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July 09 , 2007

The Art of Rome: Beyond the Pantheon


The ancient temple of the Pantheon is the 'heart' of Rome. This self-guided walking tour explores the area just beyond the Pantheon and focusses on art and architecture ranging from antiquity through to the seventeenth century. You will be able to view art in the form of sculpture, painting and architecture by simply looking at a facade, or by engaging with public spaces, or by walking into a church - in situ, intrinsically linked to that place, and therefore adding meaning. A few paces behind the Pantheon is a stone elephant with a distinctive personality, and one of the many works of art by sixteenth-century Baroque artist, Gianlorenzo Bernini, seen throughout this walk. The delightful mix of art works inside S. Maria sopra Minerva belies its austere facade. Close by this Dominican stronghold are two Jesuit churches: both orders were powerful forces in the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation that began with the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and ended in the mid-seventeenth century. Jesuit artists produced art that aimed to inspire devotion in the faithful and non-believers as a means of fighting against Lutheran 'heresy'. As such, much of Rome's religious Baroque art was propaganda, aimed at reviving Catholicism's dominance. The seventeenth-century illusionistic ceiling paintings that you will encounter in the Jesuit churches, Il Gesu and S. Ignazio, are prime examples. In art historical terms 'baroque' has come to signify the dominant artistic style of the seventeenth century which originated in Rome in the early 1600s and endured until the end of the century. Much of Baroque painting and sculpture is characterised by drama, natural realism and emotional expressiveness. The increase in tourism en-masse is gradually destroying the individual traveller's ability to engage directly (and quietly) with the history and magnificence of works of art in ancient cities such as Rome. In this walk you can avoid the hefty entrance fees to galleries and museums, and the jostling of crowds. So be prepared to inhale the atmosphere and linger along the route as long as you like.
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