Pyramids in Rome?

Rome Travel Blog

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Today is a free day in Rome. We have been advised that the queue to get into the Vatican museum is at it's shortest at mid morning. It certainly is less than when we went past yesterday but takes around 30 minutes to the entrance. A city within a city.Vatican City State was founded following the signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and Italy on February 11th 1929.These were ratified on June 7th 1929. Its nature as a sovereign State distinct from the Holy See is universally recognized under international law.

The Vatican Museums contain masterpieces of painting, sculpture and other works of art collected by the popes through the centuries. The Museums include several monumental works of art, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Chapel of Beato Angelico, the Raphael Rooms and Loggia and the Borgia Apartment.


The Pinacoteca, or Picture Gallery, is situated in a building that dates back to 1932 and that was designed by the architect Beltrami. It is connected to the Museum complex at the entrance of the Quattro Cancelli by an elegant portico. 
The Christian, Profane and Missionary-Ethnological Museum contains a collection of artistic and archaeological objects, some of an ethnological nature, that were once housed in the Lateran Palace.

 The Collection of Modern Religious Art was added to the Museums in 1973. The History Museum is located in the Lateran Palace and includes, among other things, items that belonged to the Pontifical Military Corps.

Most famous of course is the Sistine Chapel. Named after his commissioner, Sixtus IV della Rovere. Its construction started in 1475, during the Jubilee Year proclaimed by Sixtus IV, and ended in 1483, when on August 15th the Pope solemnly inaugurated the new Chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. The project, designed by Baccio Pontelli, included the use of a third of the height of the existing mediaeval walls.

According to some scholars, the dimensions of the hall (40.23 metres in length, 13.40 metres in width and 20.70 metres in height) are copied from Solomon’s great temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. I must admit I was expecting it to be bigger but it is impressive none the less. The ceiling is of course what everyone looks too.

This is Michelangelo’s masterpiece and one of the most important painting cycles in the world, covering 800 sq metres of wall with “good fresco” painting.

It was begun in May 1508, and then stopped for about a year between September 1510 and August 1511. The chapel was solemnly inaugurated by Julius II on November 1st, 1512. The vault’s iconography is linked to the themes chosen for the side walls, representing humanity’s long wait for Christ, the prophecies foreseeing his coming and scenes from the Genesis.

We are ushered through quite quickly by Vatican Secret Service types looking faintly ridiculous in their designer shades. Lots of shouts of No photo,no photo and we are outside again. Still,along with the rest of the museum it was worth the visit.

Around the corner we go to visit St Peters Bassilica. During Nero’s great Christian persecution in 64 A.D., Saint Peter was martyred, crucified and buried in Caligula’s Circus.

After Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. Christians were allowed to construct places of worship. Constantine himself authorized the building of the basilica in 324. It was intended to allow Peter’s tomb to become the centre of the structure.

When the Popes abandoned Rome during the Avignon schism of 1309-1377, the basilica, which was one thousand years old by then, was showing signs of wear and deterioration.By the early 16th century, the need to choose between restoring St Peter’s or rebuilding it completely was unavoidable, so much so that the new Pope Julius II, elected in October 1503, decided to entrust this task to Donato Bramante in 1505, one of the greatest architects of his time.Work on the first pylon began with great ceremony on 18th April 1506, and foundations for the other three pylons were laid the following year.

Construction halted, however, when Julius II and Bramante  died; by then the basilica had reached the top of the four pylons.

Several other proposals for St Peter’s were drawn up over the next 40 years, in the midst of heated debate over whether the new St Peter’s should have a central or longitudinal plan. Bramante and other Renaissance architects preferred the central plan, but the longitudinal plan or Latin cross conformed more to ecclesiastic tradition and would also cover the entire area of the ancient Constantinian basilica.

Finally in 1547, Pope Paul III commissioned Michaelangelo to propose a new design.

His solution was to keep Bramante’s original plan, thickening the pilasters and the external walls and creating niches and ledges by chiselling out the walls. 
A vast dome was to cover the central area, where the papal altar was to be placed. The building was finished, although the dome was not completed at Michelangelo’s death in 1564. His pupil, Giacomo della Porta, finished building it with a few changes.

This afternoon I have a private task to perform. My Great Uncle Michael is buried here in Rome in the Allied War cemetary. A casualty of the landings at Anzio at the age of 19.The Battle of Anzio began on January 22, 1944 and concluded with the fall of Rome on June 5.


Unable to penetrate Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's defenses, British General Harold Alexander, commander of Allied forces in Italy, began assessing his options. In an effort to break the stalemate, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill proposed Operation Shingle which called for landings behind the Gustav Line at Anzio.The fighting during the Anzio campaign saw Allied forces sustain around 7,000 killed and 36,000 wounded/missing. German losses were around 5,000 killed, 30,500 wounded/missing, and 4,500 captured. Though the campaign ultimately proved successful, Operation Shingle has been criticized for being poorly planned and executed.

Whatever the rights or wrongs the human cost is visible here in the small but beautifully kept cemetary. I lay my poppy and cross,bow my head for a few moments in quiet reflection and say thank you to the gardeners on the way out.

On the way in to my suprise I saw a pyramid.One might think it is strange to find an old pyramid in the center of Rome and in a sense  it is. However, after the Roman conquest of Egypt in year 30 BC, Rome was going through a fad for all things Egyptian. Several obelisks were taken from Egypt and placed at Circuses and Forums all around Rome. There was also another pyramid raised in Rome, the pyramid of Romulus, which was demolished in the 16th century.

This is the Pyramid of Cestius. Built on request by Gaius Cestius Epulo; a rich magistrate, praetor and a member of one of the four great religious corporations at Rome. It is believed to have been built around year 15 BC as an extraordinary tomb.

Despite the Egyptian craze and in contrast to popular belief, the Pyramid of Cestius is not based upon the famous pyramids in Giza.

If you think about it, the Giza pyramids are all much shallower than this rather steep pyramid.

The Pyramid of Cestius is instead believed to have been based upon the more pointy Nubian pyramids. One Nubian kingdom was attacked shortly before the construction of this pyramid, which suggests that Gaius Cestius possibly served in that campaign and became inspired. Historians suggest the purpose of the tomb’s pyramid-shape was to serve as a commemoration to the Roman victories in Africa.

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photo by: vulindlela