Encyclopedia Ichnographica

Saint Peter's Basilica

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Saint Peter's Basilica


Vincenzo Fasolo, "The Campo Marzio of G. B. Piranesi".
2691a 2691d
1956




Visigothic seige

"Thus began the third Visigothic siege, actually blockade, of Rome, an event whose outcome, after some eight centuries in which the imperial City had known impunity from foreign foes, created a shock of horror from Bethlehem to Britain. Once again Gothic bravery found itself daunted by the walls of Emperor Aurelian; the treachery that the Romans had feared in the beginning of 408 now in fact admitted the Goths by the Salarian Gate, 24 August 410, but not before the City had once again felt the bite of famine. Some buildings were burned, notably the Palace of Sallust the historian, which stood in its magnificence gardens near the gate of entry, perhaps the Basilica Aemilia in the Roman Forum, and the Palace of Saint Melania and Pinianus on the Caelian Hill, then one of the most fashionable quarters of Rome. Palaces and temples were plundered, some persons were slain or tortured to reveal their presumed hidden wealth; some virgins and other females were raped, but churches, especially the basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul, were spared and made places of refuge."
Stewart Irvin Oost, Galla Placidia Augusta: A Biographical Essay (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1968), pp. 96-7.




Campo Marzio - the triumphal way
1997.09.07

...in the Plattus text... ...the story about the entrance procession of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V in 1536 (nine years after his troops had sacked Rome in 1527). In this procession the route ended at the Vatican/St. Peter's. This brings to mind Piranesi's point of beginning of the Triumphal Way at the Templum Martis, which is very close to the actual site of St. Peter's. Again, there may be a symbolic reversal in the route that Piranesi marks.

...Nero's garden was already the site of Constantine's St. Peter's basilica. Therefore,it may not be all that far-fetched to see Piranesi making symbolic reference to the ancient Roman reversal from paganism to Catholicism. In this sence, the Porticus Neronianae is closer to Old St. Peter's that to the present basilica.




The Longest Axis / The Axis of Life
1997.09.21




symbolism of the Porticus Neronianae
1997.12.29

...found the Porticus Neronianae to carry a significance in that it is an inverted basilica with respect to the basilica of St. Peter's, which it nearly mirrors. Its position directly behind the Area Martis (and thus also directly behind the beginning-ending of the Triumphal Way) as additionally symbolic of Nero's reputation as Antichrist.

From Encyclopedia Britannica 16-231d (Peter Astbury Brunt):
"The great fire at Rome illustrates how low his [Nero's] reputation had sunk in 64. He did what he could to relieve the homeless and initiated rebuilding on a much better plan. Yet it was believed, without warrant, that he had fired the city himself in order to indulge his aesthetic tastes in its reconstruction. Nero tried to shift the charge onto the Christians, who were commonly thought to practice all kinds of wickedness. Hitherto the government had not clearly distinguished Christians from Jews; almost by accident, Nero initiated the later policy of intermittent and half-hearted persecution and earned himself the reputation of Antichrist in the Christian tradition."




Points of Departure
1998.01.07

I have decided to put together a critical essay regarding my interpretations and disputations of the contemporary existing texts on the Ichnographia. It will be called "Points of Departure"...

...this combined presentation technique may also follow Piranesi's methodology, thus offering the possibility of a further "re-enactment".

In thinking of the typologies... ...regard to Tafuri's comments of the Ichnographia being a sample book and something unknowable. ...the [scale] comparison between St. Peter's and the Bustum Hadriani is a perfect place to start, although I could also compare the Ichnographia plans to other ancient Roman plans, particularly the large baths. Such drawings would refute Tafuri's and Bloomer's statements regarding the smallness (and seemingly insignificantly treated Pantheon and tomb of Hadrian).

...Piranesi's cribbing of the Porticus Aemilia for the Septa Julia may actually represent Piranesi's scale for the entire Ichnographia. It could be that Piranesi very purposefully installed the Forma Urbis fragment of the Porticus Aemilia into the Ichnographia for the precise purpose of demonstrating more of the actual scale (and gigantism) of ancient Rome (--it is as if Piranesi is here illustrating his own quote about how one just has to look around at Rome and Hadrian's Villa to see the examples he emulates.) Piranesi was not being deceptive or misleading, nor was he acting out of ignorance of the fragment's true identity. Piranesi used the Porticus Aemilia as evidence and example.




Porticus Neronianae - crucifixion of St. Peter
1998.01.08

Because of the Michelangelo painting within the Vatican's Pauline Chapel it is certain that Piranesi was aware of the St. Peter reverse (inverted) crucifixion tradition. This lead to further interpret the Porticus Neronianae on the axis of Life as not only an inversion of the basilica of St. Peter's, but, more to the point, the porticus symbolizes the inverted crucifixion of St. Peter. Furthermore, because the porticus carries Nero's name, there is also the connection of Nero as Antichrist, and thus the inversion theme intensifies. I am now thinking that this very building (the Porticus Neronianae) carries an essential meaning for the entire Ichnographia plan, for all the above reasons plus for the fact that within the porticus' plan itself there is a significant switch in the way the walls are composed--the nave of the porticus is of a traditional layout of piers, yet in the trancepts the walls take on a very unique formation that generates a distinct pattern of solid and void. This methodical shift from solid to void is in and of itself a notation (demonstration - mark) of an oscillating or perpetual inverssion process. This plan as pattern is also perhaps a proto-sign of what might be called Piranesiesque, i.e., a type of planimetrics that is original to Piranesi and perhaps a prototype of his unique planning "style," which in turn proliferates throughout the Ichnographia.

life, death, and the triumphal way [inversion]
1998.01.11

I spoke with Sue Dixon yesterday and told her of my latest "discoveries" regarding the life and death axes of the Ichnographia, the arch of Theodosius et al and the further symbolism of the Porticus Neronianae as an inverted basilica-cross. She too became excited by my discoveries and then also brought further insight, especially in reference to the issue of the papacy and its research during the eighteenth century into the early Christian Church. She spoke of Bianchini and his nephew (a contemporary of Piranesi's) and their dual volumes of pagan (Roman) and Christian art, and she also mentioned how the papacy of the eighteenth century had lost (more or less by force and financial restraints) much of its political power and thus took on a very pious role--exhibiting not its worldly power but its almost mystical or spiritual power.

What I was saying about the apparent Pagan-Christian conversion-inversion narrative of the Ichnographia fit with what research Sue is continually doing regarding the contemporary and early eighteenth century influences on Piranesi and the whole issue of proto-archeology - history of the eighteenth century.

After speaking with Sue, I began thinking of the significance of the arch to the victory over Judea that is situated to the western end of the Bustum Hadriani. I now see it related to the pagan-Christian conversion-inversion of Rome, but in terms of Roman history it is a somewhat marginal issue-event. Yet, in terms of Christianity, the Roman victory over Judea, and hence the fall of Jerusalem, is a significant, albeit still sorrowful, event because of this event's relationship, and indeed verification of certain-particular passages of New Testament Scripture, i.e., Jesus' answering the Apostles question of when Jerusalem would end (which I think is in Mark or the Acts of the Apostles). Seeing how a seemingly minor event in Roman (Imperial) history can at the same time be a critical event for the foundation of Christianity made me think about how the Roman Judaic victory unwittingly gave manifest confirmation that Christianity had from that point forward absorbed Judaism.

Although it comes from the margin or edge, the significance of the victory of Judea arch sheds a major light upon the narrative Piranesi tells--Piranesi's "story" is about Christianity's similar absorption and concomitant destruction of paganism. This notion of Christianity absorbing both Judaism and paganism has major theological implications, especially with regard to a heretofore perhaps ignored importance-significance of Rome and the Roman Empire within the Canon and doctrine of the Christian (Catholic) faith.

...the real axis of St. Peter's Basilica and Square. This axis is fundamental to Piranesi' axis of life--and the most significant point alone the existing axis is the burial place of St. Peter, which, although not noted in the Ichnographia, is nonetheless an ancient Roman artifact.

...the story of the Triumphal Way. ...follow the triumphal path on the plan, and explain the entire route in Roman-pagan-triumphal ritual terms. ...bring up the essential concept of reenactment, the reenactment that Piranesi here designed, especially the well planned sequence of stadia and theaters along the way. Piranesi made use of what was actually once there.

When the route reaches the wall at the Temple of Janus, attention turns to Triumphal Arch-Gate, which is closed during the years of inactivity. Does the Triumphal Way then bounce off the wall and go back the way it came? Does the Temple of Janus allow us to go in either direction? (Other clues of inversion abound: obelisk in the Horti Salustiani, Porticus Phillippi, the Arches along the Via Lata, the Via Flaminia, the Circus Flaminia, the obelisks at Augustus's Tomb. The recurring inversion theme points to a greater meaning/symbolism.) The Temple (arch) of Janus represents the Arch of Janus built by Constantine (who might himself be called the Janus figure of Christianity) and this is the initiation of the way of Christianity's triumph: the profane to the sacred; the forest, hell, purgatory, heaven; the path of salvation through Christ and the Church.)

...the way from the profane to the sacred ends at the Area-Templum Martis as symbolic of the union of the most sacred site ancient Rome (or at least its point of origin) with the most sacred site of Christian Rome (St. Peter's place of burial) and also the point of origin of Christian Rome.

The garden of Nero is the ultimate field of inversion: Horti Neroniani to Vatican City, the garden of antichrist to the Church as the Body of Christ, the foremost seat of the Church of Christ, and finally St. Peter's inverted crucifixion begins the conversion of Rome.

I will conclude the inversion from pagan to Christian story-line by returning to the axis of death and the Arch of Theodosius et al at its tip, and thus when compared with the intercourse building we have depicted the beginning and the end of pagan Rome. To this I will add the Jewish Victory monument and end with the notion that Piranesi has here used architectural plans and urban design to tell the "history" of ancient Rome, however, one has in a sense read both the "positive" and the "negative" image-plan -- a story where the first half is the reciprocal of the second half (and vice versa). (I am oddly reminded here of the double theaters story from Circle and Oval in St. Peter's Square.)




Campo Marzio - new discoveries
1998.04.29

...St. Peter's Basilica and Square match exactly the outline of the Porticus Neronianae and the Temple and Area of Mars complex. The piazza of St. Peter's matches the dimensions of the Area Martis, the Temple of Mars fits within the forecourt of St. Peter's, and the nave and transept crossing of the Neronian Porticus falls right in line with the crossing of St. Peter's. ...so exact, and unquestionably deliberate on Piranesi's part. ...firmly locks the analysis of the life and death axes.

The other discovery deals with the horti Luciliani and the horti Lucullani.

Piranesi places the fictitious horti Luciliani where the horti Lucullani ought to be, and places the horti Lucullani at a location further north.

It is the horti Lucullani that Messalena murdered for.

Lucilius is the father of Roman satire. Is there anything satirical in Piranesi's plan of the garden? Perhaps the answer has something to do with a shrine to Minerva being in the center of one of the building complexes--literally "wisdom" (but also "weaving") in the center of a garden of satire. The theater and salons, now make more sense.

satire 1 a : an ancient Roman commentary in verse on some prevailing vise of folly b : a usually topical literay composition holding up human or individual vices, folly, abuses, or shortcomings to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other method sometimes with an intent to bring about c : LAMPOON 2 a : a branch of literature ridiculing vice or folly

censure 1 : a judgement involving condem-nation a : spiritual chastizement by an ecclesiastical agency
wit implies intellectual brilliance and quickness in perception combined with a gift for expressing ideas in an entertaining, often laughter provoking, pointed way, usually connoting the unexpected or apt turn of phrase or idea and often suggesting a certain brittle unfeelingness
satire can apply to any criticism or censure relying on exposure, often by irony and often subtle, of the ridiclous or absurd qualities of something

The notion of Piranesi being satirical himself throughout the Ichnographia is an intriguing idea.

...the various other gardens and buildings that Piranesi places on the same plateau as the horti Lucullani. Some of them, like the horti Narcissi, relate directly to the Messalena story since it is the freedman Narcissus that ultimately kills Messalena. There is also the horti Anteri--Anteros means "an avenger of slighted love," which describes both Messalena and her husband the emperor Claudius, although for different reasons.

...Tafuri could have said so much more about the horti Luciliani.




connection between Rossi and Piranesi
1998.04.29

...the St. Peter's - Area Martis overlay is the same as the Modena Cemetery - Bustum Hadriani connection.




St. Peter's - Templum Martis Comparison
1998.05.10






Honorius, Flavius
1998.07.17

- son of the emperor Theodosius I, and brother of Arcadius
- the first emperor of the western Roman empire

The emperor Honorius plays a significant role within the narrative of the Ichnographia in that his sepulcher is the last building of ancient Rome represented in the large plan. With the exception of the Arch of Arcadius, Honorius and Theodosius (which is not represented within the Ichnographia), all of Honorius' other building activities in Rome involved repairs to existing structures. Indeed, Honorius is the last Roman emporer to build imperial structures in Rome.

In broad terms, the reign of Honorius signifies the Roman Empire's cessation as a cohesive whole, as well as Rome's ceasing to be the nucleus of classical civilization. Furthermore, Honorius' new constructions in Rome denote a clear shift in focus directed away from the Roman Forum and aimed at the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican valley--a shift that reflects perfectly Rome's inversion from paganism to Christianity.




Sep. Honorij Imp.
1998.07.17



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