The Dedication of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus

On September 13, the ancient Romans commemorated the dedication of one of their city’s most important temples, that of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill. This dedication is said to have taken place in the very first year of the Roman Republic, 509 B.C. The temple was destroyed by fire and rebuilt three times: […]

The Month of Quintilis and the Games of Apollo

Yesterday we marked the anniversary of Julius Caesar’s birth in 100 B.C. Following the Roman calendar then in use (which he would later significantly reform), Caesar himself would have said that he was born on the “fourth day before the Ides of Quintilis.” In the ancient Roman year that began with March, the first four […]

The Roman Basilica of St Stephen

Since we saw the chapel of Ss Primus and Felician in the basilica of St Stephen on the Caelian Hill in Rome yesterday, today we have a look at the basilica itself. This is the only round church built in Rome in ancient times, and is therefore often called “Santo Stefano Rotondo” in Italian, “round […]

The Emptying of the Catacombs

Today is the feast day of Ss Primus and Felician, who were martyred for the Faith around the year 297. Their traditional story is not regarded as historically reliable, but there is no doubt of the fact of their martyrdom, of the antiquity of the devotion to them. They are said to have been brothers […]

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 […]