Piazza Campo dei Fiory

Rome is one of the oldest European cities, whose streets and buildings reflect the early Roman Empire architecture, as well as grand Christian churches and temples bring tourists back to the mediaeval historical events. Some modernist and contemporary buildings, out of the historical downtown remind ones about the Mussolini regime and prove the fact that Rome still is one of the European cultural centres. The most energetically active and powerful places in any city are the squares. As a matter of fact, they often are dedicated to some turning point in the city lifetime or to one of historical personalities that refer to the city somehow.

One of such squares in Rome is Campo dei Fiori. Nowadays it is one of the oldest street produce markets in the world. Campo dei Fiori is a square piazza situated in the downtown of Rome. Its name is translated as the “field of flowers”, the most probably because it used to be a meadow in the old times. It sits in the unused territory that was between Pompey’s Theatre and the Tiber River in Ancient Rome. This area used to stay bare of population and city life for many centuries because the river was prone to flooding. Its history as a part of the city life takes roots in the first centuries of our era (Campodefiori.com).

However, first buildings appeared during the fifteenth century. These were a church known as Santa Brigida a Campo de’ Fiori (now it is situated in front of Piazza Farnese, part of the old Campo de’ Fiori). In 1456 some important buildings, such as including the Orsini Palace and the Palazzo della Cancelleria, had been constructed in the area. Henceforward, Campo dei Fiori became a part of a city improvement project and the area was paved (ItalyGuides.it).
It is typical for Rome that the surrounding architecture of the piazza has never actually had any formalized rules, so the buildings that surround the piazza do not form an ensemble on purpose; all of them have different shapes, amount of stores and facings (See Figure 3). In the head of the piazza there is the monument of to Giordano Bruno, designed by Ferrari and placed in 1887 to honour the philosopher, who was executed at this square in 1600 for his heliocentrist thoughts (Rowland 2008). The interesting fact about this monument is that it was decided to be placed back to Vatican first, but finally it faces Vatican reflecting reproach for being unfairly accused of thinking different and reminding tourists and locals about the dark period of inquisitions and public executions (Yelp.com). The point is that whatever time of the day it is, the sun doesn’t reach Giordano Bruno’s face.

The square is one of the busiest places in Rome. Every day, except for Sunday, the traders come to Campo dei Fiori to sell goods and products at 6:00 am. Until 14:00 the square is a commercial area, but in the afternoon it becomes the favourite place of meetings. Moreover, Campo dei Fiori is a popular place for those who admire nightlife – there are many pizzerias, restaurants and cafes, cinema, theatre etc.

Campo dei Fiori is one of the most significant places, reflecting the combination of different stages, epochs and social classes in life of Roman citizens. The types of dwelling houses and public buildings all over the city differ one from another by means of styles, shapes, quality and conditions of life of their owners. In a larger scale, comparing ancient dwellings to the medieval and modern ones show the change in inhabitants’ ideology, religion, foreign influences, wealth and even geographic conditions, such as climate and position of the city in accordance to the outside world. This paper explores how architecture and different types of buildings in the city reflect the lifestyle and become one of the most accurate sign of each stage of the city development.

Architecture and Dwellings of Republican and Imperial Periods

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After the Greek Empire declined, the Roman world continued its traditions in art, religion, policy and especially architecture. Although Roman city building and architectural tradition rose from the Greek one, whose influence is evident, Romans brought in their own innovations in methods, techniques, materials and form. Moreover, the whole ensembles of the street objects interaction were different and reflected the new lifestyle. Rome as the capital of Roman Empire first and later – the capital of Italy has always been a cradle of European culture and the architecture styles and traditions developing there became the traditions of European city building and buildings setting within the cities. If one mentions the architecture and sculpture of Renaissance, as well as the times of inquisition and Christian temples, the first associations will definitely be Italy, Vatican and the city of Rome.

The whole European history, cultural and social processes in all the Middle Ages and cultural revival of the Renaissance without exaggerations are reflected in the narrow streets between differently storied dwellings, which often run into the squares to connect different districts of the city of Rome. Squares in the ancient cities have always been a reflection of all the significant social and political events. Mediaeval people used to set markets and fairs at the squares, and there all the social classes beginning with the poor and going to the richer were represented. Fairs involved not only gaining business, auctions, singing contracts or bargaining, but performances, gossips, and news, which may stand for the current cultural and social interaction. Squares in the Roman cities are mainly situated at the junctions of streets defining city centres, where inhabitants could flow in any time and find a company. The common decisions of the citizens used to be taken in the squares, most revolutions and rebellions started right there. These places have a special atmosphere, making a crowd out of people when they gather for one aim.

Normally, all the squares of mediaeval cities were surrounded by significant city administrative, cultural and sacral buildings – a church, library, court, prison, or theatre, for instance. Earlier, city squares used to serve all the target functions of these buildings. But before all the buildings arose, there had been shepherds walking across the hills, traders selling and buying goods near the rivers, mythical kings and undiscovered yet historical events that brought to the founding of this grand city.

To begin with, the earliest history of Rome is covered with myths and legends. It refers to the 8th century BC – the official date of birth of the city of Rome is 21 April 753 BC. It was believed that the city was founded by two brothers Romulus and Remus, who had been fed by a wolf. These two are believed to be the first kings of Rome among other seven ones. However, in 2014 archaeologists uncovered a stone wall, and pieces of pottery dating to the 9th century and the beginning of the 8th century, and there is evidence of people arriving on the Palatine hill as early as the 10th century BC (Hooper 2014).

Although excavations and archaeological explorations are being held, there are no significant architectural signs of the Ancient Rome. However, archaeological findings demonstrate that Rome grew from pastoral settlements on the Palatine Hill and surrounding hills approximately 30 km (19 mi) from the Tyrrhenian Sea on the south side of the Tiber (Cartwright 2013). The area of the Hill was also beneficial because the Tiber forms a Z-shape curve that contains an island where the river can be forded. As a matter of fact, Rome was a buffering zone for traders, who used to travel from the river to the north of the Balkan Peninsula. Therefore, the situation of the city of Rome was defined by the mild but various climate of the Palatine Hill, the close location of the river Tiber and the possibility to ford it, and settlements situated at a point of the trade traffic crossroad from the south part of
the peninsula to the north (Henry 2011).

Speaking about architecture of these times, the main influence is Greek and Etruscan. Etruscan dominance took place in Rome during the period called Roman Kingdom and lasted for about one century, when the seven kings ruled there. Etruscan state used to have good engineers, who built a bridge called the Pons Sublicius to replace the Tiber ford, and the Cloaca Maxima was also built. Romans rebelled against the Etruscan kings, but the influence of the latter ones was significant. Romans learned from Etruscans how to build temples (Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus), they built the Servian Wall, which is believed to be the first real border of the city of Rome (Cartwright 2013).

Nevertheless, during the Roman Republic, the architecture started developing and Romans brought in their innovations to the Greek and Etruscan tradition, instead of making copies of Greek temples – monumental and massive to seem impressive externally, they were designed and built in a post-and-lintel system. In other words, all the buildings consisted of two main parts – columns with a horizontal block across the top – a lintel. A good example is this ancient Greek Temple in Paestum, Italy. Such constructions limited the internal space because the massive columns could only serve one aim – to support the lintel (Cartwright 2013).

During the 4th -3rd centuries BC Romans started experimenting with different materials and techniques, although the city was not stable as well as the state itself. It took more then 2 centuries for Rome to become that great city, which it is popular to be imagined nowadays. Among the new materials and techniques were concrete, arches and vaulting which allowed them to create not only marvellous exteriors, but left much more space for decorated interior, so that each building was equally impressive, spacious and monumental from the outside and its inside (for instance, Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome, 203 BC). Unfortunately, the most downtown of Republican Rome was destroyed by Nero (Titus Livius 1905).

This Classical period of Roman architecture flows into the Imperial period, when the city of Rome experienced its biggest flourishing, is characterized by such constructions as basilica, triumphal arch, monumental aqueduct, amphitheatre, granary building, and residential housing block (Cartwright 2013). Due to the newly discovered use of concrete and marble, buildings used to be built for more permanent period of time. This phenomenon reflected the idea of the Rome’s greatness and eternity of its world. Besides, the new society had the new challenges and practical needs in terms of architecture, and that is why many ancient buildings in Rome survived to nowadays. Not only because Romans decided to build more durable buildings did they provide the contemporary archaeologists with excellent examples of their architecture, but also had they made important discoveries, involving craftsmen into the building process and architect industry to pay more attention for the details, such as ornamented fountains or other street objects.

Among the main discoveries of the 3rd- 2nd centuries BC was the use of travertine instead of the volcanic stone tufa. It was firmer, more durable and looked like marble because of its white colour. Marble itself was not popular in Rome during the mentioned period. However, it came back to the scene of Roman architecture in 20s BC during the reign of Augustus. In the famous Augustus’s “Res Gestae” he stated that he “found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble” (Augustus 1961). As the matter of fact, it was Augustus, who developed the city of Rome to its top of evolution in terms of architecture. The Augustian period is featured with the revolution in the architect industry, mainly because the city, as well as the whole state, became more powerful, wealthy and the government could provide many city projects to prove the states uniqueness and the power of Caesar (Titus Livius 1905).

The 2nd Century was also memorable for the discovery of concrete. It gave the Roman architects an opportunity to build spacious buildings, where columns often were used more for decorations then for supporting the building. The shapes of the buildings’ parts became more creative and decorative on the contrary of Carthaginian, Greek and Etruscan monumentalism. In addition, the production of concrete bricks brought to creation of true arches in opposition to post-and-lintel. As a result, the combination of concrete and true arches allowed designing and building bigger distances inside the houses providing the interior with the more fabulous view with all the domes and vaults (Ambler 2014).

There were different types of buildings in Classical and Imperial periods. Each of them served their specific goals. For instance, forums were centres of the city, where temples and shrines were situated for religious aims, and basilicas and curia buildings served the courtesy aims. Forums involved markets to surround the area next to its colonnade and walls. Speaking about the columns, they stopped being the main supporting instrument of any building, but were often used as decorations, as it is visible in the Pantheon, Rome 125 BC. In addition, their shapes changed a lot.

Sooner, columns became a detached decorative part of the buildings facades, for example in Coliseum, Rome, the 1st century AD. Although the civic, economic and religious buildings played the major role and used to get the best design, there were buildings necessary for such public needs as entertainment. These were theatres for plays, amphitheatres for gladiator combats, circuses, buildings that served small musical performances. The city had a big system of aqueducts, providing water to wealthy houses, various baths, and street fountains. Romans had a vast system of roads and bridges connecting Rome with other Italian and Spanish cities.

In addition to all the variety of the public buildings and developed infrastructure systems, Rome was remarkable for its dwellings, which fell into different types, such as domus – a house of a wealthy citizen, villa – a farmhouse in the country. There were even houses that became a prototype of contemporary blocks of apartments, called insulae – a multi-storey house which included several apartments used for less wealthy citizens (Titus Livius 1905).

The abovementioned variety of dwellings and public buildings define the lifestyle of ancient Romans, demonstrating their high and massive knowledge and achievements in administrative area, their rich religiousness, taken from Hellenistic world. Theatres and circuses point at the fact that they were aesthetically developed on one hand, but on the other hand, Rome had many buildings and city squares, where crowd gathered to be entertained. From the point of view of the wealthy and powerful people, it was easier to rule the crowd, whose attention was stuck to the gladiators’ fight, for instance.

The amount of baths and gymnasiums says about the Romans’ concerns about the healthy lifestyle. Speaking about the education, there are libraries in the city, but there were no specific schools, as one can think of it now, because philosophers used to gain their lessons outside, as the climate allowed that. Craftsmen shared their knowledge while working process, so studying in all the areas was much more natural than if it was in the closed buildings with the only theory. The difference in the dwellings marks about the difference in social classes in the Roman society.

Processes in the City during the Decline and Dark Ages

As the Roman Empire began to decline in the 3rd century, the architecture suffered a lot from the Vandals. Even common citizens used to destroy buildings and statues all over the city throwing stones into the latter ones or burning them for their personal use. During the painful period of Christianisation, many buildings were destroyed with the aim to build the new ones using the materials of destroyed buildings, as it happened with the Circus of Nero, whose ruins became the bricks for the St Peter’s Church (Boorsch 1982-1983). The Temple of Romulus and Remus was transformed into the basilica of the twin saints Cosmas and Damian and Pantheon became the church of All Martyrs. All these destructive processes reflect the anarchist social position of the Romans and their denial of changes, coming from the Christian world (Ambler 2014).

The next years the architecture of Rome was being ruined brick by brick; metals in the city constructions were fused into armoury, temples were destroyed, closed or transformed from pagan ones into Christian. Wars and diseases filled the city, the aqueducts were ruined and plague spread through the streets. It was never repaired and people started leaving Rome coming closer to the Tiber. There even was a delusive legend telling there were the times when the city was totally abandoned (Boorsch 1982-1983). Gothic Wars devastated the city of Rome, as well as the whole Medieval period was dark times for Europe. The architecture of Medieval Rome came down to destruction and re-aiming of the buildings. Moreover, the newly appeared Christian temples were built in Byzantium and Papal states using the same techniques and materials, but were longer and full of gold ornamentation; while later Romanesque temples tended to be round in shape and use Roman arch (Wukitsch 2010).

During the 12th century, Rome gathers its power with the help of numerous Christian pilgrims and their interest for churches, merchants, traders and bankers. The powerful families started renovating the city, investing into building, rebuilding and decorating of basilicas mainly. One of such families was the Cosmati family, which was famous for their rich mosaic decorations of the temples interiors. Their works with the decoration of marble floors with red and green mosaics were so famous that they got a name for this specific style – cosmatesque. The Gothic style – featured with the high sharp pointed roofs, touched Rome with such buildings as Torre delle Mіlizіe, the Torre deі Contі, and the churches of Santa Marіa Maggіore, San Paolo Fuorі le Mura (the later part being largely rebuіlt іn the 19th century), Santa Marіa іn Trastevere, Santі Quattro Coronatі, Santa Prassede, and Santa Marіa іn Aracoelі. There were many Gothic tabernacles because of their popularity in the 13th century. Finally, in more then 7 hundred years, Rome stopped the resistance to the new world order, and accepted the new rules – Christianity (Wukitsch 2010).

Renaissance and Baroque Styles in Rome

Although the first steps to return to the previous fame and fortune of Rome were done, there were many buildings ruined or even closed until the Renaissance, such as Pantheon, for instance. Moreover, Florence – another Italian city became the heart of European Renaissance, leaving Rome on the second place. The revival of the architectural dominance of Rome called to the Classical achievements of the former centre of the Empire. Different palaces (palazzo), villas, basilicas with the colonnades, galleries, loggias and enormous entrances to the buildings were being built across the city. Among them: Palazzo del Quіrіnale (now seat of the Presіdent of the Italіan Republіc), the Palazzo Venezіa, the Palazzo Farnese, the Palazzo Barberіnі, the Palazzo Chіgі (now seat of the Italіan Prіme Mіnіster), the Palazzo Spada, the Palazzo della Cancellerіa, and the Vіlla Farnesіna. These buildings are marked with the sophisticated elegance and smart engineering decisions. Very soon, Rome returned the name of the cultural and architectural centre of Europe.

During the Renaissance period, Rome developed a lot, especially in church and palace building, but the peak of its development is the Baroque style in architecture. Rome dictated the style and its apparatus to the whole Christian world in terms of architecture. It based on the previous achievements of Renaissance, but there were rules to break to respond to the Baroque needs – triumphant grandiosity and elaborate opulence.

A German philosopher Walter Benjamin claimed in his book “One Way Street” that the character often defines the fate (1979, p. 125-128). According to this statement, Rome is the kind of city with the specific character, the best illustrated by Julius Caesar’s words that “it is better to be the first in the town than the second one in the city” (Titus Livius 1905). Actually, Rome as the city created its fame and wealth, declined turned into the total ruins and returned its power and influence, at least in terms of culture, in almost the thousand years, repeating its cycle from the beginning. Moreover, not only did Rome accept the new world order, but started dictating it to the creators of the order – Vatican is the centre of Christianity – one of the most widespread religions then and nowadays. So the character of Rome is to be the first everywhere and anyway, and its fate is to impress with its culture, be ruined and re-built, burnt and recovered as Phoenix, but becoming more beautiful and grander each revival. Returning to architecture, Roman Baroque style was considered the most fashionable then with the most remarkable buildings of the Palazzo Madama, now the seat of the Іtalіan Senate and the Palazzo Montecіtorіo, now the seat of the Chamber of Deputіes of Іtaly. What is special about this period is providing the city with the Baroque squares, such as the mentioned Campo dei Fiori.

These squares were decorated with the fountains or obelisks. Public squares appeared as the result of city improvement projects and were becoming the places for trading, street performances or public executions. As for Campo dei Fiori, the history of it as a marketplace dates back to the medieval times, when started moving from the Forum Olitorium to the foot of the Capitole Hill, and later to the Piazza Navona until it finally settled here at Campo de’ Fiori in 1869 (Henry 2011). In addition, the piazza includes the Fontana della Terrina, erected in the 1560 by the architect Giacomo della Porta as a part of Aqua Virgo aqueduct to supply the neighbourhood with the fresh water. In 1600 Gіordano Bruno was executed at Campo de Fiory and in more then 200 years the monument to him appeared there. This was the reason why the fountain was resettled to the pіazza in front of the Chіesa Nuovo іn 1925 and around the same tіme a copy of the fountaіn was made for the Campo de’ Fіorі (Minchilli 2013). As for the dwellings of this time, they were built by families of traders and bankers mainly.

Villas and palazzos were majestic, but there were simpler buildings all around the squares and especially, in the inner patios. These buildings were much simpler and more storeys could be added throughout the time, and that is why some houses have different facades for different floors, which accords to the Baroque asymmetrical beauty. Vendors, petty dealers could live there, or pilgrims and artists could rent a room from the householders. The significant asymmetry of the buildings themselves, the same phenomenon within the streets and piazzas, where pompous palazzos were settled next to poor multi-storey petty-dealers’ homes, reflected the social inequality, which took a greater amplitude then it had used to in the Imperial times. It can also be a reflection of the substitution of notions of justice and truth that led to inquisition opposing the clear-mindedness (Rowland 2008).

Modern Rome

Finally, in 1870, Rome took over and became the capital city of the new Kіngdom of Іtaly. This period for architecture is featured by the next most remarkable in Rome style – neoclassicism. The influence of this style is visible in the buildings serving many contemporary ministries, embassies, and other governing agencies.
Finally, the last most remarkable architectural style represented in Rome is the Modernist style, but in this city it has the name of the Fascist style. The idealistic background of the Italian Fascism was close to the social and political order of the ancient Romans. This similarity reflected on the buildings, which were linked with the ancient Roman architecture. The most famous representative of this style is the district known as E.U.R. designed in 1938 by Marcello Piacentini, who wanted to participate in the world exhibition in 1942 with this project, but did not because of the World War II. Anyway, the Fascist style left the heritage of Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, cubic or Square Colosseum, Palazzo della Farnesina, the current seat of Italian Foreign Ministry and other buildings that appeared to be the heart of the business centre of the city. These buildings are as monumental and massive, as they used to be in the 2nd century BC.

Walter Benjamin speaks a lot about the language, words and their notions and possible concepts. According to his theory, language is the best system of signs for communication (1978, p.109 – 111). Without the words, but with much deeper clarity can we realise the main goals of the Italian fascism through its architecture. It was planned as ideology that takes over the world and provides more comfort, healthy lifestyle and wealth for everyone as if it was in the over-perfected view onto the Ancient Rome conditions. Nevertheless, it was only external and besides, it was fake and coming down to primitiveness, and that is why it did not work. All this is obvious for those who can read in the language of architecture. This language tends to reflect the whole epoch with one sign.

So, Rome has always been an architectural centre of Italy. Even though the city of Florence came out on the first place with all the Renaissance artists, Rome methodically continued to conquer the title of the architectural epicentre of Italy and all the Europe. It is symbolical, that the architectural styles present in the city all tend to come close to the classical tradition. Hence, one may think that there has always been one style – the Roman city style, which has been developing throughout the life of the city. Moreover, its evolution started from the classical beauty, experimenting with the techniques and improving each period of transformation. Benjamin states that any innovation meets resistance (1978, 59), but Rome as the whole city organism had had millions of innovations, but it appeared to be a creator of these innovations. Only one innovation used to be resisted – the Christianity, which had painfully been provided for many centuries and turned to be dictated by the Romans from Vatican. Rome is an essential city for the culture of Italy and the whole world, especially in terms of architectural achievements. Ancient Romans invented and discovered the things, which are still used in the way of building process – the use of concrete; and in the way of design – arches and supportive systems for grand buildings.

Speaking about the typologies of the city dwellings, there is one essential element, which is the same for all the epochs. As Rome took its architectural tradition from Greece, but developed it and fulfilled with all the inventions and innovations, one may consider that Rome had picked up the torch of being the city to dictate the classical point in architecture to the whole Europe, as it was with the structure of Roman basilicas, still used for building churches, not only being an ever lasting centre of Italian architectural development. As the matter of fact, all the styles and types of buildings, combined in the in the city wear the essence of classical tradition. Even the greatest climaxes of Rome’s flourishing respond to the cultural epochs that are mimetically similar – Antique – Renaissance – Baroque – Neoclassical – Fascist Monumentalism. These styles reflect in all the buildings and street objects from palazzos to markets on the piazzas and their surrounding.

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