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Surveys the physical, social, religious, cultural and demographic changes which take place in the sixth and seventh centuries, preparing the stage for the detailed study from 700 CE onwards. The intention is to demonstrate that Rome in 700 was a ‘Byzantine’ city, a ‘Constantinople on the Tiber’ in the phrase coined by Per Jonas Nordhagen.
Detailed examination of two building projects associated with Pope John VII (705–7); his funerary chapel in Old Saint Peter’s and the redecoration of the church of Santa Maria Antiqua. Prime attention is given to the cultural background of the decorations and the media employed.
Examines the murals in the best-preserved chapel in S anta Maria Antiqua, dating from the time of Pope Zacharias (741–52) and dedicated to Saints Quiricus and Julitta. The chapel is important as being the first early medieval example of lay patronage in Rome, and the focus of discussion is the donor, Theodotus, named in the painted inscriptions and depicted with other members of his family, a former military commander who switched to papal service and also played a major role in the development of the ‘idiaconiae’ (welfare stations). A case is presented for the hellenophone origins of the family, our best documented example of Rome’s new landowning élite.
Surveys political events in the second half of the eighth century as Rome, in the face of continued Lombard attacks, shifts its political ties from the emperor in Constantinople to the Franks, culminating with the coronation of the Frankish king Charlemagne as Roman ‘emperor’ in December 800
Examines the pivotal role of Pope Zacharias (741–52) who transformed the papal residence at the Lateran into a palace suitable not merely for a bishop but now also for a ruler wielding political authority. Special attention is given to the ‘Lateran bronzes’, a collection of ancient statues assembled outside the palace entrance which would come to be seen as symbols of political and judicial authority, reflecting the contemporary forged document known as the ‘Donation of Constantine’.
A survey of the political and economic challenges facing the papacy in the first four decades of the eighth century, including theological disputes with the emperors in Byzantium and the increasing hostility of the Lombard kings, in addition to a discussion of how these are reflected in ‘material culture’ as revealed by archaeology.
One of the very last acts of a century that had witnessed so much change in Rome took place in the church of Saint Peter’s on 25 December 800, namely the coronation of Charlemagne as ‘emperor of the Romans’, although what precisely that phrase was intended to mean is not specified.1 Perhaps most importantly, the ceremony was performed by the pope, establishing a practice that would endure for a millennium. In political terms, the transition from the old order was now fully complete: the bishops of Rome had emerged victorious.
Examines the explosion of building activity and patronage associated with Pope Hadrian I (772–95), who sees off the final Lombard threat and forges a strong alliance with Charlemagne. Churches such as Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Santa Maria Antiqua (where his portrait was included), and Sant’ Adriano are examined for what their decorations reveal about the continuity of ‘Byzantine’ cultural influence and practice. Attention is then given to his repairs to Rome’s walls and water supply. The exceptional wealth of the papacy in this era permitted an unprecedented degree of generosity in terms of gifts of precious materials to the city’s churches (silk textiles, gold and silver metalwork, marble furnishings).
Examines three groups of ‘consumers’ of visual culture in the opening decades of the eighth century: clerics (non-papal actors), monks, and pilgrims. Three case studies are employed: the recently discovered mural in the narthex of the church of Santa Sabina, the murals from the excavations of the monastery of San Saba, and the mural placed at the tomb of Pope Cornelius in the Catacomb of San Callisto on the Via Appia. These all offer additional evidence for the pervasive presence of ‘Mediterranean’/Byzantine culture.
Examines the patronage of Pope Paul I (757–67) at three of his principal projects: the construction of San Silvestro in Capite (a monastery he founded in his family home), Santa Maria Antiqua (substantially redecorated), and Saint Peter’s (where he created new chapels). These offer new insights into the culture and concerns of a pope whose Liber pontificalis biography is among the shortest. Also examined is the phenomenon of translating the relics of saints from the extramural catacombs to churches within the city walls, a practice which Paul initiates on a significan scale.