Rome and St. Peters

The art and architecture of Rome from Antiquity to Modernity with particular attention to the Vatican, where the layering of material artifacts from successive historical periods provides an uninterrupted record of more than two thousand years. Development of the Vatican site establishes a continuous narrative framework around which building in Rome can be organized; and contextualizes the cultural, artistic, and political aspirations and values of the Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Modern city.

The course is organized around four historic spectacles – the Emperor Augustus’ funeral (14 A.D.), Constantine the Great’s triumphal procession (312), a liturgical procession for the Feast the Assumption (1300), and the Consecration of New Saint Peter’s (1626) – imagined as four walks through Rome highlighting the city’s evolving cultural and urban character. The first half of the course covers Antiquity to the Renaissance while the second looks in greater detail at specific projects from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. Topics in the first part include the growth and decline of the ancient Roman city, the creation of new architectural forms and urban meanings in response to the Christianization of Empire, and the practice of pilgrimage as urban experience. The second part focuses on the style and meaning of those works of art, architecture, and urbanism which distinguish Rome and the Vatican today such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, Bramante’s design for New St. Peter’s, and Bernini’s sculpture for the rebuilt basilica. In general, the approach of the first half emphasizes the historical and cultural foundations which constitute the idea of Rome and utilizes primary sources while the second takes up more theoretical issues of representation and reception.

Outcomes: This course, while open to all students, is designed primarily for students who will visit Rome as participants in GSD 2308, which immediately follows. It aims, therefore, to provide a working knowledge of: 1) the historical topography and infrastructure of the city; 2) about 150 of the principal artistic and architectural monuments in Rome; and 3) the cultural characteristics of its various historical periods. Given these aims, the course emphasizes working with maps, memorizing works of art and architecture, and understanding the relation between historical/cultural contexts and built work.