After the Forum, Brent led us to the Colosseum for a not-so-bad 30 Euro tour. The money was well spent. I hate walking around ancient ruins when I don’t what they were. Brent put all of this in context for us on this tour. I highly recommend doing a tour of the ancient places in Rome so that you can truly appreciate the great structures of the past.
The Colosseum was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre. The name changed to the Colosseum when nobody could remember the name of the structure during the Middle Ages, even though there is a plaque on the side of the Colosseum wall. The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city. It was the largest ever built in the Roman Empire, and built of concrete and stone. It is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering, read about its physical description here, which included thousands of tons of Travertine (also used at the Trevi Fountain), marble, and brick.
Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, its construction started in 70 A.D. under the emperor, Vespasian and was completed in 80 A.D. under Titus with further modifications being made during Domitian’s reign (81–96). The name “Amphitheatrum Flavium” derives from both Vespasian’s and Titus’s family name.
Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era under Constantine around 312 A.D. It was abandoned for hundreds of years after it ceased to be used for ceremonies. Brothels, theft and homeless people occupied this space for years.
Brent also talked to us about the Arch of Constantine and the Temple of Venus (Amor), and the mirroring temple behind it, the Temple of Roma. The Romans adored symmetry, in fact. These two temples were perfectly symmetrical.
The 45-minute tour concluded and we parted ways with Brent. Before we left, we took pictures and tried to put into reality the fact that we were in the Colosseum. I personally couldn’t believe it. The Colosseum was one of a monument I learned about in school, but never thought I would get to see in person. Being in a place where so much history exists is just amazing. It allowed me to think about what it was like back when it was filled every week with gladiators and animals and people. I still can’t believe I saw the Colosseum.
Next we moved to the Vatican Museum where was historical works such as Raphael’s Transfiguration, his last painting, as well as Leonardo Da Vinci’s St. Jerome, an unfinished work depicting Saint Jerome during his retreat to the Syrian desert, where he lived the life of a hermit. St Jerome kneels in a rocky landscape, gazing toward a crucifix, which can be discerned faintly sketched in at the extreme right of the painting.
The real prize, though, was the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s Last Judgement. The Last Judgment is a canonical fresco by the Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo executed on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. The work took four years to complete and was done between 1536 and 1541 (preparation of the altar wall began in 1535.) Michelangelo began working on it some twenty years after having finished the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
I spent about 40 minutes just staring at this masterpiece. One minute, I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of the real thing, and the next, I wanted to stay there forever. You had to be silent inside the chapel, and no photos are allowed. So looking inside was all I could do. But you have the potential to spend all day in there, seriously, there is just so much brilliant art to look at. I was amazed and blown away. What a masterpiece! If you go to Rome, make sure you see the Sistine Chapel.
After the Museum, Mike and I went back to Viterbo to digest what we saw. Even while writing this, it seemed abnormal. I had to look at my camera again to make sure to pictures I took were real. Man, I was so blown away by what I saw on this day.
Check back tomorrow for a picture update, too!