The page covers:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Tempio di Castore e Polluce
S. Lorenzo in Miranda (Tempio di Antonino e Faustina)
SS. Cosma e Damiano (Tempio di Romolo)
Tempio della Pace
S. Francesca Romana (S. Maria Nuova)
Arco di Tito
This plate is the second etching which in 1752 Giuseppe Vasi dedicated to Campo Vaccino (Cow Field), the name used in the XVIIIth century for the site of the ancient Roman Forum. This view shows its eastern part (you may wish to see the western one). Another etching showing the southern part of the Forum was published in 1753. The tree-lined road shown in the plate was known as Stradone di Campo Vaccino and it was opened in 1536 by Pope Paul III for the expected visit to Rome of Emperor Charles V; he wanted to impress his guest by showing him the remaining monuments of the ancient city; the opening of the road led to pulling down many medieval houses and towers.
Possessio, the procession which accompanied the newly elected pope from the Vatican to S. Giovanni in Laterano, went through Campo Vaccino by this road.
The view is taken from the green dot in the 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Colonne antiche (Tempio di Castore e Polluce); 2) S. Lorenzo in Miranda; 3) SS. Cosma e Damiano; 4) S. Maria Nuova (aka S. Francesca Romana); 5) Tempio della Pace (actually Basilica di Massenzio which is covered in another page); 6) Arco di Tito. The dotted line which runs in the middle of the road in the small map delineates the border between Rione Campitelli (left) and Rione Monti (right).
In 1765 Vasi covered this part of Campo Vaccino in a larger etching. You may wish to see Stradone di Campo Vaccino as it was in 1865.
The view in June 2020 (from the rear of Palazzo Senatorio)
The excavations carried out during the XIXth century unearthed the foundations of several Roman monuments; in 1882 Stradone di Campo Vaccino was excavated until the remains of Via Sacra were found; it was the most important street of the Roman Forum; it linked Arco di Tito with Arco di Settimio Severo; by comparing the plate with the current view at selected locations such as the access to S. Lorenzo in Miranda/Tempio di Antonino e Faustina (far left) it is possible to gauge the amount of earth/materials which over the centuries covered the ancient street. This build-up of earth/materials was due to the collapse of many buildings and to the fact that since the XIth century Cloaca Maxima, the sewer built by the ancient Romans, was obstructed. In autumn rain from the nearby hills flowed into the Forum carrying mud which solidified during the dry season.
Along Via Sacra: (left) marble lintel with a Greek inscription; (right) pedestal of a statue to Maxentius
The Clivus Sacer, or gradient of the Sacra Via by the Basilica of Constantine. This tract, excavated between March and June, 1878, is the noblest and widest of the whole line. It measures 23 metres across from building to building, and 12.35 metres between the sidewalks. (..) The left-side pavement is 8.20 metres wide, and entirely encumbered by monuments in honor of different people, dating mostly from the time of Septimius Severus and his successors. There are pedestals of single or equestrian statues, shrines, fountains, hemicycles, etc. (..) The most important are: (..) a shrine dedicated to Gordianus the younger by the people of Tharsos, together with his equestrian statue. This graceful aedicula was supported by two columns of portasanta; the letters TAPCEON on the epistyle were of gilt metal. It could be reconstructed almost in a perfect state.
Rodolfo Lanciani - The ruins and excavations of ancient Rome - 1897
In general the approach of Italian archaeologists was that to leave the ancient monuments as they found them without attempting to reconstruct them, the only remarkable exceptions being Arco di Tito and to a minor extent Tempio di Vesta.
Painted cupboard in the Vatican Library showing the excavations at Campo Vaccino in ca 1860
February 1788. Herr and Frau von Diede,
were making a return visit to their respected friend,
and I could the less refuse to accept their pressing invitations that the lady, who was celebrated for her skill on the
pianoforte, had promised to let us hear a performance at
her hands on the occasion of a concert at the Senator's
residence in the Capitol. (..) The incomparable
prospect displayed at sunset from the windows of the
Senator's house, in the direction of the Coliseum, with all
that was embraced on the other sides, afforded to our
artistic eyes the most glorious picture, though, to avoid the
semblance of disrespect or inattention to the company, we
could not devote ourselves to it as we should have liked. (..) For us, the
German guests, it was an inestimable enjoyment to listen
to an excellent lady, long known and esteemed by us, pouring herself forth in the tenderest tones at the pianoforte,
and in the same moment to gaze from the window into the
most unique landscape in the world, and then, with a
little turning of the head, to survey, in the evening sunset
glow, the grand picture which to the left stretched from
the arch of Septimus Severus along the Campo Vaccino to
the Temples of Minerva and of Peace, with the Coliseum
towering behind. Next, turning the eye to the right, you
pass by the arch of Titus and lose yourself in the labyrinth
of the Palatine ruins, and its solitude gladdened by horticulture and wild vegetation.
J. W. Goethe - Italian Journey - Translation by Charles Nisbeth
You may wish to see some 1905 paintings by Alberto Pisa showing the Roman Forum and a 1909 watercolour by Yoshio Markino.
(left) The three remaining columns of the temple; (right) enlargement of the capitals and the cornice
The temple was built after the victorious battle at Lago Regillo (496 BC) during which the Romans saw Castor and Pollux
galloping at their side. It is located opposite Fonte di Giuturna, a holy spring where the two stopped with their
horses before announcing the victory to the people left in the city. The temple was rebuilt several times and the three remaining columns
were part of a reconstruction by Emperor Tiberius. The marble for them came from the Greek
island of Paros.
The columns were firmly associated with the Temple to Castor and Pollux only in the late XIXth century. Previously they were thought to belong to a Temple to Jupiter Stator (Stayer, because the god appeared to some Roman soldiers who were fleeing the battlefield and forced them to stay, similar to what occurred at Domine Quo Vadis and to what St. Ubaldo did at Gubbio in 1419) or to Grecostasis, a building where foreign ambassadors were hosted.
View of the temple/church; in the early XXth century a pre-Roman necropolis was discovered near the temple
Some of the Roman temples have been fortunately preserved as churches. The catholic religion is surely a friend, but an interested friend, to the fine arts. It rejects nothing that is old or beautiful. (..) The catholics let the temple stand, and gloried in its conversion to Christianity.
Joseph Forsyth - Remarks on Antiquities, Arts, and Letters in Italy in 1802-1803
There is uncertainty about the origin of the word Miranda added to the dedication to St. Lawrence. Vasi and with him many other writers of old guidebooks suggested that it was the gerund form of the Latin verb mirare, thus meaning that the church was located in a place (the Roman Forum) which called for admiration. It is now thought that the word derived from a (lost) medieval monastery founded by a woman called Miranda, because when the cell of the Roman temple was turned into this church (probably in the VIIIth century), aesthetic criteria were not highly regarded and ancient temples were despised.
(left) View from a former terrace of Orti Farnesiani; (right) view of the front; the indentations of the columns indicate that attempts were made to cause their fall
Templum Antonini et Faustina now S. Lorenzo in Miranda. The portico of this remains still entire with its ancient inscription, and a great part of
the walls made of massy square stones. The marble
pillars of the porch suffer much by the weather, being of that sort of stone, which hath a grain lying
one way, and so riving or cleaving like wood.
John Ray - Observations (..) made in a journey through part of (..) Italy in 1663
The temple was built in 141 AD by Emperor Antoninus Pius in honour of Annia Faustina, his deceased wife. After his death the temple was dedicated to him too and the two names appear on the inscription. Many temples, baths and other monuments were dedicated to Annia Faustina in many parts of the Roman Empire (e.g. at Sardis and Miletus). Coloured marble from Karistos (known as cipollino) was employed for the columns of the portico. Between 1601 and 1607 Orazio Torriani designed a new façade for the church, which adds to the beauty of the ancient columns. Another view of the façade is shown in the image used as background for this page.
The frieze depicting griffins at the sides of a chandelier or vase was copied by many Renaissance artists and it was used in the decoration of many buildings. We now know that it was not a novel pattern because it had been widely used in Basilica Ulpia (Trajan's Forum).
In 1430 Pope Martin V assigned the church to Collegium Pharmacopolar, the guild of pharmacists and perfumers to which it still belongs (it is better known as Collegium Aromatariorum). You may wish to see a list of churches belonging to a guild.
(left) Interior; (right) one of the side chapels
The interior was entirely redesigned by Orazio Torriani who managed to turn it into a typical Roman church of his time by creating a series of chapels, but without modifying the external structures of the temple.
(left-above) 1430 inscription stating that Pope Martin V assigned the church to the guild; (left-below) bronze mortars (see the symbol of the guild at Palazzo dei Conservatori); (right) Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (early XVIIth century by an unknown Flemish painter - see other similar paintings in the churches of Rome)
St. Lawrence was not the patron saint of pharmacists or perfumers, but he was very popular in Rome and seven historical churches were dedicated to him besides S. Lorenzo in Miranda, i.e. San Lorenzo ai Monti (lost), San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, San Lorenzo in Borgo, San Lorenzo in Damaso, San Lorenzo in Fonte, San Lorenzo in Lucina and San Lorenzo in Panisperna.
(left) Decollation of St. John the Baptist (early XVIIth century by an unknown Flemish painter); (centre) Monument to Nicola Marra (see other monuments showing the dead in the act of praying); (right) Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (early XVIIIth century)
View of the two ancient buildings which were turned into SS. Cosma e Damiano (from Arco di Tito). The church has a small "campanile a vela" behind the rectangular building
When Pope Martin V assigned S. Lorenzo in Miranda to the pharmacists' guild, he probably was influenced by the fact that a church which stood very near S. Lorenzo was dedicated to Cosmas and Damian, the patron saints of doctors (and barbers). The church was consecrated in ca 530, during the Ostrogothic Kingdom when Amalasuntha, daughter of King Theodoric, gave to Pope Felix IV a rectangular building which originally was a library of Tempio della Pace and an adjoining circular building which traditionally was thought to be a temple dedicated by Maxentius to his son Romulus (but perhaps it was the Temple to Jupiter Stator).
The most conspicuous portion of the building is the
entrance door, with bronze folds and an elaborate entablature supported by two columns of porphyry. The door and its ornaments
were raised to the level of the modern city by Pope Urban VIII
about 1630. The Italian government restored it to its ancient
site in 1879. Lanciani
The section of the church inside the circular building was largely modified in the XVIIth century because its original floor was below the level of the street owing to the accumulation of earth/materials: for this reason the entrance from the Forum was raised by some twenty feet. In 1879 this section of the church was separated from the rest and it became part of the archaeological site; the entrance returned to its original location. The lock on the bronze doors is still working.
You may wish to see the building as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome.
Lower part of the circular building: (left) XIIIth century altar with fresco attributed to Jacopo Torriti who is best known for his mosaics; (centre/right) XIIIth century frescoes
The access to the circular building from the Forum was closed for many years because of concerns about its stability. In 2015, after a long restoration, it housed an exhibition of the statues of Fonte di Giuturna. It was at last possible to see some of the decoration of the circular building prior to the changes made in the XVIIth century which turned it into a crypt.
Upper part of the circular building: 1638 ceiling with the heraldic symbols of Pope Urban VIII (the bees and the sun); (inset) painting in the lantern
In the late XVIth century some walls of the rectangular building showed signs of being close to collapse. Some repairs were made in 1597-1602. In 1626 Pope Urban VIII decided to redesign the interior of the two buildings making up the church and to raise their floors by some twenty feet. The changes were directed by Luigi Arrigucci who was a state architect and was involved in the restoration of other churches (e.g. S. Sebastiano al Palatino.
(left) Interior; (right) 1632 ceiling with a painting by Marco Tullio Montagna portraying the two saints (you may wish to see other ceilings of Roman churches)
With the closure of the circular building which was the vestibule of the church, the access is now through the side entrance from the monastery. Apart from the mosaics of the arch and of the apse, the church was entirely redesigned and redecorated in the XVIIth century.
Sts. Cosmas and Damian were among the most popular healing saints. They were doctors who did not charge for their services. They lived at Aegea (today's Yumurtalik) and according to tradition they were beheaded and buried at Cyrrhus in 287.
The width of the church was reduced by Arrigucci in order to strengthen the building by the additional walls which separate the chapels. The mosaic of the arch had the symbols of the Four Evangelists, but two of them (the Lion of St. Mark and the Bull of St. Luke) do not exist any longer. The decoration of the arch was promoted by Pope Saint Sergius I and its subject (the Second Advent of Jesus Christ as described in the Apocalypse of John) appears also in a mosaic at S. Prassede which was made more than a century later. The mosaic had a political/theological meaning because Sergius refused to accept the outcome of a council held at Constantinople which forbade the depiction of Jesus as a Lamb.
Mosaic of the apse: (left) Pope Felix IV carrying the model of the church; (right) the River Jordan and the Holy Lamb standing upon the Four Rivers of the Garden of Eden, or the Four Gospels (see also an early Christian mosaic in Tunisia)
The left part of the mosaic of the apse and in particular the depiction of Pope Felix IV is the result of repeated changes. In the XVIth century Pope Gregory XIII decided to replace Pope Felix IV with St. Gregory the Great and a century later Cardinal Francesco Barberini decided to return to the original subject. The mosaic of the apse and in particular the band with the sheep had an influence on other later mosaics in Rome (e.g. at S. Clemente); it can be noticed also at S. Apollinare in Classe at Ravenna.
(left) Main altar designed by Domenico Castelli; (centre) Easter Chandelier; (right-above) Cappella di S. Barbara; (right-below) detail of the gravestone of Mons. Giovanni Battista Capilupi (see other symbols of Death in the churches of Rome)
In 1512 the church and the monastery were assigned to the Franciscans of the Third Order. Although the Franciscans were not in favour of a too expensive decoration, there is not a square inch of the church which is not covered by paintings, stuccoes or marbles.
(left) Façade of the monastery; (right) detail of its portal with the symbol of the Third Franciscan Order
The convent adjoining the church was redesigned between 1626 and 1632 by Orazio Torriani. Today the access to the church and the monastery is through a modern entrance which was designed in the 1930s when Via dei Fori Imperiali was opened.
XVIIIth century Neapolitan crib which was donated in 1939 (now in a hall of the courtyard of the monastery - you may wish to see more cribs in a page covering Christmas in Rome)
Marble floor of the eastern part of Tempio della Pace and behind it Basilica di Massenzio; to the left Via dei Fori Imperiali and Colosseo
I remember I saw Workmen digging behind the Church of Sts Cosmas and Damianus and that they took up a Marble Table Stone; which stuck to the Wall in the nature of casing, and on it was carv'd both the Plan and the Prospect of the City of Rome.
Flaminius Vacca's 1594 account of discoveries of antiquities which took place in his lifetime, as quoted in "The Travels of the Learned Father Montfaucon from Paris thro' Italy - 1712"
Vespasian reorganized the city from the material as well as from an administrative point of view: the lands usurped by Nero for his Golden House were given back to the people; the burnt quarters rebuilt, (..) a new map of the city was drawn, and the cadastre of public and private property revised. These documents were deposited in a fireproof building, an oblong hall 42 metres long, 25 metres wide, constructed expressly on the west side of the Forum Pacis, between it and the Sacra Via. (..) The map of the city, drawn in accordance with the last official survey and the results of the census, was exhibited on the side of the hall facing the Forum of Peace. We do not know whether it was simply drawn in colors on plaster, (..) or engraved on marble. (..) Maxentius brought his building into contact with the Forum of Peace and obstructed the passage between the Sacra Via and the region of the Carinae. Lanciani
Vespasian took up a large section of the burnt land between the Sacra Via and the Carina, and erected on it a splendid temple to Peace, surrounded by a large open space, which must have served, like the fora of Julius and Augustus, to relieve the Forum Romanum. Lanciani.
Additional fora were built by Domitian/Nerva and Trajan.
(left) Ancient wall of the library of Tempio della Pace at SS. Cosma e Damiano; (right) bronze head of Chrysippus, a IIIrd century BC Greek Stoic philosopher (now at Mercati di Traiano). It was probably used in the library to indicate the topics of books in a cupboard
The Temple of Peace was built by Vespasian. All the ancient writers by whom it is mentioned concur in representing it as a splendid edifice, comprising within it treasures of art and of precious objects. (..) Annexed to the temple was a library in which the learned met.
Rev. Jeremiah Donovan - Rome Ancient and Modern - 1844
The city was again half destroyed by fire in the year 191, under Commodus, the centre of the conflagration being precisely the neighborhood of these archives. The house of the Vestals, the jewelers' shops on the Sacra Via, (..) and the Forum and Temple of Peace were leveled to the ground. The archives, surrounded by this mighty blaze on every side, must have been turned into an oven in spite of their fireproof inclosure, their bronze roof melted, their contents injured by heat or by water. Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla undertook, with the reconstruction of the city, the reestablishment of the archives of the cadastre, and, in memory of their work (..), they caused a new and revised edition of the plan of the city to be engraved in marble and exhibited in the same place, that is to say, on the front of the building facing the Forum of Peace. (..) This celebrated "Forma Urbis" was engraved on marble at an approximate scale of 1:250. Lanciani
Reconstructed columns of the southern portico of Tempio della Pace
The identification of the actual site of Tempio della Pace, a very large portico surrounding gardens with a temple on its eastern side, was not possible until the archaeological campaigns of the late XIXth century unearthed some of its foundations. In the 1930s the excavations for the opening of Via dei Fori Imperiali brought to light other parts of the building, but they were covered again. In 2016, after another excavation campaign, some granite columns of the southern side of the portico were reconstructed.
(left) Side view of the church; (right) front view of the church and in the background Colosseo
The church, initially a small oratory, was built on the western terrace of Tempio di Venere e Roma. In the IXth century when nearby S. Maria Antiqua was abandoned the oratory was enlarged and embellished and it was thus called S. Maria Nuova. In the XIIth century a tall Romanesque bell tower was added (you may wish to see other similar bell towers in Rome).
Medieval cloister: (left) one of its arches; (centre) fragment of a fresco; (right-above) symbol of the Olivetans, a branch of the Benedictine Order, to whom the church was assigned in 1352; (right-below) coat of arms of Roger de Beaufort, who was created cardinal deacon of S. Maria Nuova in 1348 and who was elected Pope Gregory XI in 1370
The church was restored by Gregory XI, the Pope who left Avignon and returned to Rome; he is buried there in a 1584 monument. Today the cloister houses Museo del Foro, a small museum with exhibits from the excavations of the Forum, e.g. graves from a very early necropolis and stones from Lapis Niger.
You may wish to see the church as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome.
In the early XVIIth century the church was largely renovated and a new façade was designed by Carlo Lambardi; on this occasion it was dedicated to St. Frances of Rome, the founder of Monastero di Tor de' Specchi; because this saint is still very popular in Rome many weddings take place in this church (and in 1949 Tyrone Power and Linda Christian chose it for their wedding - it opens in another window).
You may wish to see the view one enjoys from its portico.
Mosaic of the apse (ca 1160): (left to right) St. John, St. James, Madonna and Child, St. Peter and St. Andrew
The choice of the saints at the sides of the Virgin Mary is rather unusual because St. Paul is not shown. In almost all mosaics/paintings in Rome where a plurality of saints are portrayed Sts. Peter and Paul, patron saints of the city, have a place of honour next to Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary.
(left) Bell tower seen from Colosseo (and a portion of the eastern apse of Tempio di Venere e Roma); (right-above) gravestone of Pseudocardinal (i.e. a cardinal created by an antipope) Alamanno Adimari (d. 1422); (right-below) decoration of the portico with the symbol of the Olivetans, to whom the church still belongs
(left) Arco di Tito (eastern side); (right) two reliefs in the interior of the arch showing the triumph of Emperor Titus after his campaign in Palestine. See a page with more images of the arch or you may wish to see it as it was in a 1710 painting by Gaspar Van Wittel (it opens in another window)
been included in the fortifications of the Frangipani, it suffered
great damage during the fights of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. To insure its safety after the demolition of the tower and
houses by which it was partly supported, Giuseppe Valadier took
down the whole structure piece by piece in 1822, strengthened the
foundations, and reconstructed it in its present form, completing
the missing parts in travertine so as to make them easily distinguishable from the originals, which are in pentelic marble. Lanciani
The arch was built by Emperor Domitian and by the Roman Senate to celebrate Emperor Titus. During the Middle Ages the arch was incorporated into the fortifications built by the Frangipane around Colosseo and it was used as a gate. Pope Pius VII promoted its restoration; Valadier perhaps utilized travertine rather than marble because of its lower cost; the result however is regarded as one of the first reconstructions of an ancient monument in which the original parts are clearly identifiable from the additions.
Learn more about the inscription of the arch.
You may wish to see Arco di Traiano at Benevento, the design of which was influenced by this arch.
Next plate in Book 2: Piazza del Colosseo.
Next step in Day 1 itinerary: Orti Farnesiani sul Monte Palatino.
Next step in your tour of Rione Monti: SS. Luca e Martina.
Next step in your tour of Rione Campitelli: Orti Farnesiani sul Monte Palatino.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Dalle maravigliose colonne del tempio di Antonino e di Faustina sua moglie fu detta in Miranda questa chiesa la quale dopo di essere stata collegiata, nell'anno 1430. fu da Martino V. conceduta al collegio delli Speziali, i quali vi aggiunsero poi lo spedale per i loro giovani, e si ammira fra gli altri quadri, che sono in chiesa, il s. Levita dipinto da Pietro da Cortona. Dinanzi a questa chiesa era l’arco di Fabiano Censore, da cui principiava la celebre Via sagra, e seguitava per dritta linea fino al Colosseo. Ella ebbe un tal nome, perchè in essa Romolo e Tazio Re de' Sabini si dettero reciprocamente la fede di amistà. Appresso evvi la
Similmente celebre e antica è questa chiesa, poichè si crede edificata sopra il
tempio di Romolo, e Remo, circa l’anno 528. e poi da Sergio I. fu ricoperta di lamine di
bronzo; ed essendo da Adriano I. riedificata nell'an. 780. vi aggiunse la porta di
metallo. Il Card. Odoardo Farnese, mentre era Diacono di questa chiesa, osservando,
che ne' marmi del pavimento era delineata la pianta di Roma antica, rifece tutto il
pavimento, e trasportò quei frammenti nel regio palazzo Farnese, ove fino a' nostri
tempi si sono conservati, ma poi dalla somma generosità del Re delle due Sicilie oggi
invittissimo Monarca delle Spagne ne fu fatto dono al Pontefice Benedetto XIV. il quale
li fece collocare, come dicemmo, nelle scale del Museo Capitolino.