Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Rome: the Pantheon, Largo di Torre Argentina, Palazzo Braschi, Piazza Navona, and a Baroque Christmas Concert

Our first stop today was a visit at one of the sites Ed most wanted to see: the Pantheon, now currently the Basilica of Santa Maria ad Martyres. It's an impressive building with very large columns.
From Rome & Vatican City (December 2014)

And the first two kings of Italy are buried here: Victor Emmanuel II and King Humberto I.

From Rome & Vatican City (December 2014)

Exploring the Parthenon didn't take as long as expected, so we took a detour to explore Largo di Torre Argentina, a square in which the remains of four ancient temples (the oldest dating to the fourth century B.C.) and an 18th century opera house sit. Currently, a no-kill cat shelter is located on site, and we saw quite a few cats roaming around.

From Rome & Vatican City (December 2014)

We had tickets to a Christmas concert in the evening, so we made our way to Piazza Navona, which was built in the 1st century AD on the site of the Stadium of Domitian; it follows the form of the open space of the stadium. (Conveniently, it is this square in which the church where the Christmas concert was held.) It was a beautiful area; the Christmas market we were expecting to explore was much smaller than we had hoped, and was more like a carnival. We still enjoyed walking around, though, and there were a pair of guitarists who were really performing some of the most beautiful covers I think I've heard.

Because we still had a lot of time, we visited Palazzo Braschi, a building designed for Luigi Braschi Onesti, the nephew of Pope Pius VI; the building now serves as the seat of the Museum of Rome. It had quite a good collection of artwork that included portraits and marble busts of the Onesti's and the Pope's families, as well as scenes from throughout Rome, depicting different eras of the city. And the palace itself was certainly magnificent - quite opulent.

We ended our day by attending a Baroque Christmas concert, which featured Schola Romana Ensemble performing at Sant'Agnese in Agone. The concert started out in a chapel. (I needed to be reminded to look up - this is the ceiling in that chapel.)

From Rome & Vatican City (December 2014)

The Ensemble featured Paola Alonzi, soprano; Micaela Parrilla, contralto; Franco Todde, tenor; and Stefano Sabene, bass.

On the program:
  • Mateo Flecha's "El Dindirindin"
  • Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck's "Hodie Christus natus est"
  • Anonimo's "Sopra il fieno colcato" and "Dio s'è fatto fanciullo"
  • Giovanni Animuccia's "Benedettonsia lo giorno"
  • Jacques Arcadelt's "Ave Maria" 
  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's "Sicut cervus" and "Hodie Christus natus est" 
  • Giuseppe Ottavio Pitoni's "Laudate Dominum"
The singers performed beautifully, and an art historian hosted the event; she was able to talk about the church itself and provide historical context. About halfway through the concert, we moved from a chapel to the main altar; the only bad thing about this was that the echo made it very difficult to understand the host.

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