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Posts from the ‘Compendium // Rome’ Category

Norms in Rome | The Ancient Forum

It is a fact universally acknowledged that Norms are mega history buffs. From the ice age to the golden age of the Renaissance, from Emperor Nero to Emperor Napoleon, the Norms soak in historical facts like they do rejuvenating sunshine. Lucky then that in Rome they can get both. In buckets. And where better to start the historical immersion than in the place where it all began: the Forum of Ancient Rome.

It’s not all that much to look at now, with its scattered ruins ravaged by time and multiple pillage, but with a little imagination, how mesmerising it is to recreate the kind of historical drama which played out in this place. Here it was that the steps of the Senate ran with Julius Caesar Norm’s blood. Where the great orator Cicero Norm would enchant his audiences with legal rhetoric. And where, just up the hillside, generations of magnificent but despotic emperor Norms would hold sway.

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Norms in the Forum (©2018, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

The broken rubble and the patches of grass don’t seem to do justice to what this place once was. But the Norms love it all the same. Here one can really take a tangible Norm-bounce back thousands of years into the past. And when the time comes to return to the 21st Century, the glory of modern day Rome reminds why this city continues to be a bustling contemporary metropolis, beloved of Norms everywhere.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Rome > Moses, the other great Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s David is one of the most cited, famous and admired sculptures in the history of art. Its image graces tea towels and teapots, erotic aprons and nodding-head dolls. And it’s no wonder. When I revisited the great marble man over Christmas, my emotions raised the nearer I got to the splendid stone musculature. We have been left with few Michelangelo sculptures in a truly finished state. Much of the works of his sculptural oeuvre have only just started emerging from their cacophony of natural stone. But in Rome there is another Michelangelo in the ecstatic state of splendid finesse, which is every bit the equal of David for its brilliance of anatomy, and for the emotions captured in marble. I am not talking of the Vatican’s La Pieta, but Moses, a mere stone’s throw from the Colosseum.

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Without a recommendation, you could easily miss San Pietro in Vincoli (St Peter in Chains), the church in central Rome where Moses is held (and which also hosts the chains purported to have held said St Peter in captivity). There, in one corner, the sole direction of the tourist gaze will soon demarcate where Michelangelo’s masterpiece is waiting. Had Moses sat within the mammoth marble tomb structure of Pope Julius II for which he was originally intended, there would have been no missing him. Commissioned by the Pope in 1505, the tomb was designed to hold 40 like-sized sculptures and fill a central apse of the new St Peter’s Basilica. As it was, Michelangelo soon became embroiled in the Pope’s other great commission: the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and when his tomb was eventually installed at its current location, Moses took centre stage, his being the only one of the major sculptures for the tomb completed.

Perhaps it was a twist of fate which made things that way. For it would be a crying shame indeed if this truly exquisite statue had been lost in a crowd of 39 others, relegated to a tier some 4 metres of the ground in its intended positioning. Today, by contrast, the relative accessibility of San Pietro in Vincoli means you can get to almost touching distance of the great man, and the effect is ravishing.

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How can I describe an encounter with Moses? Emotional for sure, awestruck most certainly. The way in which Michelangelo so adeptly sculpts the flowing beard of Moses, twisted around his fingers in what appears to be both a moment of contemplation and rage at the idolatry of the Israelites who he finds to be worshiping a golden cow upon his descent from Mount Sinai. There is a beautiful, throbbing intensity about his musculature and his domineering presence. This Moses is both godlike to behold, and intimidating to witness.

Above all things he is a true icon of art history, and what is Michelangelo’s perhaps more overlooked masterpiece, available for all to see (for free) in the very centre of Rome.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | Trevi Fountain

It’s a Norm takeover! Rome is full of them! Sprawling in their Norm tourist masses, the sweet little one-armed blobs have truly adopted the Eternal City to their hearts, and are determined to tick off the iconic sights, one by one. So where should they venture having sipped a coffee in the Piazza before the magnificent Pantheon? From a temple of Roman architectural brilliance to a fountain of baroque splendour, the Norms have traversed the central core of ancient Rome, crossed the chic Via Corso and arrived at one of the city’s most popular baroque masterpieces: the Trevi Fountain.

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Norms at the Trevi Fountain (©2018 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Being genetically programmed to be born with just one arm, there are many things that Norms cannot do that we two-armed humans take for granted. Happily, engaging in the tradition to through a coin into the Trevi Fountain is not one of them. This over-the-shoulder backwards coin throw is guaranteed to secure Norms a swift return to Rome. No wonder so many of them are doing it. And for those who aren’t, the good old favourite of 21st century tourists can also be held in the a Norms’ wonderful one-arm: bring on the trusty selfie-stick. The only way to ensure that the Norms capture their moment before one of the world’s most magnificent fountains.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Rome > Lateran, the Alternative Vatican

When many people think of Rome, it’s not the Colosseum they have in mind, but the soaring dome of St Peter’s Basilica at the very Catholic heart of the Vatican City. It is somewhat ironic then that the Vatican, while sitting bang centre in Rome, is not part of the Italian capital at all, but an entirely separate extraterritorial land belonging to the Holy See. Whatever the political geography, the Vatican is a must-see location for any visitor to Rome, but because of that, it’s too often heaving. Without an advanced ticket, you’ll spend far longer in a queue than you ever will inside of St Peter’s or its adjacent museum. Even with a reservation, the queues and security checks try the patience of the most earnest visitor.

Enter the Lateran Basilica, or to give it its full name, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in Lateran (also known as the Papal Archbasilica of St John in Lateran, and many other similar variations on the theme). Located on a diagonal 4km axis cutting through ancient Rome from the heart of the Vatican City, the Lateran Basilica is the alternative St Peter’s. Almost as big, just as spectacular, the Basilica is the ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome and such an equally important a player in Papal History that its story goes hand in hand with that of the Vatican across the river.

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As the oldest and highest ranking of the four papal major basilicas, the Lateran is unique in having the title of “archbasilica” and was, for hundreds of years prior to the dominance of St Peter’s, the home of countless generations of Popes. As the scale of Rome shrank and declined in the early second millennium AD, the area around the Lateran was reduced to a form of bucolic wasteland. Exposed and rundown, the Lateran Basilica and its neighbouring palace became disconnected from the beating heart of Rome, and during the Avignon years of the Papacy, the Lateran deteriorated and eventually suffered substantial fire damage. Thankfully, even from their new lavish seat of St Peter’s, the popes of baroque Rome recognised the importance of the Lateran, and in the 17th century, Pope Innocent X commissioned Francesco Borromini to rebuild the Lateran in the splendid image we see today.

History done, now for the visuals. As the photos show, a visit to the Lateran Basilica is the equal of the glorious Vatican. Flooded with light, the classical baroque facade gives way to an imperial loggia boasting the magnitude and proportions of an Ancient Roman temple, while inside, light floods through windows and bounces off golden mosaics, richly frescoed walls, and luxuriously marble-clad pillars. Most impressive of all things is the spectacular array of sculpted apostles created by the very best rococo sculptors and installed at the beginning of the 18th century. So lifelike, and yet so vast in scale, you feel shrunken into submission before heavenly giants, as though in a nursery rhyme immersed within the branches of Jack’s beanstalk.

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I didn’t enjoy my trip to the Vatican museum, being shunted along through bottlenecks crammed to almost scarily unsafe levels with a continuous tidal wave of coach parties. By contrast, the Lateran Basilica, with its lofty grand spaces and comparative tranquility is by far the better alternative, and every bit the equal to its younger cousin over the river.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Norms in Rome | Piazza della Rotonda

The Norms have arrived in the Eternal City, Roma, land of Emperors, Popes and SPQR. The Norms adore it. Why would they not? It’s a caramel city, imbued with the light of earthy terracotta and dark shiny cobbles. It prioritises La Dolce Vita, something very close to the Norms hearts. And above all things, it was the location of the Norms’ favourite ever film, Roman Holiday, so now, the Norms have gone off on their very own Vacanza Romana.

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Norms in Rome | Piazza della Rotonda (©2018, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen and ink on paper)

First stop: the Piazza della Rotonda, home to the most glorious and perfectly intact of all ancient Roman temples: the Pantheon, whose single-span brilliant concrete dome complete with illuminative ocular continues to defy architects to this day, and reminds the Norms of their own rotund figures. Outside that great Temple of the Romans, the Piazza bustles to the trickle of one of Rome’s many Papal fountains, while in buildings all around, cafes spill out onto the cobbles and enable the Norms to enjoy their favourite tipples to the accompaniment of street cellists and their assistants (for Norms only have one arm – playing a cello alone would be a challenge).

When in Rome, do as the Romans do – it’s the norm retold to all visitors. Now it’s very much the norm for the Norms too, and doing like Romans is something these Norms have taken very close to their heart.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Rome > The Perfect Navona Morning

Compendium // a collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication. The word says it all, and as The Daily Norm enters a new millennia of posts and travel shares, I have decided to collect thoughts and tips from my own travels in a series of Compendia. Starting in Rome.

Rome is not just a city. It is an experience ripe like an overflowing cornucopia of delicious fruit, waiting to be savoured across a broad spectrum enveloped in richly historical heritage, diva attitude and unabashed street-by-street beauty all bathed in the most glorious terracotta light. But its global reach today is as mighty as its ancient Empire two millennia ago, not so much for its political prowess but for its tourist pull. So to do Rome well, you need to avoid the pitfalls, the dodgy restaurants, and wherever possible the flag-led, headphone-donned, selfie-stick sustained coach parties. Eugh.

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Today’s tip for doing Rome well is to get up early, and savour the delights which come of having this stunning city all to yourself. Even in January, when last I went, the sweet seduction of Rome’s ever present sun invited an early rise and made venturing into the still quiet-streets an easy exercise. Hotel location is always important, especially on a short weekender, and my locality, mere steps from the Piazza Navona, meant that I could enjoy this most spectacular of Roman Piazzas as the first rays of Winter sunshine hit the sculptural masterpieces which have made the Square such an icon of Baroque Rome.

Baroque is certainly the word. For this oblong square, which lends its shape to the Stadium of Domition on whose foundations it has been built, is more of an artfest than it is a mere city space. For it was here that, at the height of Baroque splendour and Papal theatricals, Pope Innocent X commissioned Bernini to create the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) as part of his grand plan to put Rome firmly back on the artistic and power-map of Europe. It is, by far, one of the most spectacular fountains you are ever likely to see, and enjoyed first thing in the morning, before those damned selfie-sticks start sneaking their way into every one of your photos, it makes for the perfect commencement to your Roman day.

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Turn away from Bernini’s masterpiece, and two other fountain wonders by Giacomo della Porta depicting a Moor wrestling with a Dolphin, and a statute of water-God Neptune respectively can be enjoyed, as can the oval encirclement of the kind of russet, terracotta, pink and butterscotch buildings which make Rome such a year-round place of warmth and splendour. Then, once you’ve soaked in this highlight of Rome, sneak in another anti-crowd coup, and head to my favourite cafe in all of Rome: Caffe Tazza d’Oro on the Piazza della Rotunda, where a simple pastry and a coffee taken standing up at the bar, Italian style, takes on new Roman authenticity, especially with the immaculate ancient Pantheon stands just outside the door.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.