03/02/06 - rome and the black death

In today's excerpt - Rome in the 14th century:

"A million people had dwelled in Rome during the height of the Empire, but now the city's population was less than that of Florence.  The Black Death of 1348 had reduced numbers to 20,000, from which, over the next fifty years they rose only slightly.  Rome had shrunk into a tiny area inside its ancient walls, retreating from the seven hills to huddle among a few streets on the bank of the Tiber across from St. Peter's, whose walls were in danger of collapse.  Foxes and beggars roamed the filthy streets.  Livestock grazed in the Forum, now known as il Campo Vaccino, "The Field of Cows." ... The Temple of Jupiter was a dunghill ...

"There was no trade or industry apart from the pilgrims who arrived from all over Europe, clutching copies of Mirabilia urbis romae (The Wonders of Rome), which told them which relics to see during their stay.  This guidebook directed them to such holy sights as the finger bone of St. Thomas in Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, the arm of St. Anne and the head of the Samaritan woman converted by Christ ...

"The [guidebook] did not direct the attention of the pilgrims to the Roman remains that surrounded them.  To such pious Christians these ancient ruins were so much heathen idolatry."


Ross King


Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture


Penguin Books


Copyright by Ross King, 2000


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