Sunday, 22 November 2015

A City of Bricks & Marble

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.” 
Augustus Caesar (apparently).

I got so excited about seeing the Pantheon for the first time that I forgot about the City's other circular... colossus. Although, this icon of Rome seemed like a great way to begin my last day in the city.

Although it was a place built for horror, I found its existence humbling. Stepping out of the metro to be greeted by the iconic curving walls felt very similar to the first time I stepped inside the British Library and saw the Rosetta Stone. Although, I suppose that the Colosseum has had a much more direct impact on the lives and imaginations of centuries of artists, poets, travellers and visitors.

Even its structural elements are beautiful. All of its faults and fixings, all of the efforts made to keep it standing, to keep it legible and tangible. Layers upon layers of brick and stone and cement are intrinsic to its character and its continued life.

The symmetry of the brick vaults definitely caught my eye. Row after row, slightly different each time, but coming together to build this labyrinth of tunnels and columns, places of fear and torture, entertainment and delight, learning and understanding.

'Dem curves tho.

I was thrilled to finally get to the Roman Forum too. It was one of those places that made me feel like I was watching a quiz show on TV and a round on "my subject" has just come up. I was taken back to my Grand Tour module of third year, sitting at my desk making terrible pencil sketches of each of the surviving structures in the Forum, writing their names and dates underneath, memorising the stories of Castor and Pollox, desperately hoping to impress Professor Cassidy in all his wisdom.

It was entirely different to how I imagined it. Because I learnt about it in the most detail from my Grand Tour class, I had always pictured it in my head as being a lot more open and relaxed. People strolling in their red coats with their sketchbooks; not like me in my t-shirt and shorts with a camera slung around my neck, desperately clutching on to the bottle of water that I was pretty certain I'd die without.

But then I see things like this, this tiny remnant of the Temple of Vesta (right), and I am able to conjure an image in my mind of what it originally looked like; it's original purpose. Whenever I see any other circular building, I always think of the Temple of Vesta. I seem to remember that along with Nero's Domus Aurelia and Varro's Aviary, it is one of the earliest examples of a circular building. Vesta was originally worshipped privately as the Goddess of hearth and home.

These circular buildings were constructed to house fires and face the east as a reminder of their connection to the sun, likely with a ventilation hole at the top to allow for the escape of smoke. Hmm, what does that image remind you of (although on a much larger scale!) The sacred fire of Vesta was apparently believed to be a symbol of the cities' fortune, a representation of the glory and power of Rome itself. But, much like the Pantheon, the symbol of circular buildings stretches far beyond the image of Rome, but to the image of the universe.

Which, let's face it, probably was how Rome was seen.

I took a brief trip to the Circus Maximus and Bocca della Verità, although just to pass by and take a snap as I wasn't too hung up on seeing them.

& after all, I was on my way to the Baths of Caracalla.  Gee whizz.

I can't even begin to explain the scale of this place. I felt like I was wandering for hours just trying to find my way back to the beginning. I was taken with the idea of this place covered in tiles and mosaics, bustling with people, thick with steam and conversation. It's bizarre to think that such a place existed, but I loved being in a place that served a function so key to the Roman way of life.

My last stop of the day, and thus my entire trip in Rome, was Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. I didn't get to go inside because I had ditched my a-pope-riate clothing after my trip to St Peter's that morning, and it was far too hot to wear anything that wasn't tiny. Honestly, it hadn't even been on my list of places to go. I went because my ex-boyfriend had told me that this is where his parents got married (or at least it was the best guess), and when I realised I had enough time for one more stop, I decided to go there as a token of good will. Even with everything that was happening between us at the time, I wanted to send back this small snap that might make his parents smile. They had always been so kind and loving towards me, and I was glad to have a glimpse into their life together.

& looking back, I suppose that really was the best way to end my trip. 

In the end, things didn't work out for us, but this last photograph kind of sums up every single photograph I have posted in the last 2 years. I wouldn't have been to this place, to any of these places if it wasn't for the way my life had taken me. 

I have to learn to be thankful for our time together rather than being sad about the way it ended. But this trip and these photographs will be part of how I will move forward, and largely the reason I decided to share them along with my story. All of this history reminds me that I have a future. I may be made of brick right now, but I will be made of marble.

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