The Roman Empire in Italy officially breathed its last in 476 AD, although it had been on life support for some time before that. The monuments that we see around us are generally more than 1,700 years old and it is a tribute to the quality of the engineers and architects that so much remains. Indeed, it is this ubiquity that can sometimes make it difficult to recognise the age of the object in front of us. Near where I live is the town of Rignano Flaminio, a small market town like thousands or others. The main road through the town is the modern Via Flaminia yet next to it, at the southern end of the town, is 800 metres of the original Roman road, now used by locals as a footpath and car park – amazing!
With architecture, because of the resurrection of the Roman style in the Renaissance and later, it can be even more difficult to differentiate the original from later iterations. Most people visit the town of Assisi to visit the Basilica of St. Francis and rightly so, but as you wander through the town’s main square, the Piazza del Commune, take a moment to look at the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. The clue to the history of this building is in the name for this was originally a Roman temple. The facade of six magnificent Corinthian columns and the pediment above are part of the original construction dating from the 1st century BC. Sadly, the rest of the building does not live up to exterior elevation; it was converted to a church in the 17th century and subsequently refurbished in the Baroque style. However, the power and beauty of those ancient columns remains.