Thursday, May 10, 2007

Shock Troops

Everyone else had some errands to do today, so Alex and I decided to go into town to "feel out" an area we have been wanting to visit. It's quite easy to get to; we took the metro to the Flaminio stop, got out, walked one street over and there we were on Via del Corso. It turns out that they were preparing for the 155th anniversary of the Police Force (which takes place tomorrow) and we got to see this car. Yep, that's a Lamborghini police car.

What we came to see was the Ara Pacis, an altar built by the Emperor Augustus between 13 and 9 BC. It was intended to celebrate the Pax Romana or Roman Peace which came as a result of the Emperor's rule. This is a picture of the Emperor's family tree.

The Ara Pacis was located on the Campus Martius, the floodplane of the Tiber river. The Campus Martius was where the Roman army used to drill, train, and perform all their military maneuvers. Unfortunately, over the centuries the Ara Pacis was covered with about 12 feet of silt from the river. They had quite a job excavating it. Because the ground covering it was marshy, and mostly silt, they could not get the excavating equipment near enough the ground to hoist the Ara Pacis up. They ended up sinking pipes into the ground, 55 of them, 7 meters long. Then they pumped liquid carbon dioxide into the pipes. As the carbon dioxide evaporated, it froze the ground to -40 degrees solidifying it, and allowing them to excavate the Ara Pacis. It was in relatively good condition, however several of the panels were broken and some pieces were missing. Today the Ara Pacis has been reconstructed, and plaster casts have been fitted in the gaps left by the missing parts. Here is a shot of the Ara Pacis as it appears today. This is a model in the museum downstairs.

This is a frontal shot of the same part of the real thing.

This is inside the Ara Pacis, showing the altar that animals would be sacrificed on to the pagan gods.

If you noticed on the panels above there are many vines and flowers decorating the Ara Pacis. So far over 70 different species of flora have been identified as being sculpted on the panels. This picture shows just 4 of them. Look at the picture of the sculpture, then the picture of the real-life plant. Isn't it amazing?

Another shot of the back of the Ara Pacis with me standing in front of it.

After we left the Ara Pacis we went to the church of Sant' Ambrogio e San Carlo. This beautiful Baroque church was built in 1699 in honor of the two great saints from Milan, St. Charles and St. Ambrose.

Inside the church is this magnificent statue of Judith holding the severed head of Holofernes.

I'm fascinated with ceilings and this one is an incredible one :) This church is famous for its frescoes; in fact we got an entire book just on the frescoes. I think they give the Sistine Chapel a run for its money.

Also in this church is this HUGE painting of St. Olav, a Norwegian king who converted to Christianity.

Behind the main altar is the incorrupt heart of St. Charles Borromeo. It was donated to the church in 1614 by his cousin.

This church also had an amazing pulpit. Look at the variety of marble used to construct it!


DelGrosso said...

These are amazing and very beautiful sites. Thank you for sharing.

Thomas said...

The Church is gorgeous and that car man, ooh sweet.

Laura said...

bellissima l'ara pacis, l'ho studiata all'università, peccato che non l'ho mai vista da vicino, solo sui libri...

natalie said...

Ok I'm coming to Italy to be a police officer just so I can drive one of those cars!hehe

Laura said...

I'd like to be a policeman there.... :)

Theodore Harvey said...

Hey, that's the same church I visited and photographed (click on my name) in 2004!

Aggie said...

got to love those police cars, wouldn't I love to take that for a sping on the autobon. Do they have those in Italy, or is it just Germany and Spain (straight roads, no speed limit)

The ceiling is incredible, yeah it gives Sistine chapel a run. Did Michangelo do it by chance.