The Column of Constantine in New Rome

Two days ago, we marked the anniversary of the dedication of Constantinople in 330 AD as the “New Rome.” In the nearly 17 centuries that have passed since then, the city has undergone innumerable vicissitudes which have done tremendous damage to its monuments, and very little now remains from the days of Constantine himself. The […]

Fr Athanasius Kircher

One of the most notable figures of Rome’s intellectual history, Fr Athanasius Kircher, was born on this day in 1602, in a small town in central Germany. As was so often the case in those days, he was baptized immediately, and given the name of the Saint on the liturgical calendar, Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria […]

The Arch of Septimius Severus in Leptis Magna

Since yesterday we looked at the triumphal arch of Marcus Aurelius in Oea, the modern Tripoli in Libya, today we will see another such arch in the ruins of Leptis Magna, roughly 75 miles to the east. Like Oea, Leptis was founded by Phoenician colonists in the 7th century BC, and like the rest of […]

The Arch of Marcus Aurelius in Tripoli, Libya

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was born on this day in the year 121, just under 40 years before he acceded to the imperial throne. Despite his prominence as heir apparent to Antoninus Pius (138-61), and his own rule of almost twenty years, very few public monuments of his reign survive. We have recently looked […]

The Raising of Lazarus

One of the most commonly occurring Biblical stories in early Christian art, most of which is to be found in the ancient cemeteries known as the catacombs, is the raising of Lazarus, as recounted in the Gospel of St John 11, 1-45. This is an obvious choice in a funerary context, as an expression of […]

Rome Recycled

Two weeks ago, on the anniversary of Julius Caesar’s assassination, we visited the area of the modern Largo Argentina and the ancient Theater of Pompey, the building where the meeting of the Senate took place during which Caesar was killed. Today, the Lenten station church is held fairly close by, at a church called San […]

Marcus Aurelius and the Thundering Legion

Yesterday, on the anniversary of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ death, we saw the equestrian statue of him on the Capitoline Hill in Rome, the only one of its kind that survives intact from antiquity. Today we will look at the city’s other great monument dedicated to him, the giant victory column in the center of […]

The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius

Today marks the anniversary of the death of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD, a few days after the 19th anniversary of his accession to the throne. His reign is traditionally grouped with that of his four predecessors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus Pius), going back to the year 96, as the period of […]

The Ancient Basilica of St Clement

Ten days ago, when the Lenten station was at the basilica of Ss John and Paul on the Caelian hill, we saw some of the rooms of the Roman houses which were discovered underneath the church in 1887. I imagine that the church’s rector who made that discovery must have been inspired by the events […]

The Roman Houses on the Caelian Hill

The Lenten station church in Rome today is a basilica on the Caelian Hill dedicated to two martyrs named John and Paul, brothers killed for their Christian faith by the Emperor Julian the Apostate, who reigned from 361-63. They are said to have been military officers under Constantine, then to have served in the household […]