Eyes of Rome
Rome: city of Saints and Sinners

Rome: city of Saints and Sinners

Written by Eyes of Rome

MUST SEE: THE COLOSSEUM


Definitely one of the world's most famous monuments, beside being the landmark of Rome: the Colosseum is the major highlight of any visit to the Eternal City! The Amphiteatrum Flavium became one of the Seven Wonders of the New World in 2007, alongside some of the most spectacular monuments in the planet, like the Great Wall of China, the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the Ruins of Machu Picchu in Perù, the Pyramids in Chichén Itzà Mexico and the Taj Mahal in India. Imposing, wonderful, and unforgettable, the Colosseum never ends to amaze us for both its design and the architectural features involved in its building; the spectators could enter the Amphiteatrum from 80 entrances (76 of which used by the ordinary people), quickly accessing their seats thanks to the vomitoria, passageways that opened into the stands from below or behind. Besides being great for entering, these passageways also granted a fast-phased exit upon conclusion of the event or in case of emergency. You could find the word vomitoria familiar, as it derives from the Latin word "rapid discharge", from which the English word vomit was formed: a really figurative metaphor indeed. Another amazing architectural feature that could be suitable even today was the velarium: a giant tent, composed of 80 big triangular canvas' and sustained by more than 300 supporting ropes, that repaired people from the sunlight and light rain, letting them enjoy the games in any meteorological condition. Now we are talking about quality entertainment! The Rome's City Council, in conjunction with Amnesty International, still tries to make amend for the horrors that happened during the Roman Empire: whenever a death sentence is commuted, or a country votes to abolish capital punishment, the Colosseum gets illuminated, displaying an astonishing light-show; a symbolic way to look for atonement. Hidden gem: Coelian Hill Far from the beaten paths lies a peaceful neighborhood, relatively unknown by the majority of the tourists: the Coelian Hill. Considered as one of the most beautiful and exclusive residential areas since antiquity, living in this district has always been prerogative of the richest people in Rome. Via Claudia runs from north to south, splitting the Coelian Hill in two distinct areas: the western section has kept much of its medieval atmosphere, while the eastern one is much more modern. The coat of arms representing the neighborhood deserves a couple of words: it depicts the profile of an African soldier, wearing headgear shaped like an elephant's head with golden tusks. The history behind such symbolism is linked to the African legionnaires led by the legendary Consul Scipio Africanus, whose barracks stood on this very hill: this heraldic detail shows, once again, how much the Eternal City is still rooted to its mythical origins. This hill has seen the Roman history disclosing just in front of its eyes: monasteries, hospitals, churches, have been built here since ancient times. History itself hides beneath those who walk along the "Clivius Scauri": an ancient road named after the Roman censor (109A.D.), which includes a wonderfully preserved domus, just underneath the Church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (St. John and Paul); in the Roman hous lies something unique in the world: the oldest depitcion of Christian Martyrdom of Rome, along with some of the best preserved frescoes of the city. The majestic basilica above, which became a place of Christian worship in the 4th century A.D., honors the two Christian martyrs (John and Paul), who refused to worship the Emperor Julian the Apostate (362-363 A.D.) as a divinity. A beautiful medieval bell-tower stands over the remains of what was once the Temple of the Divine Claudius, whose pillars are buried below the paved surface. The design of Santo Stefano Rotondo is an alluring element, as it's very different from the western manner of building churches; the name itself is quite explanatory: Saint Stefan "the Round". In fact the only parallels with its round plane design can be found in the martyrea of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), built between 4th and 6th century A.D.; the most famous example is, with no doubts, the Circular Rotunda over the Tomb of Christ in Jerusalem, built by Constantine. The meaning behind the round plane is quite fascinating: the shape recalls a crown, as the buildings were constructed specifically for the worship of individual martyrs, and the design was inspired by the imperials and pagan heroons' mausolea (worship of semi-devine heroes). Although the unusual design, there is no evidence that a relic of St. Stephen or other martyr was ever kept in St. Stefano Rotondo.