Unusual Facts about Rome

  • City of Churches

    There are many beautiful churches in Rome, about 900 of them actually! So, in a city where churches reign supreme, which should you be visiting during your time in Rome? The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the grandest in the city and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was built around 440AD despite its baroque style facade which was popular during the 17th century and an important stop for those on pilgrimage. If you thought that St. Peter’s Basilica was the official church of Rome, think again. In fact, San Giovanni in Laterano is the seat of the bishop of Rome, a title that goes to the Pope. It’s one of the four major basilicas in Rome and was built in the 4th century, however restorations on the project were completed in the 16th and 17th century. Built on the ruins of the temple of Minerva; the ancient goddess of wisdom lies the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, one of the only representations of gothic churches in Rome.

  • Florence or Rome?

    In the late 1800’s Rome was still under control of the Papal states, and so when Italy became unified, it was the city of Turin that was the capital. However, the government at the time were concerned that as Turin was a long distance away from the south of the country, the people may feel alienated. They felt Florence was the natural choice and so the capital was moved there from 1865 to 1871. Florence was a top contender since the Florentine dialect was widely used at the time and especially so by the leaders of the country. That fact, and the rich cultural history of the city were the main reasons for the move. However, after 1871, the capital city returned to Rome, the seat of power in Ancient Rome.

  • All Roads Lead to Rome

    The saying goes that ‘all roads lead to Rome’, but what does this actually mean? The first Roman Road was constructed in 312BCE, named Via Appia. It covered 196 kilometres and was nicknamed the ‘Queen of Roads’. Over time, more than 400,000 kms of roads were built across the Roman Empire and a total of 29 highways. At first they were used to carry materials, but later was used by the Roman Army to transport its soldiers. The roads were made using a combination of stone, some broken pieces and others intact, mixed with Roman concrete. The engineers of the roads cleverly created an incline from the centre of the road so that rainwater could stream down into the drains. The basis of these roads became the foundation for roads across Europe and the Middle East today, and some ancient roads are even still used today.

  • The Dome of the Pantheon

    Dome of the Pantheon

    The dome of the Pantheon is the largest unreinforced dome in the world and the building itself is the most well preserved in all of Rome. Originally a temple constructed in 125AD, though many are unsure of its actual use or who built it, it was then used as a church from 689Ad onwards. Bronze decoration once lined the walls of the Pantheon however it was stripped of this during Bernini’s re-design of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Pantheon dome is bigger than that of the basilica and the building holds the bodies of many Italian nobles, Kings and even the famed artist Raphael.

  • Sistine Chapel Dimensions

    The Sistine Chapel features prominent artwork from master paintings, its most famous being the ceiling work of Michelangelo. Used for the papal conclave where a new Pope is selected, the private chapel of the Pope conducted its first mass on the 15th of August, 1483. Despite a depiction of the Twelve Apostles being the original idea for the artwork on the ceiling, Michelangelo had more a more ambitious plan in mind. He went on to paint 9 scenes from the Book of Genesis and over 300 biblical figures. He was known to leave things till the last minute, not having a final plan thought out but rather sketching each segment as he went along. The dimensions of the Sistine Chapel are said to match that of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed in 70AD. The 12,000 square feet of space was 132 feet long, 44 feet wide and 68 feet high.

  • Julian Calendar

    The Julian calendar came from the Emperor Julius Ceaser who called on the Alexandria astronomer Sosigenes for advice. The Julian calendar replaced the complicated Lunar calendar which was based on phases of the moon and the equinoxes and solstices. The Julian calendar instead is based on the circulation of the Earth around the sun. One full orbit is said to take 365 days. During the time of Julius Ceaser, February was actually the last month of year which is why the extra day on leap years is in the month of February even though it is the 2nd month of the year in modern times.

  • Spanish Steps

    What if someone told you that the Spanish Steps isn’t really related to Spain at all? In fact, it was the French who funded the construction of the steps, a French diplomat by the name of Etienne Gueffier. The reason for it being called the Spanish Steps is due to the fact at the time there was a Spanish embassy located near the bottom of the steps. A competition was held for the best design of the steps and it was a lesser known architect named Francesco de Sanctis won. The steps were also near the home of English Romantic poet John Keats who lived near the base of the stairs.

  • Coins in the Trevi Fountain

    Trevi Fountain

    They say if you toss a coin in the fountain, you’ll one day return to Rome. Toss another coin and you may even find romance! Yearly, around 3000 euros are thrown into the fountain which is then collected by city workers and until recently, was sent to Caritas; a catholic organisation that deals with social justice issues. After a bitter feud with the Rome city council, the funds are now being kept by the city for the maintenance of cultural sites.

  • 721-year conflict

    The longest conflict in human history? The Roman Empire versus the Persian Empire, in a bid to expand their boundary lines. Rome ruled from Syria to Britain and were aggressively pushing their soldiers forward trying to acquire more land. Ironically, the winner of the battle were neither empires, as the Arabs launched an attack on both armies who had depleted their energy and resources trying to fight each other.

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