July 29, 2007

The Altar of Peace

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:58 am by classicalmusic

Ara Pacis in Rome – full name Ara Pacis Agustae – meaning the Altar of Majestic Peace, was built for the Roman emperor Augustus and consecrated in 9 BC.

A New House for the Ara Pacis

The Ara Pacis, built to honor Emperor Augustus for creating the peace and prosperity brought about by the supreme military might of the Roman Empire, was first located in the Campus Martius (Field of Mars).  Over the centuries it was buried by mud, silt and the buildings put up by Christians, Byzantines and Baroque occupants of Rome.  The first remnants of the sculptures were rediscovered in the 16th century, and, in 1938 Mussolini had it moved next to the Augustus Mausoleum with a protective building built around it.  In 2005, the mayor of Rome commissioned the renowned architect, Richard Meier, to design a new building to house this monumental remnant of the Augustan “golden age”.

Meier’s building is a gleaming white modern marble structure which, in my opinion, stands out like a sore thumb as it resides next to a very old church and the ancient Augustus Mausoleum.  Although the building, as a “stand alone” is very beautiful, giving a sweeping entrance into the large hall that houses the Altar, it does not at all blend in with its surroundings and has proved to be very controversial.

The Ara Pacis Itself

The Ara Pacis is one of those “pearls” of Rome that should not be missed.  I was passing through Rome from Perugia to Tel Aviv, and in the few free hours available to me, I made a point of going to see the Altar, mainly because of Meier’s new building.  I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  However, I was thrilled with the Altar itself.  The bas relief sculptures on all four sides of the structures portray the climax of Roman sculpture in the Augustan period.  The original pieces have been pieced together with reconstructed parts which are missing after all these years, and the sum total is one of gleaming white marble beauty.  The elaborate sculptures display scenes of the Emperor and his family in traditional Roman religious piety.  All the figures are walking, approaching the gods to offer sacrifices.  The figures are not idealized or stereotyped but actual recognizable portraits of individuals.  The audio guide is extremely helpful in viewing all four sides of this beautiful construction.  Not to be missed!

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