Europe in January 2017 – The Tenth Day

After the fortification of coffee, I wandered this morning to the Piazza della Repubblica, not to visit the Piazza but because just off said piazza is one of the churches we visited on our first evening in Rome, the Basilica di Santa Maria devil Angeli e dei Martiri (St Mary of the Angels and Martyrs). You may remember, dear reader, that when we visited the Basilica on the first night, my fellow travellers remarked that seeing at the fall of night did not permit the full beauty of the building to be appreciated.

They were so very right.

The walls of this unique structure were alive in the play of light, the columns of red granite that are featured within the vaulted space of the church vibrant in the light of day. The church, which I thought spectacular when I first saw it during the evening, was even more so in the light of day.

The meridian line in the floor of the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels and Martyrs.

Of particular interest to me, however, was the presence on the floor of the church what I learnt was a meridian line, installed at the specific request of Pope Clement XI and finished in 1702. The sun, shining through a hole in the building, falls on to this bronze line at solar noon each day, moving from one end of the line to the other from summer solstice to winter solstice and back again. During January, close the northern hemisphere winter solstice, the sun was close to the furthest end of meridian line that is away from the wall of the church building. It was a fascinating thing to take in.

I spent a couple of very pleasant hours in the Basilica, exploring the artwork and architecture of this magnificent building. I also enjoyed just sitting there taking in the ambience and quietude of the large open space, so much so that I managed to be there in time for the midday Mass (in Italian). After which I adjourned to find something to eat.

After lunch, a leisurely affair to be sure, I made the decision to explore one of the other things I found particularly appealing about being in Rome. I wandered from the area between Roma Termini and Santa Maria Maggiore, where I had dined, down towards what was once the centre of the life of Rome, the Foro Romano. Having read many a novel set during the days of Republican and Imperial Rome, including Colleen McCullough’s Master of Rome series of novels, the Roman Forum was a place that held particular appeal to me, and so, being in Rome, it was a natural for me to wander through the place that featured so often in those novels, and indeed in the public life of Rome.

A pleasant few hours were spent doing exactly that, all the while recalling some of the descriptions of the Forum, and trying to imagine what it might have been like to be in that space during the height of its significance. I doubt my imagination could capture the true nature of the space(s) of the Forum, but it was certainly fun to try.

After a few hours in the forum, I mad my way back towards the apartment for the last full night in Rome.

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Article by Andrew Doohan

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