Architecture in Rome is as diverse as it is plentiful, and when it came to developing new and exciting ways to build, Rome was once the world’s leading city. Forms of architecture such as the vault, dome, and arch were all practiced here first. Add to this the 11-13 century Romanesque style, the abundance of Renaissance and Baroque architecture, and indeed the later Neoclassical and Fascist styles, and you have a city that is a time capsule to building splendor.
During the Roman Republic period (pre 50 BC) Rome was a city of bricks and concrete. However, when you enter into the period of imperial Rome, the dominance of the city is reflected in its architecture. Gone are the bricks and concrete and in come the lavish marble and gold. These were used mainly in public buildings such as temples and libraries, but they were also used to great effect in resplendent villas and palaces.
Romanesque, Byzantine and medieval Rome
After the catastrophic collapse of the Roman Empire in the Fifth Century AD, most of the city lay in ruins. Much of the gold and marble which bedecked this once powerful city had been ransacked and pillaged by a host of raiders including the Goths. Following a few hundred years of dilapidation, the Byzantines came forth and put their stamp on the city, building structures that were oblong and geometric. A lot of the churches at the time were built in this style and were modeled on the old Roman Basilica. The old St Peter’s Basilica (which once stood where the Vatican City is today) is one such example.
During the 11th century Romanesque architecture was prevalent and many churches, which were at this time being built using Roman arch styling, also had large domes. Examples of buildings from this period still stand today and include the Santa Maria Maggiore and the San Paulo Fuori le Mura.
In the 12th and 13 centuries, during the medieval period, the Cosmati family were famous for their elaborate rich mosaics and beautifully designed marble floors with stunning red and green inlays.
Rome during the Renaissance
After Florence, Rome is regarded as the second Renaissance capital in Italy. As a result, there is evidence of it everywhere. The biggest and best example of which is St Peters Basilica. In addition, examples of Renaissance architecture can be seen at the Palazzo Spada and the Palazzo Chigi, which is now the seat of the Italian Prime Minister.
During the 17th century, Rome was considered the place for baroque architecture. In essence, Baroque architecture can be widely based on classical symmetry and is Renaissance orientated, but instead, it pushed many of the architectural rules that had gone before it, thus giving a more sumptuous and rich feel. Opulence and grandiosity are key in Baroque architecture. Sculptures of cupids, cherubs, and angels adorn buildings. One of the most iconic Baroque works in the city is the Trevi Fountain. Other places like the Piazza Navona and the Piazza Spagna are also bedecked in Baroque design
In 1870 the new kingdom of Italy was born and Rome became the capital. To mark this historic event many great buildings were constructed in the neoclassical style to host governments, ministries, and government agencies. One of the best examples is the grave of the Unknown Soldier, built to represent the 650,000 Italians who fell in the Great War.
Between 1922 and 1943, Fascism ruled the country and indeed the capital. As a result grand buildings were constructed that represented clean lines and angles. Gone are the elaborate overtones of the Baroque period and now an architectural style emerged which had close links with its ancient Roman past. The EUR district is by far the most important representative of Fascist architecture. The district was originally constructed as a result of the 1942 world’s exhibition, but because Italy entered the war, the exhibition never took place. Today you can see the Palazzo Della Civilta Italiana which has been the fascist Colosseum.
So there you have it, Roman architecture in all its glory. Even if you’re not heavily into architecture, once there, you are guaranteed to fall in love with the splendor of this magnificent city. If you like photography, you will quickly notice that in Rome there is a picture on every corner.