Center of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See
and San Paolo Fuori le Mura (1980 and 1990)
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Founded, according to legend, by Romulus and Remus in 753 B.C., Rome was first the centre of the Roman Republic, then of the Roman Empire, and it became the capital of the Christian world in the 4th century. The World Heritage site, extended in 1990 to the walls of Urban VIII, includes some of the major monuments of antiquity such as the Forums, the Mausoleum of Augustus, the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the Pantheon, Trajan's Column and the Column of Marcus Aurelius, as well as the religious and public buildings of papal Rome.
Italy was founded about 2.750 years ago, beautifully reflected in this stamp showing an allegory of the skyline of Rome, from the Forum Romanum with Colosseum, to St. Peter's Basilica. The Colosseum is probably the most impressive building of the Roman empire. Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, it was the largest building of the era. The monumental structure has fallen into ruins, but even today it is an imposing and beautiful sight.
The emperor Vespasian, founder of the Flavian Dynasty, started construction of the Colosseum in AD 72. It was completed in AD 80, the year after Vespasian's death. The huge amphitheater was built on the site of an artificial lake, part of Nero's huge park in the center of Rome which also included the Golden House (Domus Aurea) and the nearby Colossus statue.
This giant statue of Nero also gave the building its current name. The elliptical building is immense, measuring 188m by 156m and reaching a height of more than 48 meter (159 ft). The Colosseum could accommodate some 55,000 spectators who could enter the building through no less than 80 entrances.
Above the ground are four storeys, the upper storey contained seating for lower classes and women. The lowest storey was preserved for prominent citizens. Below the ground were rooms and cages containing wild animals and mechanical devices. The cages could be hoisted, enabling the animals to appear in the middle of the arena. The Colosseum was covered with an enormous awning known as the velarium. This protected the spectators from the sun. It was attached to large poles on top of the Colosseum and anchored to the ground by large ropes. A team of some 1,000 men was used to install the awning. Emperors used the Colosseum to entertain the public with free games. Those games were a symbol of prestige and power and they were a way for an emperor to increase his popularity.
|Games were held for a whole day or even several days in a
row. They usually started with comical acts and displays of exotic animals
and ended with fights to the death between animals and gladiators or
between gladiators. These fighters were usually slaves, prisoners of war
or condemned criminals. Sometimes free Romans and even Emperors took part
in the action.
Hundred-day games were held by Titus, Vespasian's successor, to mark the inauguration of the building in AD 80. In the process, some 9,000 wild animals were slaughtered.
||In 2002 France issued a very nice set, "Capitales
EuropÚnnes" [European Capitals], with four different stamps on a
background of drawings of various views of Rome.
All together this sheet gives a very nice impression of Rome.
The drawings show:
The four stamps show
The Fontana di Trevi or Trevi Fountain is the most famous and arguably the most beautiful fountain in all of Rome. This impressive monument dominates the small Trevi square located in the Quirinale district. The Trevi fountain is at the ending part of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC. It brings water all the way from the Salone Springs (approx 20km from Rome) and supplies the fountains in the historic center of Rome with water.
In 1732, Pope Clement XII commissioned Nicola Salvi to create a large fountain at the Trevi Square. A previous undertaking to build the fountain after a design by Bernini was halted a century earlier after the death of Pope Urban VIII. Salvi based his theatrical masterpiece on this design. Construction of the monumental baroque fountain was finally completed in 1762.
The central figure of the fountain, in front of a large niche,
is Neptune, god of the sea. He is riding a chariot in the shape of a shell,
pulled by two sea horses. Each sea horse is guided by a Triton. One of the
horses is calm and obedient, the other one restive. They symbolize the
fluctuating moods of the sea.
On the left hand side of Neptune is a statue representing Abundance, the statue on the right represents Salubrity.
|Above the sculptures are bas-reliefs, one of them shows
Agrippa, the girl after whom the aqueduct was named.
The water at the bottom of the fountain represents the sea. Legend has it you will return to Rome if you throw a coin into the water. You should toss it over your shoulder with your back to the fountain.France 2002. The Trevi Fountain.
The piazza di Spagna is one of the most popular meeting places in Rome. It is also one of the most visually pleasing squares. The combination of a monumental staircase, an obelisk and a rosy church draw photographers to the square. The TrinitÓ dei Monti is a beautiful French church located on a hill overlooking the small piazza della TrinitÓ dei Monti. From this square, you have an nice view over Rome. At the end of the 15th century, only a small chapel existed on the hill. In 1495, French King Louis XII commisioned the erection of a new church, replacing the chapel.
Construction started in 1502 and dragged on for decades. It was only consecrated in 1585 by Pope Sistus V. The gothic church with a renaissance fašade has two bell-towers. Inside, several paintings decorate the different chapels. Among them are two works by Daniele da Volterra, a pupil of Michelangelo. Its location on top of the Spanish Steps and the rosy color make the TrinitÓ dei Monti a well-known landmark in Rome. The obelisk just in front of the church was originally located in the Gardens of Sallust. In 1788 it was moved to its current location on request of pope Pius VI. The hieroglyphs were copied from the obelisk on the Piazza del Popolo.
The church is connected to the Piazza di Spagna via a long staircase, known as the Scalinata della TrinitÓ dei Monti or Spanish Steps. The idea of connecting the church with the piazza di Spagna originates from the 17th century. The French also planned on adding a statue of King Louis XIV of France at the top of the staircase.
Papal opposition caused the plans to be shelved until 1723, when it was built without the statue. Pope Innocent XIII appointed the Italian architect Francisco de Sanctis. He presented a design that satisfied both the French and the papacy. The elegant staircase consists of 137 steps over twelve different flights. It has an irregular albeit symmetric structure. It is especially beautiful in May, when it is decorated with azaleas. At the bottom of the Spanish Steps is the Piazza di Spagna or Spanish square. The long, triangular square is named after the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. In the 17th century, the area around the embassy was even considered Spanish territory.
|At the foot of the Spanish Steps is the Fontana
della Barcaccia, a very sober fountain commissioned by Pope Urban
VIII and designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The design, a small boat, was
inspired by the flooding of the Tevere [Tiber] in 1598, when a small boat
stranded here after the water subsided.
In the southeast part of the square is the Colonna dell'Immacolata (column of the Immaculate conception). It was erected in 1857 to commemorate the dogma of the immaculate conception. The column was found in 1777 under a monastery. It is now topped with a statue of Virgin Mary.
Castel Sant'Angelo, an imposing building on the right bank of the Tiber river has had a turbulent history, even by Rome's standards. During its many years of existence, the building functioned first as a mausoleum, then became part of the city wall and later was turned into a fortress before it functioned as a papal residence and finally as a barracks and military prison. It is currently a national museum. The Castel Sant'Angelo was originally built by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum. Construction started in 123 A.D. and was finished in 139 A.D., during the reign of Hadrian's successor, Antonius Pius.
||The building consisted of a square 89m (292ft) wide base on
which a cylindrical colonnaded drum with a diameter of 64m was
constructed. On the drum was an earthen tumulus topped by a quadriga with
Hadrian's statue. The mausoleum was connected to the city at the other
side of the river by a newly constructed bridge, the Pons Aelius. The
bridge is now known as the Pont Sant'Angelo. Its many statues were added
later during the Renaissance. The mausoleum housed the remains of Hadrian
and his successors up to Caracalla.
Between 270 and 275 A.D., during the construction of the Aurelian walls, Hadrian's mausoleum was fortified and incorporated in the Aurelian Wall around Rome. From that point on the building was slowly turned into a fortress and in 1277 it was acquired by the papacy who used the building as a refuge in case of danger. A secret corridor, known as the Passetto di Borgo, connects the Castel Sant'Angelo with the Vatican. The corridor was used by Pope Clement VII and his Swiss Guards to take refuge from Charles de Bourbon's army during the sack of Rome in 1527. But even in this fortress, the pontiffs made sure they were well housed. The papal apartments in the Castel Sant'Angelo feature beautiful rooms decorated with many frescoes. Below the apartments are several floors which include prisons and even a torture chamber. A spiraling corridor, part of the original mausoleum, leads to the bottom of the building.
|At the top of the fortress, looking over the panoramic
terrace, is a statue of an angel, built by the 18th century Flemish
sculptor Pieter Verschaffelt. The bronze statue replaced an earlier,
The statue depicts the angel who, according to legend, appeared on top of the fortress in the year 590 and miraculously ended the severe plague that had infested the city of Rome. After the event, the building was renamed Castel Sant'Angelo.
This quick glances at Rome concludes the "Roman" part of this page. There are hundreds of stamps depicting Rome, her monuments and churches, but this being beyond the scope of this site, the rest of this page is consecrated to a quick glance at the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica.
One of the most sacred places in Christianity, the Vatican City, attests to a great history and a formidable spiritual venture. A unique collection of masterpieces of art and architecture can be found within the boundaries of this small state. At its centre is St Peter's Basilica, with the double colonnade and circular piazza in front and bordered by palaces and gardens. The Basilica, erected over the tomb of St Peter the Apostle, is the largest religious building in the world and the fruit of the combined genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini and Maderno.
The Vatican 1991. Triptych of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
He also completed the unfinished fašade (1614) of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. Between 1606 and 1612 he built the nave extension and fašade of the church, which Donato Bramante had begun approximately 100 years earlier.
His style influenced the Baroque architects Francesco Borromini and Gianlorenzo Bernini. The dome was originally designed by Michelangelo, but was not finished in his lifetime.
The Vatican 1933. Panoramic View of the Basilica.
The Vatican 1933. The Dome of the Basilica, seen from the gardens of The Vatican.
The Vatican 1933. Special Delivery Stamp, showing an aerial view of the Basilica and The Vatican.
The Basilica is named after the apostle Peter, who died c. 64 AD, and was the most prominent of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, a leader and missionary in the early Church, and traditionally the first bishop of Rome. The below stamp shows the statue of St. Peter by Guiseppe De Fabris (1790-1860) in front of St. Peter's Basilica. In his right hand Peter holds a key, and in his left hand a scroll. Behind St. Peter, on the balustrade of St. Peter's Church (top left on the stamp) is the Apostle Philip with his attribute, The Latin Cross. To right of Philip further two apostles.
Scholars have had considerable difficulty in advancing from these traditions to the historical Peter, but one of the most important of the traditional elements is also one of the most historically secure:
Peter was the first to receive a revelation of the risen Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:3; Luke 24:34).
From this point other aspects of the picture of Peter have been developed, notably the change of his name from Simon to Peter.
From the references to Peter in the Gospels it is known that the name he received at birth and with which he grew up was Simon. The Greek word petros ("rock") and its Aramaic equivalent, cephas, were not in use as personal names. "Peter" is thus a metaphorical or symbolic designation that came in time to function as the name of the man in question. The symbolic name in its Aramaic form may have arisen in connection with the affirmation that the resurrected Lord appeared first to Simon, that appearance and thus Simon himself serving as a sort of foundation stone of the Church.
The Vatican 1986. A very nice set of six se-tenant stamps in a composite design, showing the Vatican City and St. Peter's Cathedral with the Colonnade on the two stamps in the lower right corner. In 1986 the Vatican City was declared World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, and all six stamps bear the inscription "Citta del Vaticano -- Patrimonio Mondiale".
The Vatican 2000. A modern First Day Cover, cancelled 15th March 2000. The cachet shows The Pope kneeling in front of St. Peter's. The cancel shows the Pontifical Arms (Papal Flag, Crossed Keys, and the Papal Tiara. This is also "the papal logo" (top right) on the stamp. On the left side of the stamp is a security-thread in silver. The stamp was issued in a set of four, in celebration of The Holy Year 2000, showing various famous churches in Rome. Note that the stamp is a self-adhesive NVI to be sold from a vending machine for the value of 800 Lire.
As is the case with Rome as such, there are hundreds of stamps depicting the Vatican and its art treasures. This being a study in itself, this is far beyond the scope of this site. I hope, nevertheless, that I have triggered your taste for collecting the stamps of the Vatican, also popularly known as the off-shore tax-haven of Rome ;-)
Sources and links:
Other World Heritage Sites in Italy (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Italy for further information about such sites.
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Revised 01 aug 2006