Discover Egypt in Rome..

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Ancient Rome discovers the charm of Egyptian culture in the first century b.C. , after the conquests of Julius Caesar and Augustus.

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Since that time, the Egyptian evidences in the city multiply. .and we are not only talking about the obelisks.

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Lets think of the Cestia Pyramid, the tomb of a rich politician; covered in Carrara marble, has survived to marble looters because it belongs within the defensive walls, as a fortified tower. But this was not the only pyramid in Rome.,

One stood in the area now occupied by the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Piazza del Popolo. Another pyramid was in the Vatican area, at the beginning of the current Via della Conciliazione, it was demolished in 1499, but appears in the bronze doors designed by Filarete for the St. Peter’s Basilica and in the fresco “The appearance of the Cross” by Giulio Romano in the Sala di Costantino in the Vatican Palaces.Obelisks and pyramids: a corner of Egypt on the Tiber. But in the city there were also temples and sacelli (shrines – small sacred buildings ) dedicated to the Egyptian gods , especially Isis and Serapis. Unfortunately, very little remains.

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The most important temple, of Isis and Serapis Campense, was located in the area of the Pantheon. The remains lie beneath the palace of the seminary and the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and Santo Stefano del Cacco. The strange name of this church comes from the discovery of a statue of the Egyptian god Anubis with the head in the shape of dog: the Romans , thinking it was a monkey, had called the ” macacco ” following “cacco”..that actually in Italian sounds a bit wacky 😉

The obelisks of Piazza Navona, Piazza della Rotonda , Piazza della Minerva and Piazza dei Cinquecento come from the Campense temple.

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On the slopes of the Quirinale’s hill there was the temple of Serapis: the remains are still visible between the Palazzo Colonna and the Gregorian University in Piazza della Pilotta.

Even on the Aventine, there was a temple dedicated to Serapis; what remains is lying beneath the church of Santa Sabina.

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Among via Labicana and the Colosseum , is positioned piazza Iside, an important place of worship, you can admire today the impressive remains inserted between the Roman buildings of 19th century.

There are numerous Egyptian sculptures in the city: the statue of the Nile, now in the Chiaramonti Vatican Museum; the two lions that decorate the “Fontain dell’acqua Felice” at the corner in Via XX Settembre; lions at the foot of the steps of the Campidoglio (Capitol); a statue in Piazza San Marco (the Roman one!), adjacent to Piazza Venezia, depicting Isis or a priestess (the Romans, who rank among the so-called talking statues , call her Madama Lucrezia – See our previous post: https://seadreamsexcursions.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/the-talking-statues-of-rome/ ).

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 Still, a large marble foot  gives its name to the homonymous street, a statue of the Egyptian cult; and , finally, a marble cat walled on the ledge of Palazzo Grazioli: Of course, we are in Via della Gatta (the street of the cat).

Image I find this Egyptian presence into one of the world’s richest Capital a really interesting story! Too bad not much remains.. but it’s like a city treasure hunt and it fits very well with ancient Egypt; it enriches the Eternal City of charm and mystery!

 

 

Secret Rome: lesser-known attractions.

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Our Rome expert reveals some of her favorite lesser-known attractions in the Eternal City.

ImageSan Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. Via del Quirinale 23, 00187

What an architectural marvel San Carlo is! Enter this ingenious little church, by Baroque maverick Francesco Borromini, and you’d hardly guess that the whole footprint was the size of one of the pilasters of St Peter’s (this is why locals refer to it affectionately as San Carlino – ‘Little Saint Charles’). The tortured, bipolar architect twisted lines and space to such an extent that volumes seem to appear out of nowhere in this oval creation, lit beautifully by high windows. There’s a tiny courtyard with perfectly proportioned Corinthian columns. And when the monks are in the mood, they’ll show you their extraordinary library too. For another miniature Borromini masterpiece, visit the vertiginous church of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, at Corso Rinascimento 40.

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Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, at Corso Rinascimento 40.

Protestant cemetery

That Keats and Shelley should be buried in this lovely place beneath the shadow of Rome’s only pyramid is particularly fitting: the cemetery is hopelessly romantic. It was my green refuge of choice when I lived just down the road in the Testaccio district. The cemetery grew up here because it lies ‘beyond the pale’, just outside the town walls. Non-Catholics struggled to be allowed a burial in papal Rome, and even after this patch of land was granted to them in the early 18th century, funerals tended to take place quietly, often at night.

Since 1953, this graveyard has officially been known not as the ‘Protestant’ but as the ‘Acatholic cemetery’: Muslims, Buddhists, Zoroastrians… and Antonio Gramsci, founder of the Italian Communist Party, are buried here. But for most Romans, it’s the old name that sticks. Across Via Zabaglia at the south western end of the cemetery is the equally poignant British military cemetery, where a piece of Hadrian’s wall has been brought back to the ancient metropolis.

ImageProtestant cemetery. Via Caio Cestio 6, 00153

San Clemente

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One of Rome’s most worthwhile but least publicised sightseeing treats, this historically-layered cake descends from a street-level medieval and early-Renaissance church, with frescoes by Masolino, via a fourth-century early Christian church to the basement remains of a second-century insula (apartment block), complete with shrine to Mithras. When down here, listen for the sound of running water: an ancient sewer passes close by before dumping its contents in the Tiber. The main church is free, but the two lower levels carry an entrance charge. (Via Labicana 95, 00184)

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