All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in November 2009.
Ruine del Foro di Nerva (Book 8) (Day 3) (Rione Monti)
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Vasi's view of the ruins in Emperor Nerva's Forum was based on XVIth century engravings, because the temple shown in the plate was pulled down in 1612 by Pope Paul V to use its columns for Acqua Paola, the large fountain he built on the Janiculum.
The view now encompasses also the adjoining Forum built by Emperor Augustus . At Vasi's time its walls housed the nunnery of S. Maria Annunziata; the church, the bell tower and the apartments of the nuns were all pulled down in the 1930s; some signs of their shapes can still be seen on the Roman wall (see the image below).
The gigantic wall was built for purely aesthetic reasons; the quarter to the north of the Forum was the infamous Subura (in Italian linguaggio da Suburra means foul language); the wall concealed its view to those who reached the Forum from its main entrance (i.e. from the Forum of Caesar).
Tempio di Marte and Arco de' Pantani
The Temple to Mars Ultor was the main building in the Forum built by Emperor Augustus: Ultor means the Avenger and it is a reference to the 42 BC Battle of Philippi during which Brutus and Cassius, the killers of Julius Caesar were defeated and they both committed suicide (other images of the temple can be seen in the historical section). The three remaining columns on the right side of the temple give an idea of its overall appearance: next to them an arch was the rear entrance to the Forum; in medieval times it became known as Arco dei Pantani (Arch of the swamps) because the area was not properly drained and therefore it was often covered with mud.
The tower which Vasi calls Torre de' Conti is generally known as Torre delle Milizie, the name it had before it was bought by the Conti family in the XVIth century; this to distinguish it from another Torre de' Conti at the other end of the Forum of Nerva.
The unusual shape of the tower makes it identifiable in a fresco by Cimabue in S. Francesco (Upper Church) at Assisi (click here to see it in an external link). It was taller than today and it did not lean (this was an unwanted effect of the XIXth century opening of Via Nazionale).
Torre dei Conti
The full name of the Conti was Conti di Segni; the family acquired importance in 1198 when Lotario di Segni became Pope Innocent III; during his pontificate the Conti built a very high tower on the ruins of a Roman temple; the upper part of the tower collapsed in 1349 because of an earthquake; the poet Francesco Petrarca wrote about the event in his letters (Book XI - VII): Turris illa toto orbe unica, quae comitum dicebatur, ingentibus ruinis laxata dissolvitur, et nunc, velut trunca capit, superbi verticis honorem solo effusum despicit (That famous tower called the Torre dei Conti, unique in the world, was rent by enormous cracks, and fell apart; and now, with its summit lopped off, it looks down and beholds strewn upon the ground the glory of its proud head. - Translation by Mario Emilio Cosenza).
In the XVIIth century the height of the tower was further reduced by the collapse of its upper stories.
In the XVth century the western structures of the Forum of Augustus were used by the Order of the Knights of Rhodes to build upon them the Roman residence of its representatives; the palace can best be seen from the street behind the Forum; the fine balcony is decorated with the coats of arms of Pope Paul II, of his nephew Cardinal Marco Barbo and of the Order.
SS. Quirico e Giuditta
During the 1930s many churches in this area were sacrificed
to the excavations of the Fora (see plate 142).
SS. Quirico e Giuditta is just outside the Forum of Augustus, so it was not
touched by them and it gives an idea of the lost churches. You may wish to peer inside the church to see
a dramatic painting portraying
the martyrdom of the two saints.
The church is very old, but because the area was often flooded, it was rebuilt several times and the level of its floor was raised; at the end of the XVIth century its orientation was changed and the apse was turned into a fašade which was redesigned in the XVIIIth century (you may wish to see the church as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome).
The inscriptions above the portal celebrate two restorations: by Pope Sixtus IV (below) and by Pope Paul V (above). The former is rather unusual and it is attributed to the humanist Lippo Brandolini: Instaurata videt Quiricus cum matre Iulita que fuerant longa diruta templa die / principe sub Sixto delubris nulla vetustas hic reficit pontes menia templa vias (Quirico together with his mother Giuditta now sees restored the temple abandoned for a long time. During the pontificate of Sixtus no ruins were tolerated: he rebuilt bridges, walls, churches and streets).
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 8: Monastero di S. Maria Annunziata
Next step in Day 3 itinerary: Monastero di S. Maria Annunziata
Next step in your tour of Rione Monti: Monastero di S. Maria Annunziata