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18.04.2013
15:53

Turin restored and rejuvenated

The famous Savoy collection of Egyptian antiquities was largely gathered during the 18th and 19th centuries and was extensive enough by the 1830s for Champollion to do much of his work on deciphering hieroglyphics in Turin. For years the collections seem to have gathered dust but there has now been a vibrant revival of the museum. Somehow it has caught the imagination of the city.  It  buzzes with energy and school groups, with the number of visitors now topping half a million a year. At first I was a little disappointed with the traditional cases of artefacts in the first rooms but the sculpture gallery is stunning, and one has to accept that this is a better collection than that in the British Museum. There are especially good arrangements of everyday life found in undisturbed tombs.

The finest restorations are to be found in the coronet of palaces and hunting lodges that encircles the city: the “Corona di Delizie” or “Crown of Delights” as they have been known since the 18th century. The Villa della Regina is walkable from the centre, along the Via Po, through the majestic Piazza Vittoria Veneto, across the Po and up the hill past the Neoclassical church of the Gran Madre di Dio, built to celebrate the return of King Vittorio Emanuele I after the Napoleonic hiatus when Piedmont had been ruled from France. The villa originally dates to the early 17th century but derives its name from Queen Anne-Marie, the niece of Louis XIV who married Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy, and made it her home. She died here in 1728. There is an elegant ‘classical’ garden behind the villa and its private vineyard is still kept up.

Forty minutes from the centre of town is the Venaria Reale, the vast 17th–18th-century hunting lodge of the royal family. Virtually abandoned after the third wife of Carlo Emanuele III died here in childbirth in 1741, it has now been subject to a massive restoration programme. The first rooms of the Reggia, the main palace, are devoted to the Savoy dynasty, which originated in Savoy in 1003, so making it the oldest in Europe. (With the dynasty secure in Piedmont, Sardinia and then Italy, Savoy itself was passed to France in thanks for French help in the unification of Italy in 1860.) Here you can find the dynasty’s members listed and thus sort out the rulers and their marriages into the other royal families of Europe. A gallery of (reproduced) portraits of all the more significant members provides further help. The next rooms show the growth of Turin as a capital and document the works of the two great architects of the dynasty, Guarino Guarini in the 17th century and Filippo Juvarra in the early 18th.

Juvarra (1678–1736), who arrived in Turin in 1714, was appointed architect of the Venaria Reale and completed the astonishing vestibule there as well as the palace church dedicated to St Hubert, the patron saint of hunting.  Yet this is only one part of the complex that can be visited. There are two exhibition areas (with exhibitions of the fashion designer Roberto Capucci and Lorenzo Lotto on show until the summer of 2013), the  royal Savoy barge as well as many of the original rooms of the earlier palace. Then there are the gardens now being recreated after falling into decline in the 19th century. There is a complicated ticket system under which you pick and choose what you want to see, but we found that it is better to go for the €20 ticket that covers everything. The planned 18th-century town, the borgo antico, alongside the palace, is full of eating places.

When the royal family abandoned the Venaria Reale, it was Juvarra who was asked the design the new hunting lodge at Stupinigi, to the south of the city. This is a wonderful building and the restoration is magnificent. The lodge is owned by the order of St Maurice and its future was in doubt when the order fell into financial problems but on 15th March, 2013, it opened again and it is hoped that this will be permanent. Every room is beautifully decorated, not least with 18th-century hunting scenes set in the adjoining park. The central hall is simply staggering: Juvarra’s architecture, if you do not know it, is altogether a revelation, whether here at Stupinigi or in the entrance hall he designed for the Palazzo Madama back in the city or at the Superga, the ‘victory’ church on a hill overlooking the city that later became the mausoleum of the royal family.

Filippo Juvarra’s royal hunting lodge at Stupinigi.

After the Second World War, the royal family, discredited through their association with fascism, went into exile and many of their former palaces, especially those in Piedmont, began to crumble. The rejuvenation of these buildings has been astonishing and puts Turin back on the map as one of the finest cities in Europe for the Baroque.

There are many other sights in Piedmont to explore. The Castello di Masino, beautifully restored by FAI, the Italian ‘National Trust’, was our favourite but we also loved the castle at Issogne, on the old Roman road to Gaul, across the regional border in Valle d’Aosta. All these delights will be crammed into my forthcoming tour of Turin and the surrounding area in May.

Charles Freeman is historical consultant to the Blue Guides and author of Sites of Antiquity: 50 Sites that Explain the Classical World.

A palatial art museum in Trieste


Revoltella remained unmarried but he was not socially reclusive. His dinner parties attended by bejewelled beauties, his French chef’s extravagant concoctions and his gleaming gilded tableware were famous. At a gala banquet which he gave in honour of Franz Joseph’s brother Maximilian, on the eve of the latter’s departure for Mexico to take up his imperial appointment, the centrepiece, which drew gasps of wonder from the assembled guests, consisted of four hounds sculpted from butter attacking a wild boar confected out of sausage. It is difficult to gauge what motivated Revoltella. Was it business? Insecurity? A desire to impress? Ambition for social status, or for acceptance? A genuine regard for art? Did he have good taste? It is hard to say. His palace is a deliberate showpiece, but is neither impressively original nor depressingly vulgar. His chosen philosophers, whom he had sculpted at the top of the main stairs, were Galileo, Newton, Descartes and Leibniz: not thinkers, as such, concerned with the destiny of the soul, but physicists and mathematicians, an Italian, an Englishman, a Frenchman and a German. His collection of paintings contains the kind of thing that one might expect from a man of his time and status: Biedermeier portraits and romantic images of the Orient: there is a good Cairo street scene by Ippolito Caffi. In the study hangs a vivid Egyptian landscape showing the Suez canal slicing its way up from the Red Sea to Port Said.

From the library (which contains a copy of Revoltella’s own travel journal, which he wrote during his trip to Suez in 1861), a false door designed to imitate a bookshelf leads through to a small cabinet, once a bathroom, where some of the early treasures of the collection are housed, among them a model by Canova for his famous heroic nude statue of Napoleon holding a celestial ball intended to carry a Winged Victory. (The completed statue, in Carrara marble, never pleased the little emperor. He felt that the golden Victory figure appeared to be flying ominously away, and the statue was consigned to the vaults of the Louvre until purchased by Napoleon’s nemesis, the Duke of Wellington, who displayed it in his London home, Apsley House. It is still there.)

The collection in the adjoining building is rich in Italian art of the 20th century. De Chirico, Morandi, Carrà, Sironi, Burri: all are represented by at least one work. Particularly interesting are the local Trieste painters, whose work is less often seen in international collections. Piero Marussig is the best known; but also interesting are Carlo Sbisà (1889–1964), who found inspiration in the Italian Renaissance, and Bruno Croatto (1875–1948), known for his powerful realism.

The Draughtswoman, by Carlo Sbisà
Portrait in front of the Palatine ruins, by Croatto

The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella

An update to Blue Guide Florence from Alta Macadam.

One of the frustrations of guide book writing is the rate at which changes can occur. In the latest edition of Blue Guide Florence I complained that the museum of Santa Maria Novella had “a rather shabby and abandoned feel to it”, and that the oldest part of the monastery had been “closed for restoration for many years”. At that time there seemed no signs at all that the situation would change, and indeed I had found it in the same state for at least the previous four editions!

But now–finally–my complaints are no longer true, since a few months ago the museum arranged around the cloisters attached to the great church of Santa Maria Novella was given a definitive facelift and provided with a brand new entrance from the station square. Most important of all, access into the church from the Green Cloister has been provided so that the two monuments are once again linked together in their correct historical context (and can be visited with a single ticket).

You can now visit the Cloister of the Dead (so named because there was a cemetery here) and the pavement tombs and funerary monuments on the walls are well lit and well cared for (although sadly there is no description of them, as yet:  it would be interesting to have the inscriptions and dates transcribed).  The mid-14th-century frescoes include those in a chapel attributed to Orcagna (where the unusual Nativity scene is dominated by a flock of sheep and goats, and even a bumptious dog). Although the other frescoes here are extremely worn and some of them now barely visible, they have been restored as far as possible, and excellent explanations are provided in situ of the history of this, the oldest part of the monastery.

In contrast, off the adjoining cloister, the frescoes in the Spanish Chapel, dating from the later 14th century, are superbly preserved, and they remain one of the great sights of Florence. Here, too, the new explanatory panels (also in English), are well placed and extremely helpful. This chapel overlooks the Green Cloister with its three mighty cypress trees, and green-toned frescoes. The four most important lunettes, by Paolo Uccello, have been removed for restoration, but one of the four can always be seen (on a rotating basis–when not in the restoration laboratory) in the Chapter House close by. Here, since they are displayed at ground level, the visitor is provided with a wonderful opportunity to examine them at very close range. The huge vaulted chapter house also provides a magnificent setting for some of the monastery’s treasures, including vestments and church silver, and in the adjoining chapel are two memorable late 14th-century painted wood busts of female saints, as well as an altar frontal with fifteen charming embroidered scenes of the life of the Virgin, stitched by nuns in a Florentine convent in 1466. From outside this chapel glass doors enable you to look into the Great Cloister–currently occupied by the military police, though they are soon to be moved to new barracks, so this part of the monastery will also one day be accessible to the public.

St Thomas Aquinas and St Peter Martyr confounding the heretics: fresco by Andrea di Bonaiuto (1366–69) in the Spanish Chapel. Note the dogs, black and white like their masters, attacking heretical wolves. These are the “domini canes”, the “dogs of the lord”, their name a pun on “Dominican”, the order to which the monastery of Santa Maria Novella belonged.


It is extremely encouraging that the Florentine authorities have succeeded in making this monumental area in the heart of the city so inviting a place to visit. On some days it even has an atmosphere which perhaps recalls the days when pilgrims would call in here, as today travellers on their way to and from the railway station (with their luggage sometimes in tow!) can often be seen enjoying the peace of the cloisters as well as the wonderful works of art.

The wonderful Palazzo Grimani, Venice

Tucked away in a quiet nook in the sestiere of Castello is Palazzo Grimani, newly opened to the public, after years of restoration. I arrived late one afternoon, just as dusk was falling. As I climbed the wide stairway to the first floor, the sound of ethereal music floated down to greet me. A tall, slim woman in black was singing Josquin, accompanied on period instruments, to a small assembly in the portego. It was a magnificent way to begin a tour of this extraordinary place.

The palace was begun (so the Blue Guide tells us) around 1530 by Cardinal Domenico Grimani, son of Antonio (who was Doge from 1521–23), and work was continued to enlarge the palace by Antonio’s grandson Giovanni, Patriarch of Aquileia. It has been suggested that Jacopo Sansovino may have been involved in the work, collaborating directly with Giovanni Grimani.

Cardinal Domenico had a famous collection of Classical sculptures. At the death of his grandson Giovanni (in 1593) they were donated to the Republic, forming one of the first ever museums of Classical antiquities (and they are still on public view, constituting the main core of the Museo Archeologico in Piazza San Marco). Domenico was an important collector in other fields, too: he purchased works by Bosch, Memling and Dürer, drawings by Leonardo, and paintings by Raphael, Giorgione and Titian. At the death of the last descendant of the family in 1865, all the works of art which had remained in the palace were sold and dispersed. What you see today, as you visit the palace, are the rooms themselves, stupendously decorated in a wealth of original styles, the former backdrops for these marvellous works.

Vista through to the Laocoön, viewed from the vestibule in front of the Tribuna.

At one end of the portego, the central hall that runs the length of piano nobile, is the Cameron d’Oro where plaster casts of famous Classical sculptures (including the Laocoön) evoke the marbles once exhibited here by the Grimani. The room leading off it, the Sala a Fogliami, is perhaps the most remarkable in the whole palace, because of its ceiling, covered with a fresco showing thick foliage and fruit trees—peach, pomegranate, pear, medlar and quince—populated by birds which appear to be attacking each other. Amongst the plants the painter included maize and tobacco, recently arrived from north America. The motif of the birds, it is said, was designed to symbolise Giovanni Grimani’s stern stance against heresy, a reference to his acquittal by the Inquisition, who had accused him of unorthodox attittudes to predestination. There is a bench in the room: the best thing you can do is prostrate yourself on it, flat on your back, and just look:

Fighting heron and hawk. Ceiling detail of the Stanza a Fogliami.

The extraordinary Tribuna was designed by Giovanni Grimani to display some 130 pieces of his statuary collection. Its sober atmosphere recalls the vestibule of the Laurentian Library in Florence—and it is now empty except for the Ganymede (a Roman copy of a Hellenistic original) which has been returned from the Museo Archeologico and now again hangs from the centre of the ceiling as it did in the Grimani’s day.

The Sala di Doge Antonio, and the little vestibule and chapel adjoining, are decorated with exotic marbles. The ceiling of the chapel is decorated with the following Latin motto: “Thou has protected me, O Lord, in thy tabernacle, from the slander of tongues.” By fireplace in the main room is a bronze bust of the Doge himself, a stern-looking man. Leading off from here are the Camerina di Apollo and Camerina di Callisto, decorated in the 1530s in stuccowork and fresco.

Camerina di Apollo: ceiling decoration.


In an adjoining room are four extraordinary panels by Bosch (c. 1503) representing Paradise and Hell, the Fall of the Damned, and the Ascension to Heaven. The image of the Fall is memorable in the extreme: like a scene from a nightmare, souls are represented as having tumbled through a great hole, and they now sit helpless in the dark, far from the light which streams through upon them, unreachable, from the manhole high above their heads.

Adapted by Annabel Barber from the forthcoming new edition of Alta Macadam’s Blue Guide Venice.

25.02.2013
15:35

Pope Benedict: an unorthodox farewell


It didn’t take long. A mere twenty-fours hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his abdication, portents were being seen in the skies above the Vatican. Jupiter, the great god of the Romans, began rattling his thunderbolts and lightning was recorded striking the cupola of St Peter’s—twice. This is the kind of thing that happened on the eve of Caesar’s murder. “Never till to-night, never till now,” says a trembling Casca, “did I go through a tempest dropping fire. Either there is a civil strife in heaven, or else the world, too saucy with the gods, incenses them to send destruction.” Is that what heaven is doing? Or is it a seal of approval? After an eight-year pontificate, Jospeh Ratzinger is volunatrily vacating the Throne of St Peter. It is not an unprecedented step, but it is a controversial one. It is something that is not “done”. But Benedict XVI has never been afraid of controversy. While he lacks the charisma of his predecessor John Paul II and while he never inspired such fervent devotion in people’s hearts, he has been, in his thoughtful, mild-mannered way, revolutionary.

Pope Benedict is eighty-five. Before him lie who knows how many years of increasing frailty. It takes a vigorous and resilient man to hold the Christian world together. His decision to abdicate was taken, he says, “for the good of the Church”. The same was said in 1406, on the election of Gregory XII, who was raised to the pontificate purely on the understanding that he would resign, “for the good of the Church”, in order to heal the Great Western Schism. He did resign (though not as easily as all that; he was a wily old Venetian) in 1415. And the Schism did eventually heal. But what was this Schism, and how could a papal resignation heal it?

For most of the 14th century, the popes had abandoned Rome for Avignon in the south of France. This so-called “Babylonian captivity”, when the popes were “exiled” from their homeland, began when Pope Clement V (a Frenchman) was persuaded (by the French king) to set up his court in France. Political disturbances in Italy made this seem a good idea to Clement, and in 1309 he decamped to the peaceful banks of the Rhone. Horrified Italians—notably the poet Petrarch and St Catherine of Siena—begged for the papacy’s return, but it was not until 1377 that Gregory XI (also a Frenchman) re-established papal government in the Eternal City. (Since this Gregory, incidentally, there has never been another French pope—but who knows what may happen next month; the Archbishop of Paris is a current contender.) But though the popes came back to Rome, all was not healed. Strife and confusion were to dominate the next four decades, in the form of the Great Schism, which lasted from 1378 to 1417. This represented a complete rupture of ecclesiastical unity. Rival claimants to the papal throne were simultaneously nominated and crowned by competing factions of cardinals. For almost all of this period there were two or even three popes at once, each claiming to be the anointed successor to St Peter. The true popes found themselves locked in combat with rivals known as ‘antipopes’. Gregory XII was elected under the terms of a deal whereby both he and his rival, the antipope Benedict XIII, would simultaneously renounce their claims, allowing for a single successor to be appointed to replace both of them. For the good of the church. The plan worked—admittedly not without plenty of shenanigans—and eventually, in 1417, the Roman-born Oddone Colonna became Pope Martin V.

The Church hopes to have a new pope in place by Easter. But how do papal elections work?

A pope is elected by the cardinals, who form the “parish clergy” of Rome. The complicated rules for the conclave (from the Latin con clave, referring to a chamber that can be locked “with a key”) are designed to ensure that the election is not unnecessarily delayed, nor unduly hurried, and that it should be free from any kind of external pressure. After the death (or resignation) of the pope, all the cardinals are summoned to the conclave, which must be held in whatever city the pope dies, not necessarily Rome. The cardinals are housed in specially prepared apartments and before the conclave begins, a Mass of the Holy Spirit is celebrated, to invoke divine inspiration. Voting takes place twice a day, in the Sistine Chapel. The practice of burning the ballot papers, so as to indicate by the colour of the smoke whether or not a pope has been chosen, is probably a 20th-century innovation. A two-thirds majority is required, and it is usually obtained fairly quickly, though in 1799 the cardinals took three months to make up their minds. The winning candidate must be formally asked by the Cardinal Chamberlain whether he accepts the nomination. Sometimes he is very reluctant to do so: the infirm Leo XII, in 1823, pointed to his ulcerated legs and said, “Do not insist, you are electing a corpse.” Once he has accepted, and has chosen his regnal name (the last pope to use his real name was Marcellus II, in the mid-16th century), the new pontiff is robed and the Cardinal Chamberlain makes the announcement to the waiting crowds: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum, habemus papam: I bring you tidings of great joy, we have a pope.

Pope Benedict XVI is to renounce his duties on February 28th. On the day preceding, Wednesday 27th, he will deliver his final audience to the public. Papal audiences are held every Wednesday morning, either in the purpose-built Vatican Audience Hall, or, if the weather is fine, in the open air. If you are going to be in Rome on that day, don’t miss it. It will be an emotional occasion.

(With extracts from Blue Guide Rome and Pilgrim’s Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph, and featured on Stanfords blog.)

14.02.2013
15:39

Obscure St Valentine and his famous Feast Day


‘St Valentine at the Milvian Bridge’ was an early Christian basilica situated outside the walls to the north of Rome. The true identity of Valentine, the saint to whom it is dedicated, is obscure, though one tradition makes him an early bishop martyred on the Via Flaminia, the continuation of the Corso which runs north from the city centre, on 14th February 273. His remains were buried nearby. The spot soon became a Christian burial ground, and the basilica was built in the fourth century. It flourished until St Valentine’s relics were taken to a more central location, to the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (site of the famous Bocca della Verità). This so-called ‘translation’ of relics became common practice after the emperor Theodosius I passed a series of acts between 378 and 380 declaring Christianity the official religion of the empire. Although at first loth to convert pagan temples into their own sacred buildings, the early Christians gradually overcame their aversion and began adapting structures in central Rome as churches, consecrating them with the bones of martyrs brought in from the old, outlying burial sites.

St Valentine’s original basilica exists only as a ruin today, attached to catacombs dug into the Parioli hill. Traditionally the site was open to the public on St Valentine’s Day, but the complex is extremely unstable: of the basilica that had been enlarged and embellished by that tireless beautifier of martyrs’ shrines, Pope Honorius I, nothing at all remains to be seen.

A little further north, however, in the Olympic Village built for the Games of 1960, there is the modern church of San Valentino, consecrated in 1986. This is a remote location, and on the feast day of the saint, few seek out his church. Millions are scurrying around with cellophane-wrapped flowers, and blood-red fluffy hearts are dangling in every gift-shop window. But in the church of St Valentine only a subdued Mass is taking place in a side room.

St Valentine with the attribute of his martyrdom, the axe. The book he holds bears a text from John 13: ‘Love one another as I have loved you’. The theme of love and faithfulness, with which Valentine is chiefly associated today, is taken up in the pair of mating birds upon the tree stump.

The spirit of the saint lives on in the tradition whereby lovers attach padlocks to the nearby Milvian Bridge as a symbol of their indivisible attachment to each other. Though the padlocks were removed by the municipal authorities in 2012, they are slowly returning. The association of St Valentine with lovers comes from the date of his martyrdom, 14th February, the day when, according to old lore, mating birds choose their nesting partners.

The basilica of St Valentine is one of twenty-three churches visited on pilgrimage by Sigeric, newly-elected Archbishop of Canterbury, in 989. You can follow in his footsteps in Pilgrim’s Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph, from which the above text is extracted.

Burano in February


As work on the new edition of Blue Guide Venice gets underway, and as I start planning my next trip there, my thoughts turn to the island of Burano. On a sunny day in February—and if we’re lucky there will be some sunny days this month—the colours of Burano’s houses are at their absolute best.

Burano is most famous perhaps for three things: its lace, its S-shaped biscuits, and its colourful façades. But there is more. The little church of San Martino, for example, approached down the wide Via Galuppi, contains a wonderful painting by Tiepolo. It is a rare treat to be able to admire a work of Tiepolo without having to crick your neck back to look at a ceiling fresco. This is a Crucifixion, commissioned by a pharmacist in 1722 (his donor’s portrait is included, in an oval frame at the far left, not shown in the detail here). Christ is depicted victorious, his eyes cast upwards. One of the thieves has already being taken down and his body is being untied; the other still writhes upon his cross. In the foreground, the grieving, grey-faced Virgin swoons into the arms of the two Marys.


Via Galuppi and Piazza Galuppi, where the church stands, are named after the island’s most famous son, the composer Baldassare Galuppi, who was born here in 1706. He was immortalised by Browning, in “A Toccata of Galuppi’s”.

Oh Galuppi, Baldassaro, this is very sad to find!
I can hardly misconceive you; it would prove me deaf and blind;
But although I take your meaning, ’tis with such a heavy mind!

Here you come with your old music, and here’s all the good it brings.
What, they lived once thus at Venice where the merchants were the kings,
Where Saint Mark’s is, where the Doges used to wed the sea with rings?

Ay, because the sea’s the street there; and ’tis arched by—what you call
—Shylock’s bridge with houses on it, where they kept the carnival…

The skipping rhythm of the verses is intended to imitate the notes of a toccata played on a clavichord. The themes of gaiety and masked revelry and death are particularly relevant in a Venetian February, the season of Carnival and Lent. Though if the sun shines, there is no need to dwell on them for long.

There are plenty of places to eat on Burano. Al Gatto Nero offers local fish dishes, including a risotto di gù alla buranella (Burano-style goby risotto).

22.01.2013
16:21

The St Agnes lambs


St Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold…

I have always loved Keats, and he is, of course, a poet with better claims than many others to a Roman association. But as a schoolchild, studying him, I disliked that poem. I sniggered at the line “Into her dream he melted.” I was irritated by the way, for the sake of a perfect jog-trot iambic pentameter, Keats writes “a-cold”, instead of just plain Anglo Saxon “cold”.

It was much later in life that I became acquainted with St Agnes herself, her legend and her beautiful basilica, on the Via Nomentana in Rome’s northeastern outskirts. On the eve of the saint’s feast day, January 21st, the Pope solemnly blesses two white lambs. But why?

The lambs of St Agnes and the pallium
Sigeric of Glastonbury, recently named Archbishop of Canterbury, journeyed to Rome in the year 989 to receive his stole of office, the pallium, from Pope John XV. During his time here, Sigeric visited three churches intimately connected with the manufacture of this vestment, a connection which is still maintained to this day.

Every year, two winter lambs are purchased from the Cistercian monks ofSanti Vincenzo e Anastasio at Tre Fontane, south of the city centre (on the site of the martyrdom of St Paul). It is their wool that will be used to make the pallia. On the feast of St Agnes (21st January), the two lambs are taken to the basilica of Sant’Agnese fuori le Mura and solemnly blessed. The association of St Agnes with lambs comes from a play on the virgin martyr’s name (Agnes) and the Latin word for a lamb (agnus). If the pope is not personally present at the service, then the lambs are afterwards taken to the Vatican, decked in white roses, to receive his benediction. After this they are entrusted to the care of the Benedictine sisters of the convent of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, where they are raised with the utmost care until Holy Week, when they are shorn. The nuns weave their wool into the pallia which will be conferred on new metropolitan archbishops on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul (29th June). In the apse mosaic of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Pope Paschal I is shown wearing the pallium. His is pure white, adorned with two red crosses.

Each of these churches, SS Vincenzo e Anastasio, S. Agnese fuori le Mura with its attached catacomb, and S. Cecilia, is hugly rewarding to visit. You can read more about them in Pilgrim’s Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph.

Slightly pixelated, but still recognisable: Pope Paschal I (left) wearing his pallium woven from the wool of St Agnes lambs (and with a square nimbus indicating that he was alive when this portrait was created), in the company of St Cecilia and St Paul. Detail of the apse mosaic in the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.

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Lesley Blanch: On the Wilder Shores of Love
The Middle Ages on the Road
Hellenistic bronzes in Florence
Europe by rail - an introduction
Frescoes in a convent of a closed order of nuns
Michelin starred Paris
A Michelangelo discovery?
Jan Morris: Ciao, Carpaccio: An Infatuation
The Venus de Milo fights back
Winter in Florence: a new look at Donatello
Tea (or coffee) with the Sultan
Artwork of the Month: January. Medieval stained glass
Which? ranks Blue Guides #2
Giacomo Leopardi: A poet in film
Sassoferrato and the Aion Mosaic
The Aventine and Turner in Rome
Artwork of the Month: December
Rendez-vous with Art
Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age
Giovanni Battista Moroni
London The Information Capital
Changes to European rail services for 2015
Comments on Blue Guide London
Egypt, Greece, & Rome
The Medici Villas of Tuscany and Tourism
Artwork of the Month: November. Reason, Unreason and the...
The first collectors of 'Primitives'
From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town
Artwork of the Month: October. The Arch of Constantine
Sorting out the Uffizi
Waging war with a view
Dull London? Surely a mistake
Artwork of the month: September. Watercolour of the Great...
Italian Venice: A History
A tale of three museums
Rissëu
All Aboard the Cheese Train
National Gallery London to allow photography
Artwork of the Month: August. Bust of Augustus Caesar from...
Sacred Splendours: reliquaries of Florence's pious grand...
Book Review. Helena Attlee: The Land where Lemons Grow
Holiday reading
Artwork of the Month: July. The Phaistos Disc
Budapest to Vienna and Salzburg by Railjet
Marvellous and Macabre: the art of Jacopo Ligozzi
David Esterly - The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of...
Artwork of the month: June, Pordenone's Noli me Tangere
Budapest to Serbia by EuroCity Avala
Saving the Great Bear: Trieste's floating crane
News from Florence
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Baccio Bandinelli: a rehabilitation
Artwork of the month: May. "Flora", Pompeii
Travelling around Britain in style
In praise of plague cakes
Princesses from the Trabzon Empire
Artwork of the month: April. The Seuso Silver
Uffizi selfies come to Budapest
Florentine Mannerists at Palazzo Strozzi
Rome: seasonal stations
Sustainable living in Bolzano
Artwork of the month: March. Murillo's Flower Girl
Tastes change
Francesco Laurana's serene beauty
Being Mithridates
Florence and Buda: two cities of learning
Thoughts on Rome
Copyrighting Heritage
Food is the new Florence
A Grumpy Visit to Westminster Abbey
The Honey Of Hybla
So what is the Turkish Van?
The Pike: by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Smoothly off the buffers
Under Another Sky
'Art under Attack' at Tate Britain
Comments on Smoothly from Harrow
Renaissance art from Florence to Paris and back
Comments on Blue Guide Venice
Hepworth's "Winged Figure": 50th anniversary
Tying the Knot in Urfa
Venice and the Politcs of Washing
Comments on Staten Island: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
Comments on Short Guide to London 1953
Turin restored and rejuvenated
A palatial art museum in Trieste
The cloisters of Santa Maria Novella
The wonderful Palazzo Grimani, Venice
Pope Benedict: an unorthodox farewell
Obscure St Valentine and his famous Feast Day
Burano in February
The St Agnes lambs
Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” in restoration
Cathedral picks: Exeter
The real Patrick Leigh Fermor?
The joy of Giambattista Tiepolo
Leonardo’s “Battle of Anghiari”
In praise of Venice’s water transport system
The Red Rooms at the Uffizi
The Blue Rooms at the Uffizi
A trip to the Port of Trajan, outside Rome
Pour l’honneur de la France
An early-morning visit to Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, Rome
Church of SS Luca e Martina reopens above Roman Forum
How the tide turned at the Milvian Bridge
A compelling reason to visit Trapani province
St Augustine and his mother at Ostia
Visiting St Paul’s in London
Hadrian, Antinoüs and the Christian Fathers
Earliest-known image of a martyrdom
Can’t face the Vatican crowds? Try San Lorenzo
Turin, Pisa and mathematics
Ideal cities are all around us. It’s simply a matter of...
On Canaletto and Guardi and Venetian Light
Mithraism: a Roman Mystery Religion
Random Musings on Pontormo and Vermeer
The Amphitheatre of Londinium
Edward Lear and Crete
A handful of favourite things to see in Sicily
The mystery of the veiled virgins
Venice without the crowds
Cividale del Friuli and the Lombards
The Trouble with Snake Goddesses
The tragedy of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico
Oranges, lemons and relic cults: an escape from the queues...
City Picks: Verona
Hitherto unknown language discovered in east Anatolia
Painting of the Day
Museo Barracco: a little-visited gem
Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome
Staten Island: Upcoming Exhibition …
International Gothic at the Uffizi
Celebrating Santa Rosalia, patron of Palermo
Delhi Ghost Trail
Comments on Pilgrim's Rome: A Blue Guide Travel Monograph
The Roman Villa at Balácapuszta (Baláca, Nemesvámos,...
The Bard of….Messina? Was Shakespeare Sicilian?
Rereading Ruskin
Sicily’s emblem: the Trinacria
Luca Signorelli on exhibition in Umbria
The Tribuna of the Uffizi reopens
The Venice equivalent of the anonymous Tweet?
Comments on Blue Guide Sicily
Sicilian Holiday Reading
Attila the Hun and the Foundation of Venice
Death in Venice cocktail a hit
The Gentry: Stories of the English
381 years ago this June
Brooklyn Bridge: a New York landmark
A Venetian Update
Sixth-century church to reopen
Roman Aquileia
Springtime in Friuli
Northern Italy dining and accommodation recommendations
Al Dente: Madness, Beauty & the Food of Rome
A celebration of Lucca
Romantic music in a Baroque setting
Blue Guide India Delhi Launch
Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life
The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution
Comments on Blue Guide India
The Roman Forum
Whispering City: Rome and its Histories
The 15th-century Health Museum at Edirne
City of Fortune, How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire
Books about Istanbul
Comments on Blue Guide Istanbul
Comments on Blue Guide Florence
Constantine: Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor
Comments on The Venice Lido: a Blue Guide Travel Monograph
Comments on Blue Guide Literary Companions: Rome, London,...
Comments on Blue Guide Italy Food Companion
The 54th Venice Biennale stars Tintoretto
Holy Bones, Holy Dust
RECOMMENDED PLACES TO STAY AND EAT ON CRETE
Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity
Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us
Comments on Blue Guide Turkey
Comments on Blue Guide Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Hay-on-Wye
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Aegean Islands
Comments on Blue Guide Crete
Comments on Sites of Antiquity: from Ancient Egypt to the...
Comments on Blue Guide Tuscany
Familiar face
Comments on Blue Guide Concise Italy
Comments on Blue Guide Paris
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Blue Guide Northern Italy
Comments on Blue Guide The Marche & San Marino
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A day trip to Ostia Antica from Rome - highly recommended
Comments on Blue Guide Southern Italy
Comments on Blue Guide Concise Rome
A day trip from Venice up the Brenta Canal
A day trip to Murano from Venice
Pietrasanta, Pisa: in search of Stagi
Reading list for Venice
Reading list for Florence and Tuscany
The Best Credit / Debit Card for Travel
Ruskin on Venice
Reading list for Rome
Comments on Blue Guide Greece the Mainland

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