It seems obvious to us today that all the monks would live in one whole community, but it wasn’t so at that time.  This type of monastery became the model for how future monasteries would be developed and run.  Saint Benedict spent the rest of his life at the monastery and while he was there, he wrote the Rule of Saint Benedict.  The Rule is a set of guidelines that could be used by laymen to help them live a spiritual life that would be pleasing to God.  The Rule is still used today by the monastic community.

Saint Benedict lived at the monastery until his death in 547 AD.  He was buried in a tomb at the monastery.  His sister, Saint Scholastica, shares the same tomb. 
Over the years, the monastery has been destroyed and rebuilt many times.  During one of the destructions, the signed copy of Saint Benedict’s Rule was destroyed by fire.  The last time the monastery was destroyed was during World War II.  During World War II, the Germans used the monastery and the hill it was on to protect their troops after they had captured Rome.  The Allied troops needed to recapture Rome before D-Day and in order to get to Rome, they needed to take back Cassino and the monastery.  The Allied troops tried on several occasions and in one of the attempts, the Allied troops bombed the Germans and destroyed the monastery.  Finally, the Allied forces defeated the Germans but only after thousands of lives were lost.   The battle lasted over six months.  Fortunately, before all the fighting began, someone had the foresight to move many of the documents that were at the Abbey to the Vatican.  This move saved these documents.  After the war, the Abbey was rebuilt to match its original plans.

Today, Montecassino is still a working monastery.  It still houses some very important relics of Saint Benedict and his sister, Saint Scholastica.  Some believe that Saint Benedict’s remains were moved to Fleury in France after the Lombards invaded the monastery.  Regardless, there is the tomb of Saint Benedict under the church.

Many tourists visit Montecassino each year.  The abbey is on a large hill that overlooks the city of Cassino, Italy.  The church at the abbey has bronze doors and one of these doors dates back to the eleventh century.  Inside the church is a pipe organ and altar.  Pictures of Saint Benedict surrounded by monks, bishops and nuns who followed his Rule hang on the walls. 

The crypt that holds Saint Benedict’s tomb is in a hidden underground church.  Stairs from the church lead down to the tomb.  The stairs are lined with mosaic tiles.  Once inside the underground church, there are different chambers with marble, tile and gold.  The ceilings and walls of the church have lots of gold tiles.
The museum on the grounds was organized in 1980 in celebration of Saint Benedict’s birth.  The museum is separated into sections and holds many different artifacts, manuscripts, statues, sculptures and paintings.

On the grounds is a statue of Saint Benedict that was made in 1736.  It is amazing that this statue survived the bombings during World War II, but it is pretty much untouched.    The other things that survived the bombings were two paintings.  The paintings were in rooms underground and represent events in Saint Benedict’s life.  One is of Saint Benedict seeing a dove that represented his sister’s soul leaving for heaven.  The other painting is of a monk being resurrected by Saint Benedict.
Across from the Abbey is a war cemetery.  At this cemetery, more than 1,000 Polish soldiers are buried.  These soldiers gave their lives during World War II to free Cassino.

I am really looking forward to visiting Montecassino and seeing all of these sites in person.

“Abbey of Monte Cassino.”
“Abbey of Montecassino.”
“Monte Cassino Monastery (Abbazia di Montecassino).”  http://www.sacred-
“Saint Benedict.”
“Tour the Montecassino Abbey.”


Travis Kerner
Benedictine Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside The Walls

One of the great ancient basilicas of Rome is the Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls.  The groundbreaking of this church began in the fourth century.  It was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I above Saint Paul’s grave, called where he had been beheaded in the first century.  After his execution his followers erected a memorial over his grave.

It is said that Saint Paul’s body was buried two miles away from the place of martyrdom, in the sepulchral area along the Ostiense Way and owned by a Christian woman named Lucina.  During the fourth century his remains were moved into a sarcophagus, except for his head, which according to church traditions rests at the Lateran.  Paul’s tomb is below a marble tombstone  in the  Basilica’s crypt at 1.37 meters below the altar.  The tombstone has the Latin inscription PAULO APOSTOLO MART which means to Paul the apostle and martyr.  The inscribed portion of the tombstone has three holes, two square and one round.  The round hole is connected to the tomb by a pipeline, reflecting the Roman custom of pouring perfumes inside the sarcophagus, which is usually done.  The discovery of this sarcophagus is mentioned in the chronicle of the Benedictine monastery, attached to the Basilica.

This famous basilica began to expand in the year of 384 under Emperor Theodosis.  From 384 to 395 it was restored and increased in size with a courtyard and four rows of columns.  Throughout the centuries, the Popes enhanced this ongoing project.  A large wall was built to protect it from invasions at the end of the ninth century.  During the eleventh century, a bell tower and the Byzantine door were constructed as well.  There are so many other additions such as Pietro Cavallini’s mosaics in the façade and the Candelabrum for the Paschal candle to name a few.  This sacred place of Christian pilgrimage was well known for its artistic works.   Under Gregory the Great (590-604) the basilica was again modified by raising the pavement in order to place the altar directly over Paul’s tomb.  A confession permitted the access to the Apostle’s sepulcher.  During that time, there was two monasteries near the basilica, St. Aristus’s for men and St. Stefano’s for women.  Over time these monasteries declined, but Pope Saint Gregory II restored them and allowed the monks to care for the basilica. 

It took many years to build but only one night to destroy it.  On July 15, 1823 a fire occurred and destroyed this beautiful place.  The fire was due to the negligence of a workman who was repairing the lead of the roof.  It had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years.  It was re-opened in 1840 when Pope Gregory XVI consecrated the Altar of the Confession and the Transept.  It was reconsecrated in 1855 in the presence of Pope Pius IX and fifty cardinals.  The Basilica was reconstructed exactly to what it had been before, using all of the elements that had survived the fire.  Other improvements have taken place due to the generosity of Christians from all over the world. 

In the fifth century, the Basilica became the home to a series of medallions which depict all of the popes throughout history.  In addition to the Papal Basilica, the entire complex includes an ancient Benedictine Abbey.  The Abbey remains active today under the direction of its Abbot.  The Benedictine Monks were founded near the tomb of the Apostle by Pope Gregory II attend to the ministry of Reconciliation and the promotion of special ecumenical events.  In this Basilica every year on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25), the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity opens.  On June 28, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI visited the Basilica and announced that the following year would be designated the “Pauline Year” to commemorate the bimillennium of the birth of Saint Paul.  “Pauline Year” ran from June 28, 2008 through June 29, 2009.

This Basilica has recently had a new excavation.  On December 6, 2006, Vatican archaeologist had confirmed the presence of a white marble sarcophagus beneath the altar which could contain Paul’s remains.  On December 11, 2006 a press conference was held to describe the latest excavation.  On June 20, 2009 Pope Benedict XVI announced that the carbon 14 dating of bone fragments in the sarcophagus confirmed a date in the first or second century.  This could confirm they are the mortal remains of Apostle Paul.  Pope Benedict announced this at a service in the Basilica to mark the end of the Vatican’s Pauline year in honor of the apostle.  Along with bone fragments, archaeologists discovered some grains of incense and pieces of purple linen with gold sequins and blue linen textiles.  This is yet another wonderful finding at the Basilica. 

The new basilica has maintained the original structure with one nave and four aisles.  It is 131.66 m-long and 63 m-wide and 29.70 m-high making this the second in size in Rome.  The 80 columns of the nave are from the 19th century as well as the stucco-decorated ceiling.  At the right and left of the arch are portrayed St. Peter and St. Paul with St. Paul pointing downwards and holding a gold object and St. Peter pointing upwards.  I am looking forward to seeing this beautiful creation while touring Rome. 

Works Cited


The Pantheon
Nathan Cole

The Pantheon was built over 1,800 years ago; the Pantheon building still stands as a reminder of the once great Roman Empire. The Pantheon is one of Rome’s greatest and most complete buildings also it is one of the most visited sites in Rome. Until the 20th century, the Pantheon was the largest concrete structure in all of the world. It is said that Michelangelo studied the dome before working on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Pantheon was dedicated to pan theos, all of the ancient roman gods. When it became a church, the church was dedicated to all the martyrs and the Virgin Mary. The Pantheon is a burial place of several important Italians and is still an active church.

In 27 BC, Marcus Agrippa built the original Pantheon and dedicated it to his third consulship. The original form of Agrippa’s Pantheon is debated. The Pantheon that was rebuilt by Augustus was destroyed in 80 AD. Domitian rebuilt the Pantheon, which was burned down in 110 AD. After the fire, reconstruction took place, according to dating with manufacture’s stamps on some of the bricks. Thus, the design of the Pantheon should not be credited to Trajan’s architect Apollodorus of Damascus. Later in 202 AD, Septimius Severus and Caracalla repaired many of the Pantheon’s flaws that seemed to be more and more noticeable. In 609 AD, the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV, who converted the Pantheon to a church and a memorial to all Martyrs. Since the Renaissance, the Pantheon was used as a tomb for many famous artists, architects, and composers. Also during the Renaissance , many famous architects and artists used the structure and some of its artwork as an example for theirs. Masses are held there for Catholic days of obligation, and weddings.

Probably one of the most interesting features of the Pantheon is the architecture. The structure of the Pantheon consists of a series of intersecting arches. The arches lay on eight piers which support eight round-headed arches which run through the drum from its inner to its outer face. The arches are attached to the eight bays on the floor level that house statues. The dome is supported by a series of horizontal arches. The Romans realized that their building materials were so heavy they decided to use lighter materials towards the top of the dome. On the lowest level travertine, the heaviest material was used, then a mixture of travertine and tufa, which is a soft, porous rock used as a sort of concrete for building. After that, more tufa and brick, then all brick was used around the drum section of the dome, and finally pumice, the lightest and porous of materials on the ceilings of the dome. The use of lighter materials on top alleviated the great weight of the dome. The detail of the Pantheon is extraordinary. If the dome was to be flipped upside down it would fit perfectly inside the rotunda. The rotunda is round and the entry room would have been entered by walking up a staircase, which is now completely under modern ground level.

The interior design of the Pantheon is a synthesis of innovation and tradition. The dimensions of the interior height and the diameter of the dome are the same (145 Roman feet, which is 141 feet. 8 inches; 43.2m) ( The architect, who is unknown, did this on purpose to show how architecturally sound the building was. The marble veneer that is seen today on the interior was not added until Pope Clement XI’s alterations which took place between the late 1600s and 1700s. However, the Pantheon allows us to see how marvelous and stunning the art of Roman architecture was. The oculus was an engineering marvel of the Roman world. The oculus was never covered and rain falls into the interior and runs off the slightly convex floor to the still functioning Roman drainpipes underneath. The Pantheon has since antiquity been used to inspire artists during the Renaissance as well as become the tomb for important figures in Italian history.

The present day altar and the apse were commissioned by Pope Clement XI (1700-1721) and designed by Alessandro Specchi. In the apse, a copy of a Byzantine icon of Madonna is enshrined. There are three niches in the Pantheon that contains pieces of art dedicated to Catholicism and memorials. The first niche near the entrance holds a Madonna of the Girdle and St. Nicholas of Bari (1686) done by an unknown artist. The second niche has a 15th century fresco of the Tuscan school, depicting the Coronation of the Virgin. Last, the third niche holds the mortal remains of the “Ossa et cineres,” meaning the bones and ashes as the inscription says of the great artist Raphael. At the right of Raphael’s tomb is his fiancée’s tomb, Maria Bibbiena. Raphael and Maria Bibbiena were unable to marry, because Raphael died before their wedding. Also in the third niche is a sculpture by II Lorenzone of St. Anne and the Blessed Virgin. In all of the niches there are several Christian paintings done to show that the Pantheon has become a Christian church (Wikipedia).

Since the Pantheon is the best preserved example of ancient Roman architecture, the Pantheon has been greatly influential in Western architecture from the Renaissance until now. In 1436, Brunelleschi completed the forty-two mater dome of Maria del Fiore in Florence, it was the first sizeable dome to be built in Western Europe since late antiquity. The style of the Pantheon can be detected in many buildings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; many city halls, colleges, and public libraries have a similar portico and dome structure. The Pantheon has proven to be one of the most monumental and revolutionary pieces of architecture in history. The idea of a dome was revolutionary and it changed the course of architecture. The Pantheon began a new era of architecture.

Works Cited

“The Pantheon - Rome - 126 AD|.” Monolithic. Web. 14 Jan. 2010.

“Pantheon - Rome, Italy.” Sacred Sites at Sacred Destinations - Explore sacred sites, religious sites, sacred places. Web. 14 Jan. 2010.

“Pantheon, Rome -.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 14 Jan. 2010.

“Pantheon, Rome.” A View On Cities. Web. 14 Jan. 2010.

Daniel Meybin
Pompeii and Herculaneum

Mount Vesuvius signaled its oncoming disaster early in August of AD 79.  What began as mild tremors around the countryside, springs ceasing to flow, and a series of moderate shocks, soon turned into spewing ash and huge, thunderous outbursts of rock.  As most citizens were unaware of the violent volcanic nature of the mountain, many neglected to flee early and were therefore trapped in the danger.  Centuries later modern man is able to directly observe the architecture and lifestyle of these ancient people, as well as the horror and destruction they experienced. The fury and destruction unleashed by Mount Vesuvius on the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum was horrific and devastating; however, the result of the eruption happens to be one of the greatest archaeological preserves in history.

Vesuvius, the only active volcano in mainland Europe, is part of the Campanian volcanic arc, a line of volcanoes in a zone that stretches over the length of the Italian peninsula, and includes other well-known volcanoes, such as Mount Etna and Stromboli.  Vesuvius is located on Italy’s west coast overlooking the Bay of Naples, and has a record of eruptions up to as recently as 1944 (Ball).  Campania is a fertile plain, with abundant moisture and rich soil.  In ancient times the crop yields were as much as six times more than the rest of the peninsula, the climate was gentle, and the bay offered a good harvest for fishermen (Pompeii).
Rising to a height of about 6,000 feet, Vesuvius gave no clear signs that it was an active volcano.  It had been dormant for so long there was no legacy of destruction for humans to pass on (Pompeii).  The volcano had not erupted for more than a thousand years before AD 79.  However, as the centuries passed the geological stresses in the area built up.  The mountain gave warning as to what could happen in the year  AD 62, when an earthquake wrought considerable destruction on the nearby city of Pompeii.  The water piping system was ripped apart, many buildings collapsed, and people were killed.  Yet it seems that no one attributed the cause of the earthquake to Mount Vesuvius (Pompeii the Vanished 17).  Construction and repair from this event was ongoing at the time of the next catastrophe in AD 79 (Franciscis 6).

Early in the morning of August 24th, Vesuvius began its huge destruction:  ashes and rock issued forth from the volcano, and its crater gave way, violently blasting molten rock 17 miles into the stratosphere, which shredded, spread out in flat cloudlike formation and was blown over Pompeii where it rained down.  With the great cloud overhead, Pompeii was a city of darkness and its people were in a state of fear and panic.  Within a few short hours, the city was about a foot deep in pumice and stone debris.  The pumice depth continued to grow at a rate of about six inches per hour.  People were killed in different ways:  some were struck by projectiles hurtling down at great speed; some were killed by collapsing buildings or walls; and still others met their fate by fire, poisonous gas, or suffocation from the ash (Pompeii the Vanished 19-20).  Though most of the people tried and succeeded in leaving, some decided to stay.  Apparently they were unwilling to leave their homes and businesses, or perhaps too frozen in fear to decide.

Herculaneum, located northwest of Pompeii and directly on the Bay of Naples, was not in the path of the rain of debris.  They watched in horror as the volcano struck the neighboring city of Pompeii, not knowing that they would soon be the recipients of another form of volcanic horror- the pyroclastic flow (Herculaneum Uncovered).  About one o’clock in the morning on August 25th, the huge column of the volcano collapsed, sending an avalanche of deadly material down the face of the volcano.  The first fast-running wave of the lightweight ash and gases reached Herculaneum in about four minutes, searing and suffocating every living creature in its path.  The next wave of deadly material- a dense flow of pumice and larger rock pieces mixed with soil at temperatures as high as 750 degrees F- reached the town a few moments later, pouring through buildings and redefining the shoreline.   The volcano Vesuvius belched a total of six times while releasing its destruction over the course of about 18 hours, though ash sifted down for several days.  In the end, both Pompeii and Herculaneum were almost entirely covered with volcanic debris and ash (Pompeii the Vanished 21-23).

As horrific as the description of the devastation of these days in August of AD 79 relates, a miracle of a different sort took place in its aftermath.  Though there is some evidence that farmers’ huts were inhabited later near Pompeii and that a village emerged atop Herculaneum, the cities were never rebuilt or repopulated.  They remained buried and largely forgotten for about 1700 years.  In the late 1700’s, digging in the area became popular because of interest in collecting antiquities, but excavation of the sites was not a popular idea since most historians believed that they would find only crushed buildings and shattered walls.  Then in 1860 Giuseppe Fiorelli was appointed director of Pompeian excavations.  He was a pioneer of modern archaeological methods and a master of detail.  Under his direction began the deliberate process of clearing areas piece by piece, so as to preserve all that was possible, and then to leave everything behind in the place they were found. He and his colleagues unearthed buildings, furniture, frescoes, and in 1863, when a workman accidentally made a hole in a sizeable cavity, Fiorelli poured plaster of Paris into the cavity.  After it solidified, the cocoon of ash was removed, and a lifelike human figure emerged.  These figures, multiplying in number over the years of excavation, along with the buildings, furniture, and other treasures, tell the stories of the lives of these ancient people in vivid detail.  From these artifacts we learn of their families, their businesses, their homes, and their daily lives.  The human figures are frozen in time, caught in their final acts of desperation or acceptance of their fate, sometimes reaching out to or holding one another.  The archaeological digs, excavations, and discoveries continue to this day, with more of Pompeii’s rich history being uncovered in the process (Pompeii the Vanished 24-33).

In addition to the exciting discoveries in Pompeii, excavation work was also initiated at the site of the ancient town of Herculaneum in the 18th century (Franciscis 11).  In the early 1980’s, concrete arcades which were located along the ancient shoreline of Herculaneum were excavated and entered.  Inside were found the skeletal remains of ancient citizens huddled together, several protecting children, most likely awaiting the chance to flee the area by boat.  These remains are remarkably intact, their molds created when ash and boiling mud covered the bodies and then hardened (Romey).  Indeed much more organic matter has been preserved in Herculaneum, such as wood, cloth, and papyrus, including the ancient scrolls in the library of the Villa of the Papyri, the seaside retreat of Julius Caesar’s father-in-law (Dickson).  The fact that the city was destroyed by a pyroclastic flow rather than ash cover or fire has rendered these remains and other artifacts in “the living, breathing city of Herculaneum into an incredible time capsule that is even better preserved than Pompeii.” (Herculaneum Uncovered)

Tragedy certainly dealt a mortal blow to the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in August of AD 79.  As Pliny the Younger’s eyewitness account describes, “You could hear the shrieks of women and crying children and the shouts of men… but the greater part imagining that there were no gods left anywhere, the last and eternal night was come upon the world.” (Pompeii the Vanished 23).  Yet in the wake of tragedy, nature left its own accurate account of this civilization- of its living, breathing history and its demise.  Modern man’s challenge is not only to unearth these secrets, but to understand and apply the knowledge to his future. 

Works Cited

Ball, Jessica. "Mount Vesuvius, Italy: Map, Facts, Eruption Pictures, Pompeii." - Earth Science News, Maps, Dictionary, Articles, Jobs. Web. 8 Jan. 2010. <>.

Dickson, Iain. "Herculaneum." The Roman Empire. Web. 8 Jan. 2010. <http://www.roman->.

Franciscis, Alfonso De. Pompeii & Herculaneum the Buried Cities. New York: Crescent, 1978.

"Herculaneum Uncovered ~ Investigating Herculaneum | Secrets of the Dead |." PBS. Web. 15 Jan. 2010. <>.

"Pompeii." Minnesota State University, Mankato. Web. 8 Jan. 2010. <>.

Pompeii the Vanished City. Alexandria, Va: Time-Life, 1992.

Romey, Kristin. "New Finds at Herculaneum." Archaeology Magazine. Web. 15 Jan. 2010. <>.


Daniel Beirne
The Roman Forum

Through time this historical monument of civilization has survived to show advances in three fields of society.  These advances include government, economics and worship that both the Roman Republic and Empire achieved in its 500 years of rule. This city was the center of ancient Rome, and the Great Roman Forum was the center of the three main pieces that kept this great civilization alive for so long and would continue to grow until the fall of the Empire.
How the Roman Forum came to be is a fascinating story. It is the conflict that occurred between Romulus, who would rule Rome on the hill of Palatine, and Titus Tatius who ruled on the hill of Capitoline (Forum). It is said that after a bloody conflict between these two leaders made an alliance due to the cries of the Sabine women. In this alliance, they agreed to create in the valley between the hills a place for all, which would become the Forum. Evidence discovered by archeologists suggests the site of what would be the Forum was a burial ground (8th-7th century B.C.).  It has also been discovered that many of the buildings that were made in the Roman Forum were constructed before the Tarquin kings (Gill). Some of these buildings include: “the Regi, the Temple of Vesta, Shrine of Janus, the Senate House (the Curia) and the prison” (Gill). It is believed these were made due to the works of two men, Numa Plumpilius and Tullus Hostillius (Forum). At the start of the Forum it was just a market place, but as time passed it became the center of economic, government, and religious growth. Throughout the growth of Rome these buildings have been destroyed, rebuilt, and rearranged due to war, the exchange of power, and effects of time.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 400’s A.D. (due to barbarian invasion and corrupt infrastructure), the Forum disappeared and was buried. In the Middle Ages the Forum became a place to house livestock. In the year 1367, Pope Urban V returned from Avignon to the Vatican. He started a push toward the importance of ancient monuments and preserving them (Gill). During the 15th and 16th centuries artisans began to draw extravagant works of art that depicted the Forum in its prime. Finally, in the 19th century, formal excavation of the Roman Forum began. “Carlo Fea began excavation in 1803 clearing the arch of Septimius Severus in 1803, and archaeologists in the Napoleonic regime began excavating the Forum itself and would not be completed until the early 20th century” (Gill). In the Roman Forum today it is seen that many buildings of different centuries appear together due to the Roman practice of building over earlier ruins (Forum).

In the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum, it can be seen that three main parts of society were placed here. These included; Government, Economics, and Religion. These parts of Roman society were essential for Rome to survive as a strong Republic and later for a strong Empire. In the view of the Roman government, two buildings dominated in the Roman Forum. The Curia (Senate House) and the Rostra “Speakers platform” (Forum). The Curia was the home of the Senate during the Republic and the Empire. This building was a key in Roman politics and power throughout its reign as Empire of the West. The Rostra was another important government structure and was used by politicians to make political speeches to the people of Rome (Forum). This structure was of great importance during the earlier part of Rome in the Republic era.

The Roman Forum was also the center of the Roman mythical worship to their gods before becoming the center of Christianity and the Catholic Faith. Two important religious buildings of the Forum are the Regia and the Lapis Niger. The Regia was first where the Kings of Rome lived and later became the office of the Pontifex Maximus, who was the high priest of the Roman religion (Forum). The second important religious structure was the Lapis Niger, which means “black stone” in Latin (Gill). It marked the spot where, according to tradition, King Romulus, the first king, died (Gill). The Roman Forum was also the center of trade in the Roman Empire. It had goods from all reaches of the empire-from Spain, Egypt, England, and Persia (present day Iraq).

The Great Roman Forum is one of the greatest achievements of the Rome and of humankind.  If the Roman Forum had not been created the Romans never would have reached so many cultures, which would likely have altered the advances we have experienced since Roman rule. There will never be another like the city of Rome or the Great Roman Forum.

Work Cited Page

“Roman Forum.” © 2010. January 7, 2010

Gill, N.S. “Forum Romanum.” Guide. © 2010. January 5, 2010         


Michael Mathews 
Saint Peter’s Basilica

Saint Peter's Basilica is located within Vatican City. In Italian, it is officially known as Basilia Papale in San Pietro in Vaticano. It has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, holding 60,000 people. It is the symbolic Mother Church of the Catholic Church and is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites, holding Saint Peter’s burial place, and more. Tradition and historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. The church has been in Vatican City since the 4th century.

Construction began on the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, which began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626. St. Peter was martyred by the Roman Emperor Nero at the Circus of Nero near a old Egyptian Obelisk, which some believed St. Peter was crucified on, still stands today in the center of St. Peters square. The Old St. Peter's Basilica was the fourth-century church begun by Emperor Constantine between 326 and 333 A.D. It was over 103.6 Meters long and the entrance was preceded by a long colonnaded atrium. The church was built over the shrine of Saint Peter. By the end of the 15th century, having been neglected during the Avignon Papacy, the old basilica was in bad repair. It appears that the first pope to consider rebuilding was Pope Nicholas V. He commissioned work on the old building. Soon a newer idea would come about, Pope Julius II wanted to completely rebuild the Basilica and demolish the old Basilica. A competition of entries were made in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The design that was selected was by Donato Bramante.  The foundation was laid in 1506. The plan was in the form of an enormous Greek cross with a dome inspired by that of the huge circular Roman temple, the Pantheon. The difference is that the Pantheon is supported by a continuous wall; the new basilica was only supported on four large piers. When pope Julius died in 1513, Bramante was replaced with Giuliano ad Sangallo, Fra Giocondo and Raphael. Fra Giocondo and Sangallo both died in 1515, and Bramante died the previous year. The main change in Raphael's plan in the next several days, with a row of complex apsidal chapels off the aisles on either side. Raphael's plan for the chancel and transepts made the squareness of the exterior walls more definite by reducing the size of the towers, and the semi-circular apes more clearly defined by encircling each with an ambulatory.

In 1520 Raphael died, aged 37, and his successor Baldassare Peruzzi maintained changes that Raphael had proposed to the internal arrangement of the three main apses, but otherwise reverted to the Greek cross plan and other features of Bramante. This plan did not go ahead because of various difficulties of both church and state. In 1527 Rome was sacked and plundered by Emperor Charles V. Soon Peruzzi died in 1536 without his plan being realized. At this point, Antonio ad Sangallo the younger submitted a plan which combines features of Peruzzi, Raphael, and Bramante in its design and extends the building into a short nave with a wide facade and portico of dynamic projection, which tried to put more emphasis on the image to better show its meaning. His proposal for the dome was more elaborate of both structure and decoration than that of Bramante and included ribs on the exterior. Like Bramante, Sangallo proposed that the dome be surmounted by a lantern which he redesigned to a larger and much more elaborate form.  But Sangallo’s main practical contribution was to strengthen Bramante’s Piers which had begun to crack.  

On January 1, 1547 in the reign of Pope Paul III, Michelangelo, then in his seventies, succeded Sangallo the Younger as “Capomaestro”, the superintendent of the building program at St. Peter’s  He is to be regarded as the principal designer of a large part of the building as it stands today, as bringing it to a construction point where it could be carried through.  Michelangelo took over a building site at which four piers, enormous beyond any constructed since the days of Ancient Rome, were rising behind the remains of the Old Basilica.  He also took numerous schemes designed before him and redesigned them, they were all certain common elements in the schemes.  They all called for a dome to equal that engineered by Brunelleschi a century earlier  and which has since dominated the skyline of Renaissance Florence, and they all called for a strongly symmetrical plan of either Greek Cross form.  As it stands today, St. Peter’s has been extended with a nave by Carlo Maderno.  It is the chancel with its huge centrally placed dome that is the work of Michelangelo.  The dome of St. Peter’s rises to a total height of 448.1 feet from the floor of the basilica to the top of the external cross.   Michelangelo redesigned the dome in 1547, and designed it after the dome in Florence.  Michelangelo died in 1564, leaving the drum of the dome complete, and leaving his work to his assistants, Vignola and Giorgio Vasari. They were appointed by Pope Pius V as a watchdog to make sure Michelangelo’s plans were carried out exactly. Pope Sixtus in 1585 appointed Giacomo della Porta who was to be assisted by Domenico Fontana. Giacomo della Porta and Fontana brought the dome to completion in 1590, the last year of the reign of Sixtus V.  His successor, Gregory XIV, saw Fontana complete the lantern.  In the mid-18th century, cracks appeared in the dome, so four iron chains were installed between the two shells to bind it.  On the first day of Lent, February 18, 1606, under Pope Paul V, the demolition of the remaining Constantinian Basilica began.  After it was destroyed, the completion building began on May 7, 1607, and proceded at a great rate.  In December 1614, the final touches were added to the stucco decoration of the vault and early 1615 the partition wall between the two sections was pulled down, all the rubble was carted away and the nave was ready to be used by Palm Sunday.  Behind the Facade, a Narthex and Five Portals, Portals which lead into the basilica, are salvaged by antique columns, and the central portal has a bronze door.  The Narthex’s long barrel vault is decorated with ornate stucco and gilt, and illuminated by small space framed by ionic columns.  To the east of the Basilica is St. Peter’s Square.  The present arrangement was constructed between 1656 and 1667, and is the Baroque inspiration of Bernini who inherited a location already occupied by an Egyptian obelisk of the 13th century BC, which was placed, to Maderno’s facade.  It was removed and re-erected at the Circus of Nero, 37 AD, where St. Peter was crucified.  Saint Peter’s Basilica is the heart of the Church and is one of the greatest churches in the world.


Hank Reidy
The Roman Colosseum

The Roman Colosseum is one of the most iconic and recognizable structures in the world, it is even depicted on the five cent Euro coin. Its proper name is the Flavian Amphitheatre, named for the Flavian Emperors who built the Colosseum. It represents early Rome's disciplinary beliefs of the time, which were brutal. Its name is Latin for the word colossal, which was quite fitting. The Colosseum was built in the year 70 AD and was finally completed in 80 AD. The Colosseum was used exclusively for entertainment, which included everything from chariot races to gladiator fights and even small scale reenactments of naval battles. These uses helped define Rome’s place in history as relentless peoples.

One of the most impressive things about the Roman Colosseum is its mechanics. It was 144 feet high and had an area of 74 X 45. About 100,000 cubic meters worth of marble was used to build the structure, the same marble which was later used to build other structures in the Middle Ages. The way the Colosseum was designed it could have every one of its 50,000 spectators leave in less than 5 minutes. Also, there was no mortar used in its construction, it was held together entirely by three hundred tons of iron clamps. Inside was equally as extraordinary, there were trap doors placed in the ground for special effects. There was even an air-conditioning system in the form of a series of fans strung above the open ceiling.  It was an incredible example of Roman architecture at its finest, and an engineering marvel of the time.

When the Colosseum was ordered to be built by Vespasian in 70 AD, it was a political maneuver to differentiate himself from Nero by building it over Nero’s former palace. Vespasian’s goal was for the Colosseum to gain popularity by introducing violent mortal combat to the citizens. In less than a year alone over 9,000 animals were killed, giving one the idea of the kind of massacre that went on during these events. In fact, the Romans took so many animals so often from North Africa lions are still extinct in the area. Among the people who fought in the Colosseum were slaves and Gladiators, who were professional fighters. These were the most widely attended events at the Colosseum. Among the 50,000 people who attended these events were people from every caste of life from the homeless and poor to the Emperor himself, who even had his own entrance into the arena. During its use as a venue, 700,000 people were killed in the games.

The Roman games played at the Colosseum were not all just fighting, though. One popular event was chariot racing, where they would race along the sides of the arena with a chariot using as many as four horses. The riders would travel about 4000 meters, and the harder parts of the track were the tight turns. There were no lanes and the Colosseum had a sand ground, this made the sharp turns even more dangerous and tricky. Even theatrical plays based on the Greek classics were performed in the arena. Besides that, Circuses were also a common attraction, but they were dangerous for both the attendees and the handlers who didn’t know how to properly restrain the animals. In the first circus elephants escaped and, while they were eventually driven back, ditches were dug to assure something like this wouldn’t happen again.

As the Roman Empire began to discover the Catholic Church they had to abandon the Colosseum's brutality and violence. Even though games were played in the arena for more than five hundred years and through the reign of forty two emperors, it had come to an end.  Since the Church did not condone killing, especially for entertainment, the Colosseum quickly began to lose popularity. We now know it as it was after the Middle Ages, a hollow shell of its former self. Through the years it served as everything from a fortress, to workshops, to housing, even ironically to a place of worship. Natural disasters such as earthquakes aided in its decay, as did stone robbers looking for quick money. Today, all that remains of the Colosseum is its skeleton and the historical records of all the mayhem and massacre that is still a part of the Roman experience. Ironically, a famous quote by Venerable Bede in the eighth century stated that “As long the Colosseum exists, Rome exists; if the Colosseum falls, Rome falls; if Rome falls, the world falls.”


Matthew Shutt

Perugia, in central Italy, is the capital of the Umbria region and is surrounded by the Tiber River and Lake Tasimeno.  Perugia was founded in prehistoric times in the Umbria area.  It has been an important city to the Etruscans, captured by the Romans, burned to the ground twice, and a Papal State.  As well as having a great history, Perugia also has amazing art and architecture.  Perugia was home to Perugino, who was a great artist and the teacher of Renaissance painter Raphael.  There is abundance of art in Perugia's great museums and cathedrals.  The city has retained its Renaissance charm, abundantly apparent while walking down old streets and observing architecture everywhere. 

The area of Perugia has been inhabited since the 9th century B.C.  A first structure of town is present from the 6th century B.C.  Perugia became a very important Etruscan center.  It is near the Tiber, between the Etruscan territory and the Umbrian part of the region.  In the 3rd century B.C., the Romans conquered Umbria and, with the new regional organization established by the emperor Augustus, Perugia and its Umbrian territory joined with the "regio septima," which included all the Etruscan area.  Also, Umbria was annexed to Tuscia by the emperor Diocletian.  Christianity penetrated easily into the region due to the roads built by the Romans. 

With the fall of the Roman Empire, the territory of Perugia was invaded and devastated by the barbarians.  Totila destroyed the town in 547.  All the human settlements were seriously damaged and the countryside, devastated by malaria, became depopulated and wild.  In the 9th century, it became a possession of the Popes but subsequently achieved independence in the 12th century.  It attained the status of a free commune and gradually gained leadership and dominance over other Umbrian cities. 

During the Middle Ages, the political and social life was characterized by violent struggles between rival faction struggling for power.  First, the struggle was between the noble groups (Beccherini) and the popular ones (Raspanti). Then, it was between the city's leading families of Oddi and Baglioni, whose supremacy continued until the 15th century, when Perugia fell under the sway, first of Braccio Fortebraccio da Montone, and then of the papal legates. 

Although nominally under papal control, it was in fact ruled by strong tyrants until 1540, when it was conquered by Pope Paul III. To help control the city, Pope Paul built an imposing citadel designed by Antonio da San Gallo and dismantled in 1860.  In 1540, it was incorporated into the Papal States.  Papal rule continued virtually unchanged - except brief interludes during the Napoleonic occupation - and the formation of the Kingdom of Italy. In 1861, Perugia became part of the Kingdom of Italy.  During World War II. the city was occupied by the British in June 1944.

The heart of Perugia is the Piazza IV Novembre which is full of history and monuments. It's a large, open square where locals and visitors congregate.  The piazza is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.  In the center is a beautiful fountain, the Fontana Maggiore, surrounded by the Palazzo dei Priori. 

The Fontana Maggiore is a beautiful medieval fountain that was erected in the second half of the 12th century.  This monument was the ending of an important public work, the aqueduct, which carried water to the town from Mount Pacciano.  The Fontana Maggiore is decorated with intricately carved panels, made of pink and white stone, showing the months of the year, astrological signs, Aesop's fables, and mythical monsters.  The monument, one of the best examples of Gothic design in Italy, is very important: it represented the city at the height of its power, combining civil and religious aspects, as well as sacred and profane themes. 

Another side of the Piazza IV Novembre is occupied by the Palazzo Dei Priori, which in the Middle Ages was the residence of the principal political authorities of the city.  In 1298, the interior structure was built and in 1353, the work was completed. The interior of the Palazzo dei Priori comprises the National Gallery of Umbria – the most important collection of art in Umbria from the Medieval and the Modern periods.  The Guild of Merchants placed its seat in this palace in 1390 and the members ordered to cover the room with wooden panels, a rather rare decoration in Italy. The Guild of Money-Changers occupied this wing of the palace at the half of the 15th century; in this room can be seen the most important work by Perugino, one of the most significant examples of Renaissance painting in Italy: a series of frescoes representing the heroes and deities of antiquity and some personified virtues. The other side of the square is occupied by the Cathedral of San Lorenzo: building the structure took more than a century and was completed at the end of 1400's.  The left side, facing the square, has a bronze statue of Julius III and large Gothic windows; moreover, it displays the arches of the Loggia di Braccio, erected in 1423.  The facade of the church, facing onto Piazza Danti, was remodeled in Baroque style.  The interior, divided into three naves, contains distinguished works of art.  It houses the Gallery of Umbria and three other museums.

The Etruscan-Roman center of the city was enlarged progressively, reaching its final design in the 13th and the 14th centuries, when the suburbs were incorporated in the city by new walls.  There are numerous churches, palaces, and monuments which make the artistic endowment of Perugia extremely rich.  Some of the most important art treasures of Perugia were developed in the churches and were moved to other locations.  

The Church and Abbey of San Pietro were built at the end of the 10th century in the place where  the old cathedral of the town stood.  In the archive of San Pietro are preserved documents, papal licences, and Imperial diplomas from the 11th and 12th centuries.  Also there is a basilica divided into three naves by old columns.  It comprises many works of art.  The magnificent choir stalls represents one of the masterpieces of Renaissance art for wood-carving and knitting work. The hexagonal bell-tower, whose upper part was rebuilt in the 15th century by Bernardo Rossellino.

The church of San Domenico was built in the first years of the 14th century, and is situated in the small square dedicated to Giordano Bruno. Originally, it was a large Gothic barn church, exhibiting  massive arches and extensive stained glass windows. The interior of the church was totally rebuilt by Maderno in 1632.  It is white and very simple with three long naves, and the apse has a huge beautiful stained glass window.

The Church of San Francesco was created in the 1200s by the Friars Minor.   It was often restored in order to prevent collapses due to the eroding soil. In 1926, the original facade was restored. The church houses the tombs of Braccio Fortebraccio and of the jurist Bartolo di Sassoferrato.  Many works of art were made in the church, however the works were later transferred elsewhere.    The artwork developed here includes: the "Sposalizio di Santa Caterina" by Alfani, the "Resurrezione" by Perugino, the "Incoronazione della Vergine" by Raffaello, and the "Deposizione" by Raffaello.

The Etruscans once ruled Southern Tuscany. A glimpse into their reign of the region is seen at their cave tombs in Pitigliano. The Romans came after the Etruscans but there are no surviving monuments from their reign except the underground cellars that were used to keep the urns of the dead. There are numerous Etruscan cave-tombs. These caves are cut deep into the rocks and are now used as cellars and sheds. The urn bearing cellar from Roman period are the only things to survive from that age.

Perugia is proud of its historical traditions and the beautiful buildings of the past.  It is admired  for its past, as well as for its present atmosphere.  Being one of the central and shining citites of Italy, it preserves art, history, and many beautiful archeological sites.

Works Cited

Bram, Leon L. "Perugia." Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. Vol. 20. New York: Funk & Wagnalls,  1986. 296. Print.
“Perugia.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press., 2003. 18 Jan. 2010. <>.

"Perugia district - history." Web. 18 Jan. 2010.  <>.

"Perugia in Umbria." Web. 18 Jan. 2010.  <>.


Evan Harris
Michelangelo and the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is said to be the most beautiful work of art in The Vatican, and maybe even all of Europe.  The painting on the ceiling depicts major illustrations of Catholicism and its faith.  The most surprising part of the history of the ceiling was its artist, who was originally a sculptor.  The process of the Chapel’s ceiling took many years and became a beautiful work of art in the end.  The Sistine Chapel is renowned over the world along with its artist, Michelangelo, who is also a creator of many other famous pieces of art.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born in Caprese, a Florentine village in Italy.  His father was Ludovico Buonarroti and was a resident magistrate.  In 1488, Michelangelo was apprenticed to a man by the name of Domenico Ghirlandaio for 3 years.  He had normal workshop training but did not acknowledge the fact.  During his apprenticeship, he began an interest in sculpting.   He began to work in Medici Garden.  At age 16, he had already created two sculptures, the Battle of the Centaurs and the Madonna of the Stairs.  When Lorenzo de Medici died, he began to study Anatomy with the Prior of the Hospital of Sto Spirito.  He even carved a wooden crucifix for the high altar.  Michelangelo fled to Bologna later.

Michelangelo carved his first major work in Rome.  Those great creations made by him caused him to move back to Florence where he carved the great statue of David, the Bruges Madonna, and began the series of the Twelve Apostles in the cathedral he was assigned but never finished.  He then created a cartoon regarding the new Florentine Republic.  This influenced many styles of Italian art like Mannerism.  After hearing of these works, Pope Julius II requested that Michelangelo create a tomb for him.  After Julius died, he was pressured by the successive Popes to leave the project unfinished but pressured by the heirs of Julius to continue the project.  He eventually came up to use the secondary plan in which he created the Moses.

When Julius was still alive, they quarreled about a certain project in which Michelangelo was assigned.  Pope Julius II assigned Michelangelo to produce a giant painting.  However, this was no ordinary painting; this was a painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.  This project became the most distinguished work of art in Michelangelo’s life.  Michelangelo worked alone on this project because he was dissatisfied with the original assistants who were assigned by the Pope.  After he was finished with the ceiling, he became universally known as the greatest artist during that time period.

The Sistine Chapel was built by request of Pope Sixtus IX, a Franciscan.  “The Sistine Ceiling is a shallow barrel vault divided up by painted architecture into a series of alternating large and small panels which appear to open to the sky.”  The ceiling, which was worked on by Michelangelo from 1508-1512, is one of the greatest works of art in the period of the Renaissance.  He raised his scaffolding and eliminated all traces of the original decoration on the ceiling, which was a starry sky dating from the time of Sixtus IV.  Michelangelo planned an extremely complicated decorative layout.  It involved fictitious architecture, and sought to link the Biblical theme of the ceiling with the New Testament subjects painted on the walls by Perugino, Botticelli and Luca Signorelli.  As soon as the scaffolding went down in October 31, 1512, the masterpiece was completed.

The style in which the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling was created centers around Biblical history.  The primal history begins at the altar and the timeline progresses as it gets farther away from the altar.  It begins with the Primal Act Of Creation, which illustrates God alone planning the creation of man.  The story then progresses to the Creation, the Flood, and the Drunkenness of Noah.  The Drunkenness of Noah illustrates man is being the furthest away from God.  Below the images are more paintings of Prophets and Seers of the ancient world who predicted the coming of Christ.  In the four corners, there are scenes from the Old Testament, which represent Salvation.  On the lowest parts are the human families who were the Ancestors of Christ.

Michelangelo, along with Da Vinci and Raphael, was one of the greatest artists in European history.  He created beautiful sculptures and magnificent paintings.  The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is definitely defined as one the greatest works of Biblical art in the Renaissance.  It took nine years, from 1980 to 1989 to remove all of the aged grime and to restore it into its bright and colorful nature.  It is now seen as one of the most distinguished structures in the entire World.

The Sistine Chapel today is located in the Vatican.  Within the chapel, there is still the artwork of Michelangelo.  Within the Chapel, the Cardinals gather to determine the next successor of St. Peter and give out the title of “Pope”.  The Sistine Chapel is very important to the Catholic community in Vatican City and is an extremely important place for the Pope.  The room itself in the Chapel with Michelangelo’s artwork alone can be known as the greatest treasure that the Vatican has to offer for many outsiders and tourists.  From its magnificent creation to the present, the Sistine Chapel still thrives throughout Catholic faith and is one of the most magnificent pieces of art known in the world.

Works Cited

Furlotti, Barbara. The Vatican Museums. Barnes & Noble. 2006.

McDonnell, Bart. Inside the Vatican. The National Geographic Society. Page 143. 1991.

Kren, Emil; Marx, Daniel. Michelangelo Buonarotti. Web Gallery of Art.

The Sistine Chapel.


Brett Keller
The Swiss Guard Armory

"I vow to faithfully, honestly and honorably serve the reigning Pope and his legitimate successors, and to dedicate myself to them with all my strength, ready to sacrifice, should it become necessary, even my own life for them. I likewise assume this promise toward the members of the Sacred College of Cardinals during the period of the Sede Vacante of the Apostolic See. Furthermore, I pledge to the Commandant and to my other superiors respect, fidelity, and obedience. I swear to abide by all the requirements attendant to the dignity of my rank." (Wiki 1)

This creed is the life of a Swiss Guard soldier. The Swiss Guard began in September 1505, when the first contingent of 150 soldiers started their march towards Rome, under the command of Kaspar von Silenen, and entered the city on January 22, 1506, for the march was incredibly long. Today, this date is given as the official date of the Guard's foundation. "The Swiss see the sad situation of the Church of God, Mother of Christianity, and realize how grave and dangerous it is that any tyrant, avid for wealth, can assault with impunity, the common Mother of Christianity," declared Huldrych Zwingli, a Swiss Catholic. Zwingli was saying that the Swiss realize that Pope Julius II later granted them the title "Defenders of the Church's freedom". (Wiki 1)

Recruits must apply to be part of the Swiss Guard. They must be Catholic, single males with Swiss citizenship. Applicants must have completed basic training with the Swiss Military which consists of self defense training, and small arms training. They also must be able to obtain certificates of good conduct. Recruits must have a professional degree or high school diploma and must be between 19 and 30 years of age. They also have to be at least 174 cm (5.7 ft) tall. (Wiki 1) In 2009, the Swiss Guard commandant, Daniel Anrig, suggested that the Guard might someday be open to recruiting women, but he added that the admission of female recruits remained far in the future.

If the recruit meets all the required standards of a Swiss Guard member and is accepted, he are sworn in on May 6 each year in the San Damaso Courtyard (Italian: Cortile di San Damaso) in the Vatican. May 6 is the anniversary of the Sack of Rome, where over 500 Swiss Guard members gave their lives in protection of the Pope. (Vatican 1)

In 2008 the ceremony took place in the presence of the head of the Swiss army. The chaplain of the guard reads aloud the oath in the language of the guard which consists of mostly German, some French, and a little Italian.

The force has varied greatly in size over the years and has even been disbanded. Its first, and most significant, hostile engagement was on May 6, 1527 when 147 of the 189 Guards, including their commander, died fighting the unruly troops of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Clement VII to escape through the Passetto di Borgo, escorted by the other 40 guards. The last stand battlefield is located on the left side of St Peter's Basilica, close to the Campo Santo Teutonico. (Vatican 1)

Ceremonially, they shared duties in the Papal household with the Palatine Guard and Noble Guard, both of which were disbanded in 1970 under Paul VI. Today the Papal Swiss Guard has taken over the ceremonial roles of the former units. At the end of 2005, there were 134 members of the Swiss Guard. (Vatican 1) This number consisted of a Commandant, bearing the rank of oberst or Colonel, a chaplain, three officers, one sergeant major, 30 NCOs, and 99 halberdiers, the rank equivalent to private. The name came from use of their traditional Halberd.

The official dress uniform is of blue, red, orange and yellow with a distinctly Renaissance appearance. Commandant Jules Repond (1910-1921) created the current uniforms in 1914. Sergeants wear a black top with crimson leggings, while other officers wear an all-crimson uniform. (Vatican 1)

The regular duty uniform is more functional. It has a solid blue version of the more colorful tri-color grand gala uniform, worn with a simple brown belt, a white collar and a black beret. For new recruits and rifle practice, a simple light blue overall with a brown belt may be worn. During cold or inclement weather, a dark blue cape is worn over the regular uniform. The original colors were issued by Pope Julius II taking his family colors. Pope Leo X added the red to reflect his family's Medici colors. (Vatican 1)

Headwear is normally a black beret for daily duties, while a black or silver morion helmet with red, white, yellow and black, and purple feather is worn for ceremonial duties. The helmet is worn for high ceremonial occasions such as the annual swearing in ceremony or reception of foreign heads of state. 

The tailors of the uniforms work inside the Swiss Guard barracks. The uniform weighs 8 pounds, and could possibly be the heaviest uniform in use by any standing army today. The Renaissance style makes them one of the most complicated to construct. A single uniform requires 154 pieces and takes nearly 32 hours and 3 fittings to complete. (Vatican 1)

Building on tradition, members wear a long sword, while officers wear a rapier or straight saber. They also receive instruction in the ceremonial use of their halberd, a four-sided pole which is held on their right during marches, drill, and regular formations in their official duties around the Vatican. The halberd has a loose metal ring just below the halberd blade, which makes a loud clink when an individual or formation comes to attention. Other weapons carried by higher ranking non-halberdiers include a command baton, a partisan, a flamberge,(wavy two-handed sword), and a breastplate with shoulder guards. (Vatican 1)

Besides their traditional arms, the Swiss Guard also has non-ceremonial small arms, such as SIG P225 pistols, Heckler & Koch MP5A3 submachine guns and SIG SG 550 assault rifles at its disposal for security duties. Besides the Heckler & Koch MP5A3, these small arms are also in use by the Swiss military. The Guard also has yearly rifle competition and receives self-defense instruction, as well as basic training on defensive bodyguard tactics similar to those used in the protection of many heads of state. (Vatican 1)

The members of the Guard dedicate their lives to the well being and protection of the Pope. They have never failed in their duty and have on numerous occasions given their lives to save the one they protect. From their actions they have demonstrated to the people in the Vatican, and to people all over the world, that they are one of the most honored military units in the world and have maintained that tradition for over 500 years. 

Works Cited

"Vatican - Swiss Guard (Part I)." 1 Aug. 2009. Web. 13 Jan. 2010. <>.

"Swiss Guard -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 13 Jan. 2010. <>.


Patrick McKenna
Knights of Malta

One of the more interesting sites of Rome is the Aventine Hill.  It is now a residential part of Rome with a multitude of Architectural interests.  It also has a rich history both in myth and in the real world.

Long ago, Hercules had killed a man called Caucus on the Aventine because Cacus had stolen cattle from Geryon that Hercules had to deliver as one of his great labors.  Later, Romulus set himself up on the Aventine as an observation post outside the city of Rome. In modern times, the Aventine Hill actually consists of two hills: the northwestern hill and the southeastern hill.  During Romulus’ and Remus’ time the Aventine Hill only consisted of the northwestern hill. Remus stood on the southeastern hill but both came together under the name of the Aventine Hill.  But in order to preserve the image of the twins standing on opposing hills, it was said that Romulus was on Palatine hill and Remus was stationed on Aventine.

Historically, the hill did not actually become part of the city of Rome until after the city’s founding.  Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome officially incorporated the Aventine Hill into the Roman outlay of the city to protect Rome from invaders.  The Romans began building the wall around the Aventine Hill around 393 BC. Scholars believe this to be true because around that time, the Romans conquered the Veii, who had control at the time of the quarry with which the wall was made.  It was not completed until 387 BC around the time Rome was fighting the Gauls. Later, Plebians were allowed to build homes on the hill and eventually the city outgrew the wall.(Aventine Hill,, 1/14/10)

The Order of the Knights of Malta was founded in 1048 AD.  The order started from merchants from from the ancient marine Republic of Amalfi, who, with the permission of the Caliph of Egypt, built a church and hospital in Jerusalem to care for the sick.  Under its founder, the Blessed Gerard, the order obtained a Bull from the Holy See, and became the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.  All knights who joined took the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

During the Crusades, the Order participated in the defense of Jerusalem.  The Order then adopted the white garb with a red cross that is the same today.

As the crusaders lost ground in the Holy Land the order too was forced to leave and in 1310, went to Rhodes.  The Order was governed by its grand master (the prince of Rhodes) and the Council and minted its own money and maintained diplomatic relations with other states.  The senior positions of the Order were given to representatives of different languages.  The seat of the Order, the Convent, was composed of religious of various nationalities.  The Knights were driven out by Sultan Suleiman and were landless until 1530 when they conquered the island Malta, holding out against the Greek Turks until the nineteenth century.

In 1884, the order found its final home on the Aventine hill.  The Knights of Malta Keyhole is a garden located there and has a keyhole like spy hole view through the garden to St. Peter’s Basilica. The garden was designed by Piranesi in 1765. Today the Knights are the oldest group left over from the Crusades.  The no longer fight the Moslems, but they do perform charity work all over the world today.(Sovereign Order of Malta- Official Site. org/site. 2/10/10.)


 Alexander Wilson
Michelangelo’s Pieta

The world’s greatest sculptor, Michelangelo, carved what is said to be the greatest piece of marble. His mother died when he was six so he moved from Florence in with a family of stonecutters. Michelangelo fell in love with stonecutting, therefore he convinced his father to take him out of school and put him in as a painter’s apprentice. Even Michelangelo’s earliest artworks outdid his teachers. When he was training to become a sculptor, Lorenzo di Medici called out for good sculptors and Michelangelo came. Lorenzo di Medici family was the richest family Europe at the time. Lorenzo asked Michelangelo to carve a faun out of marble. He turned the marble into a beautiful faun. His teacher said jokingly an old faun should not have perfect teeth. Michelangelo took it personally and took out the teeth to where there was just gum. This impressed Lorenzo so much that he asked Michelangelo’s father to allow Michelangelo to stay with him at his palace. After Lorenzo died, Michelangelo traveled to Rome where the pope asked Michelangelo to sign a contract to sculpt The Pieta.

The Pieta is considered by many today as the finest piece of marble. Michelangelo completed the Pieta at the age of twenty-three. The Pieta depicts Christ after being taken down from the cross. He is lying in his mother’s arms. Christ is shown as sleeping rather than dead to show His love rather than his agony. Mary is depicted as younger than Jesus because Michelangelo is trying to show Mary’s innocence. Michelangelo sculpted Mary as seven feet tall to make the sculpture look natural.

Vasari says so beautifully “…it would be impossible to find a body showing greater mastery of art and possessing more beautiful members or a nude with more details in muscles, veins and nerves stretched over their framework of bones, or head, the harmony in the joints and attachments of the arms, legs, and trunk, and the fine tracery of pulses and veins are all so wonderful that it staggers belief that the hand of an artist could have excited this inspiration and admirable work so perfectly and in so short a time. It is certainly a miracle that a formless block of stone could ever have been reduced to a perfection that nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh Michelangelo put into this work so much love and effort that he left his name in Our Lady’s left breast…”

Michelangelo completed the statue in 1499 for St. Peters Basilica. Michelangelo’s Pieta was originally kept at Chapel of Santa Petronilla. While it was there, Michelangelo overheard people talking who thought the sculpture might have been created by another sculptor. This made him mad so he snuck in and carved MICHAELAGELUS BONAROTUS FLORENTIN FACIEBA in Mary’s sash. The Pieta was the only work to have been signed by him. The Pieta received much damage throughout the years. Four of Mary’s fingers had broken off. In 1736 it was restored. Years later in 1972 a geologist named Laszlo Toth knocked off Mary’s nose. It was later repaired by cutting a block out of Mary’s back. Today a copy has been made. It is kept at St. Joseph's Seminary, Yonkers, New York. The Pieta is by far one of the best pieces of art ever made and it was sculpted by the best artist.
(Vasari, Giorgio, Le vite de’piu eccelenti pittori scultori ed architetti, Florence 1568)

Zach Anliker
Earthquake Rocks Central Italy Structural Damage in Assisi

On September 26, 1997, the first earthquake 5.6 on the Richter scale rocked central Italy followed by a second tremor 10 hours later. (See you-tube movie of tremor filmed by a tourist while visiting Assisi.

The earthquake killed 10 people including 2 friars and severely damaged art treasures in Assisi as well as damaging additional buildings throughout central Italy and the Umbria region.

The worst damage of the earthquake occurred in Assisi. The City of Assisi is built on a mountain. It stretches across Monte Subasio and is above the Topino and Chiascio rivers. During the Middle Ages, Assisi was developed strategically as a mountain top town and is protected by a defensive stronghold made up of eight fortified portal entrances. Assisi’s walls are perfectly preserved by two castles on a mountain’s peak. The most popular attraction in Assisi is the St. Francis of Assisi Basilica. This basilica built in the thirteenth century is the second most popular church in Italy for religious pilgrimages.

Substantial damage was sustained at the St Francis of Assisi Basilica. Structural damage was visible to the exterior facade called the tympanum. The tympanum is a triangular architectural feature on the facade of the basilica that provides structural support for the vault, which is inside the basilica. If the tympanum collapsed it would have destroyed the roof and chapel below. The vault contained fresco relief paintings that crumbled with the earthquake. Italians, unlike Americans, would not put a price on the damage of the basilica and its treasures. Italians’ prefer to look at restoration as maintaining their heritage or birthright.

Structural engineers were able to prevent total collapse of the tympanum and the vault by emergency stabilization. It is believed that a rib of the vault took the impact of the earthquake damage pulling and weakening both the vault and tympanum. Engineers began to fix the damage by first addressing the stabilization of the vault. They worked from the roof by using a platform to secure and inspect the vaults adding support bars and filling the cracks with a salt free mortar that would limit further damage to the frescoes. First, the tympanum was removed from the roof with two cranes while the vault was being worked on.  Second, the tympanum was replaced with a steel truss. The truss is a triangular steel support which engineers then attached to the original tympanum. Once the structural damage to the Basilica was fixed then the difficult task of restoring damaged artwork began. The crumbled fresco pieces were literally put together like a puzzle under tents under the careful eyes of friars and art historians.

The basilica contains many important paintings and pieces of artwork. The purpose of this artwork was to educate the people about Catholicism and St Francis’s life. Artwork in the basilica was used to put visitors in a state of awe and to experience the greatness of God. The upper basilica contains 26 frescos of the life of St Francis created by Giotto. Giotto’s paintings date to 1290 and these frescoes were recently restored due to the damage of the earthquake. Giotto is known by art historians as the artist whom inspired the Renaissance art movement in Italy. Giotto’s work shows the human form with a robust figure and individual realistic faces. These figures are placed in a space that suggests a more realistic perspective instead of a flat plain space.  Cimabue frescoes of St. Mark and St Geronimo were also damaged during the earthquake and restored to the Basilica walls.

The St. Francis of Assisi Basilica is dedicated to St. Francis, a popular saint in Catholicism. Many stories of St. Francis deal with his love for animals and respect for the natural world and environment. He believed that the natural world was created beautifully by God but suffers because of the sins of man. He preached of our duty to protect nature and enjoy God’s creation, because we are also God’s creation.

St. Francis’s preaching developed a following. This is how he founded the Order of Friars now known as the Franciscan order. Assisi is the birth and burial place of St. Francis this is why he is known as St. Francis of Assisi.

The grounds of the Basilica (church) consist of:
Upper Basilica, Lower Basilica, St Francis’s crypt, and the Friary of St Francis.

The earthquake damaged many surrounding buildings in central Italy and left up to 5,000 people homeless. The restoration to Assisi was complete and ready for tourists 26 months after the earthquake. It was the dedication of the friars, art historians, engineers, plus the financial donations of benefactors not to mention the devotion of the Italian citizens that contributed to the Basilica’s successful restoration. And instilled that future generations can share in the experience of visiting the  Basilica of St Francis of Assisi.


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