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 their devotion to them. They are said to have been brothers […]

Federico da Montefeltro, “Clarus Virorum”

Yesterday, we looked at the library of Federico da Montefeltro (1422-82), the Duke of Urbino, who turned his little fiefdom into one of Italy’s major cultural centers. Among the many artists who benefitted from his patronage was the painter Piero della Francesca (1415 ca. – 1492), a master of the art of perspective, on which […]

The Library of Federico da Montefeltro

On this day in the year 1422, the creator of one of the great libraries of the Italian Renaissance, Federico da Montefeltro. He was a natural (and later legitimized) son of the count of Urbino, a small city in the Marches region of Italy, 160 miles almost directly north of Rome. At the age of […]

Latin and a Renaissance Astronomer

Today marks the anniversary of the birth in 1436 of a German mathematician and astronomer who is usually known by the Latin name Regiomontanus. His life and career afford an excellent illustration of the multinational scholarly culture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, facilitated by the use of Latin as a common language. He was […]

What is a Plinian Signature?

Earlier this week, we saw the signature that Michelangelo added to his famous sculpture of the Pietà in St Peter’s Basilica, “Michael Angelus Bonarotus Florentinus faciebat. – Michelangelo Buonarroti, a Florentine, was the maker (of this work.)” The question arises as to why the verb is in the imperfect tense “faciebat”, rather than the perfect […]

The Vandal Sack of Rome

When historians of antiquity speak of “the Sack of Rome”, they generally mean the sack perpetrated by the Goths in A.D. 410. This event was particularly notorious as the first time Rome had been assaulted by a foreign enemy in 800 years. It also became the occasion for the writing of one of the great […]

St Justin Martyr at the Crossroads of the Roman Empire

On the calendar of the Novus Ordo and in the Byzantine Rite, today is the feast of the Church Father St Justin, who was martyred for the Faith at Rome around the year 165. Although his few surviving writings are in Greek, his career illustrates very well the providential role that the Latin-speaking Roman Empire […]

The Latin Signature on Michelangelo’s Pietà

For many centuries, May 31st was kept as the feast of an early Roman martyr named Petronilla. Nothing is known about her history for certain, beyond the fact that she was buried in the catacomb of Domitilla, about 1½ miles from the Aurelian Walls down the via Ardeatina, where she is depicted in a fresco of […]

Cardinal Pietro Bembo, A Renaissance Papal Latinist

On this day in the year 1470, was born one of the great literary men of the later Italian Renaissance, Cardinal Pietro Bembo. His father was a scion of one of the most highly ranked noble families of Venice, a scholar, and man of letters, and twice served as his city’s ambassador to Florence, bringing […]

The Column of Justinian in Constantinople

Last week, we noted the anniversary of the foundation of Constantinople on May 11th, 330 A.D., and saw the oldest surviving monument from the period of its founding, the Column of Constantine. Over its long history as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, the city lost many of its early monuments to all kinds […]