2011 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Montreal
IAS-Sponsored Session

Rome Revitalized

Hilton Montreal Bonaventure, Mont-Royal
Saturday, March 26, 2011, 10:30am-12:00pm

Organizers: Angi Bourgeois, Mississippi State University, and Jill E. Blondin, University of Texas, Tyler

Chair: Jill E. Blondin, University of Texas, Tyler

Throughout its history as the center of Christendom, Rome has gone through numerous moments of deliberate revival and renovatio.  Scholars such as Ernst Kitzinger, Richard Krautheimer, Irving Lavin, and others have famously explored some of these efforts of revival in the late antique, early medieval, and Baroque periods, while still others, like the Quattrocento, remain relatively understudied.  This panel seeks to re-assess moments of concentrated activity of revival and renovatio in the broadly defined Roman Renaissance as it relates to the elevation of Rome to a renewed glory as the center of the Church and the world. Papers will address issues of rebuilding and revitalization, with particular attention to the renovation of small and/or ancient churches, the reuse or appropriation of antiquity in new commissions, the renewed focus on urban planning, and the strengthening of the papacy through artistic commissions of all kinds.


Jasmine Cloud, Temple University
“Reviving the Heart (of the City): The Renovation of Churches on the Roman Forum”

The heart of the city throughout its history, the Roman Forum functions as a dialectical space, communicating between past and present through its layers of history. In the decades after the Council of Trent, the new concern with revitalizing the Church led to a Paleo-Christian revival, inspiring a flurry of new architectural patronage well into the seventeenth century. Papal patrons, from Clement VIII to Urban VIII, commissioned renovations and new decorations for the churches skirting the Forum. In this paper, I will examine these architectural renovations as a means of reviving the city in a specific topographical area, one laden with specific connections to ancient Rome and its early Christian and medieval past. These architectural accretions at the nucleus of the ancient city added further significance to churches of early Christian foundation, furthering that dialectic and asserting the modern Church’s connection to a more pristine past.

Jennifer DeSilva, Eastern Connecticut State University
“The Cardinal’s Titulus as a Site for Rebuilding Rome and the Cardinal’s Identity”

Through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries following the return of Martin V to Rome in 1420, the papacy issued repeated injunctions to clergy resident in Rome to act as patrons towards the Roman citizens and buildings. As one of the wealthiest groups in Rome, the cardinals were capable of adopting this role and fulfilling their responsibility as chief curators of the Roman Church. This paper will examine the cardinal titulus, as the chief site for patronage of architecture, art, confraternities, and liturgy, all of which contributed to the revitalization of the depressed city. This paper will examine several examples of tituli to show the variety of roles that cardinals assigned to their churches based upon their own unique situations economic, political, and geographic.

Caroline Hillard, Colorado College
“Narratives of Place and the Sixteenth-Century Renovatio Romae

From antiquity to the modern era, prominent individuals — kings, princes, popes, and others — formulated mythic genealogies to legitimize and promote their power. The practice was widespread in sixteenth-century Rome, as members of the papal court traced their ancestry to ancient gods and heroes, or compared their deeds to those of their antique forebears. Places too had an ancestry which was traced, explored, and celebrated in both text and image. Humanists in early sixteenth-century Rome were keenly interested in how events associated with sites in and around the city — from the Janiculum and Capitoline hills to the Tiber river — unfolded sequentially over time. In this paper, I explore these topographical “genealogies” as traced in Roman city guides and public narrative paintings of the first quarter of the sixteenth century. As I demonstrate, visual and textual narratives of Roman places became a fundamental element of the Roman “revival” of classical antiquity.

Lara Langer, University of Maryland
“Pinturicchio’s Sala dei Santi in the Borgia Vatican Apartments: A Study of the Turkish Figures Represented in the Lunette Frescoes”

This paper examines the mural paintings of the Sala dei Santi in the Borgia Vatican apartments, comprised of a ceiling fresco and six painted lunettes, produced in the late 1490’s by Pinturicchio (ca. 1454–1513). Scholars generally agree the paintings’ significance reflects both Pope Alexander VI’s fear of a Turkish invasion and faith in the perseverance of Christianity over its pagan non-believers. This paper will assess the meaning of the lunette frescoes in relation to the ceiling’s décor, and will suggest that the decorative program is not representative of anxiety, but of a pope’s quest for legitimacy and of his desire to issue in a renewed Christian era of peace. The Sala also illustrates Pinturicchio’s genius. He developed a unique pictorial scheme dedicated to a non-Western theme and created a new interpretation of the traditional scenes from the lives of Western saints, such as Sebastian and Barbara by including Turkish figures.

Back to Conference

Officers & Contacts