1.4 - History of Rome, The Papal States I

Aerial view of the city centre of Rome -

Rome, the Eternal City, the Head of the World, is one of the cradles of "western civilisation", and a city who has lived the last two thousand and five hundred years as a major player in the political, religious and cultural domain. Each century and each event has left traces still visible in the city, its buildings and its inhabitants, creating an unique environment that can be seen in only few other places in the world.


This is not the place to write about the history of this city, because too many books have been written by much more competent people and because this is a website about tourism, but a short summary is necessary.

The Papal States V-XIII AD. "Sic transit gloria mundi", "Thus passes the glory of the world" is said three times to the Pope at the moment of its coronation. The Empire is fallen, Rome has been sacked countless times until only some tens thousands inhabitants are left, the roads are unsafe and without maintenance no water arrives though the aqcueducts. In this post-atomic scenario, where Rome was sacked by barbery pirates and cows could pasture in the Forum the Christian Bishop of Rome, AKA The Pope, manage to create a state in central Italy with its moral authority, the remaining wealth of the Roman nobless and a series of alliances with the powerful men of the period. From its secured state in central Italy, the organisation that was taking the shapes of what is now the Catholic Church, managed to increase its influence in all the states of western Europe, becoming the only authoritative source of judgement on religious affairs. Of course in a religious society this meant also to interfere in private life and in politics. In this period the Basilicas of Rome became centres of pilgrimage from all over Europe and the inhabitants moved from the historical Seven Hills into the smaller, periferical and often flooded "Campus Martius", that is now the city centre. In this movement everything was reused: new buildings were built with the material taken from older ones, temples have been transformed in churches, tombs were transformed in castles (such as the tomb of Caecilia Metella on the Appian Way and the Mausoleum of Hadrian which became Castel St Angelo) and housed were built inside the great public buildings of the imperial era,, as in the case of the Stadium of Domitian which became Piazza Navona, a square.
S. Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, interior
San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, facade
Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella on the Appian Way, transformed in a castle as many other tombs  and monuments in the city and its surroundings
The Stadium of Domitianum in a reconstruction
Piazza Navona, the steps of the stadium have been used  for shelter and then to build houses and churches

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