Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Layers Upon Layers of History

August 25, 2008

It’s crazy to think I have only been in Rome for 4 days! It feels like it’s been over a week. I’m seeing so much and learning so much and experiencing so much that it’s hard to take it all in much less even believe it’s all really happening.
Today was amazing. I learned so much about the history of the city in relation to the church, and Constantine, and the Rise and Fall of the Empire. But what really stuck out to me today was the fact that this city is truly unlike any city in the entire world. It is so incredibly unique in its history. For most places, all the history is in books. In Rome, it’s there in the physical. Only in Rome can you walk into an 18th-century church and then go downstairs to a 4th-century church. Someone was digging a grave next to the church and their hole opened up into a huge chamber that turned out to be just another ancient basilica. And  what is even crazier is that below that, they found more. There was a 1st-century villa and then a public building, which was most likely the mint. And if you were to keep digging there would only be more and more layers.
In Rome, they didn’t demolish one building and then build another, they just filled in the old with rubble and built more atop it. I find it mind boggling that it is the same everywhere in the city. You could essentially dig anywhere and find more and more history. That is why it’s so difficult for them to build a subway. They already have two but they were trying to build another one recently and found  huge marble steps buried in the ground. How incredible is that?
Another way that we saw history was passed on was through frescos. One place we visited, which is now a convent, had a chamber with a story of Constantine wrapped around the ceiling in fresco. Although most of the story is now known to be false, it was popular belief at the time, and that’s how things would be passed on, through painting. Especially since many people could not read or write.

In the evening we once again had our Italian Language workshop. Each time we have this class I get a new perspective on something vitally important. Tonight it was the amount of influence language in Italy has had on its history and its culture. Andrea shared with us all the original languages that varied according to region, then he showed us what happened when Rome expanded and  took on Latin as its model language. We saw how local vernaculars combined with Latin and formed new languages. Italy has gone through so many language transitions back and forth  that it is hard to know what the model language is for the country. And it’s very interesting to learn that even Italians sometimes can’t understand each other if they are from different regions.
What a unique country this is! We are having an incredible time here and I can’t wait for tomorrow morning to see St. Peters and the Vatican! Ciao!

Katie Estabrook (Hagstrom)


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