The Discovery of Piranesi's Final Project
Stephen Lauf



24 September 1778     Thursday

Plan and section of the mausoleum of St. Helena, 1756.


Plan and elevation of the mausoleum of St. Helena, 1756.


Remains of the mausoleum of St. Helena, 1756.


24 September 1998
dies sanquinis
It was throughout the month of April 1998 that I translated all the Latin labels that Piranesi positioned next to the hundreds of building plans within the Ichnographia Campus Martius, a large map/plan of ancient Rome's Campus Martius "reconstructed". I used E. A. Andrews' A New Latin Dictionary of 1907 (a book about one and a half times the size of Koolhaas' S,M,L,XL) to do the translating, and this exercise proved extremely fruitful because I am now wholly knowledgeable of, if not an expert on, the "program" of every building that Piranesi delineated within the plan that at least one scholar deemed incomprehensible.*
After learning the meanings of over four hundred Latin words, beginning with abeo:
- to go from, to go away, depart
- to pass away, so that no trace remains, to disappear, vanish, cease, of man: to die
- to be changed from one's own ways or nature into something else, to be transformed, metamorphosed
- to pass with their whole body into another
and ending with xystus:
- among the Romans, an open colonnade or portico, or a walk planted with trees, etc., for recreation, conversation, philosophical discussion, etc.,
there is one definition that stands out in my mind more than any other. To my surprise, I found out that the god Mars, for whom the Campus Martius is named, had a sister, and her name was Bellona:
the goddess of war, sister of Mars, whose temple, built by Appius Claudius Caesus in the ninth district of the city, was situated not far from the Circus Flaminius -- a place of assemblage for the Senate for proceedings with persons who were not allowed entrance into the city. Her priests, Bellonarii, and priestesses were accustomed, in their mystic festivals, especially on the 20th of March, (hence dies sanguinis), to gash their arms and shoulders with knives, and thus offer their blood.
* Manfredo Tafuri, in Architecture and Utopia (p. 15), states that "Piranesi's Campo Marzio . . . is an experimental design and the city, therefore, remains an unknown." Tafuri's conclusion of the large plan's "unknowability" is clearly an error.


24 September 2001
Re: travels in hyper-reality
Here I refer back to the degrees of separation that manifest the limits of reenactment. The degrees range nicely from the closest to authenticity, clear away to the furthest artificiality.


24 September 2017

zero nine three


24 September 2022     Saturday

Plan of the original Constantinian Basilica of Sts. Peter and Marcellinus attached to the mausoleum of St. Helena.




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