Our Year in Photos – 2017

Browns at the Christmas Day Dinner

The Browns at the St. Alban’s Parish Christmas Day Dinner 2016

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I continue my tradition of posting family photographs from the past year on More to Come… We have much for which to be thankful in 2017.

This has been another difficult year in our country, as we break into tribes and as the growing income inequality pushes us farther apart. We forget that the American experiment is built around ideas, not tribal groups, and that a sharing of common opportunities and challenges is important to being a citizen.  That experiment survives only if we celebrate all our fellow citizens and embrace the full American story.  We have not always succeeded, but we must keep trying in the year ahead.

Candice and I were thankful that Andrew and Claire were home for the Christmas break late in 2016. Some of the errands and visits were more mundane than others—such as shopping for new glasses—but this one made for a good opportunity to take a picture of our two favorite children!

New glasses

Clarity is a pair of new glasses: Andrew and Claire, December 2016

In January, Candice and I were fortunate to spend the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend in New York City, where we saw the amazing musical Hamilton. It truly lived up to the hype.  (Our selfie-taking abilities…on the other hand…leave much to be desired.)  Andrew was also “on stage” in January as one of the three kings at St. John’s Lafayette Square’s traditional Epiphany celebration.

Hamilton Selfie

In line to see Hamilton in New York City

 

The Three Kings

Andrew (left) as one of the Magi during St. John’s Epiphany celebration

We were back in New York State not too many weeks later.  Thirty-five years ago in March, Candice and I began our life journey together.  To celebrate, we had a relaxing and restorative long weekend at Mohonk Mountain House, one of our favorite places.

35th anniversary dinner

Celebrating our 35th Anniversary at a snowy Mohonk Mountain House in March 2017

While we were in the snowy northeast, Claire was enjoying California, her home for the past six years. She has always been our lover of the great outdoors, and during the first half of the year she went hiking and camping in the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park, visited the Grand Canyon with Southern California friends, hosted Andrew during her last couple of months in Los Angeles, and gathered together for a reunion with her Episcopal Urban Intern Program housemates.

Joshua Tree at sunset

Joshua Tree at sunset (photo by Claire)

 

Claire at the Grand Canyon

Hiking the Grand Canyon

 

EUIP Housemates Reunion

Claire’s reunion with EUIP Housemates

Baseball season began in April, and that can only mean one thing:  Let’s Go Nats!  David made it to Opening Day for the first time in his life, and Andrew went along to help kick off the new season.  (Andrew ended up going to five games on both coasts, perhaps joining Dad and Claire as true-blue baseball fans.)

Old Glory at Opening Day

Old Glory at Opening Day

Celebration was in the air in May and June for all types of special family events:  Mother’s Day, weddings, Andrew and Claire’s exploration of LA, and Father’s Day.

Mother's Day

Celebrating Mother’s Day

 

The family gathers to celebrate life and love

The family gathers to celebrate life and love with Erin and Jonathan

 

Claire and Andrew in LA

Claire and Andrew explore LA

 

Father's Day at Jack Rose

Drinking whiskey at Jack Rose on Father’s Day

 

Andrew and Claire in Sarasota

Andrew and Claire look very stylish in celebrating a dear friend’s wedding in Sarasota

Claire was home for a month between July and August, as she transitioned from living in Southern California to attending graduate school at Berkeley. She took time to hang with Andrew, Mom, and Dad and attend a beach weekend with close friends from Pomona College.

DJB with ABB and CHB at Nats Park

Dad does his best to make baseball fans of the next generation

 

Pomona Friends reunion

Pomona College friends reunion at the beach in Maryland

The entire family was able to come together in August for a week in Wellfleet, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.  It was a nice time of relaxation, exploration, and—of course—eating well.

Puzzle masters

Finishing up a puzzle – a Brown vacation tradition

 

ABB with Alison Bechdel

Andrew meeting author Alison Bechdel during a book tour event in Wellfleet

Fall has been a busy season, with another family wedding, Claire beginning her new adventure in graduate school, Andrew’s singing career stepping up to a new level, celebration of holidays, and traveling across the country.

Ghattas wedding cousins

David and Emily Ghattas celebrate with their cousins from around the world

 

The Browns and Crockers

Candice and DJB enjoy Chicago with David’s sister Debbie and her husband Mark

 

First days for Claire

Claire – on the first day of kindergarten and the first day of graduate school. Time goes by much too fast.

 

DJB at Pink Martini

David at Pink Martini Headquarters in Portland, OR

 

Claire's new haircut

Claire – new glasses, new haircut, ready for a new home in the Bay Area

 

Andrew summer 2017

Andrew ready for the next move in his singing career (© 2017 | Kristina Sherk Photography | http://www.Kristinasherk.com)

 

Pumpkin carving time

Pumpkin carving time with Andrew and Candice

 

Andrew for the Mozart Requiem

Andrew sings the Mozart Requiem at the Mexican Cultural Institute for El Día de los Muertos

 

Dinner at Chez Panisse

Dinner with Claire at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse

 

Hammock view

Claire’s view from her back porch hammock in Oakland…life is good

 

Wine tasting in Sonoma

Wine tasting in Sonoma

As you can see, it has been a busy and fulfilling year. During this Thanksgiving season, we give thanks for you, our wonderful friends.

Meal at Wellfleet

Enjoying one of many wonderful meals on Cape Cod

Have a terrific Thanksgiving holiday with friends and families.

More to come…

DJB

Preservation with an International Focus

Speaking to FAI Staff

DJB – with INTO Chair Dame Fiona Reynolds looking on – speaking to the FAI (Italian National Trust) staff in Milan

I have returned to Italy for the second time this year for a short meeting of the executive committee of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO).  Our host for this year’s meeting is Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI) or the Italian National Trust, a remarkable INTO member which has saved 54 properties and protected 6 million square meters of historic landscape in Italy since 1975.  Over the past two days we have been meeting with the FAI staff at their headquarters in Milan and have toured three wonderful – and unique – FAI properties.  Along the way the 15 members of the INTO executive committee have learned more about the Italian model of preservation while we share our own experiences and shape strategy for the group for the year ahead.

FAI’s headquarters in Milan is in a historic equestrian exercise rink that has been marvelously repurposed for 21st century office use.  The space, desks, and equipment are all modern and set up for strong collaboration, yet the entire new three-floor interior addition could be removed without damaging the historic fabric of the walls and windows.  Along with other members of the executive committee, I had the privilege of speaking to more than 100 staff of FAI, in my case telling them of NTHP’s work on the future of preservation and our ReUrbanism efforts launched just last week.

FAI headquarters

Headquarters of FAI – the Italian National Trust – in Milan

After a day of work at FAI headquarters, we traveled to Villa Necchi Campiglio – a 1930s villa in the heart of Milan – for a tour by FAI volunteers and dinner with the organization’s senior management.

Porch and sliding door

Porch and sliding door at Villa Necchi Campiglio

 

Villa Necchi Campiglio

Entrance hall to Villa Necchi Campiglio

This villa was designed by Piero Portaluppi and showcases the lifestyle of the Milanese upper-middle class in the period before WWII.  It was a delightful evening, where connections were made for future work together.

Friday began bright and early, as we headed to Lake Como to begin a day of touring of two extraordinary sites, including FAI’s most popular – and heavily visited – villa.  I’ll end with a shot to whet the appetite, but due to the late hour here in Milan and the slowness of my wireless connection, I’ll post many more pictures later.

Villa del Balbianello

Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como

More to come…

DJB

 

Dawdling

In the Words of E.B. White

In the Words of E.B. White

E.B. White once wrote, “The curse of flight is speed.  Or, rather, the curse of flight is that no opportunity exists for dawdling.”

I’ve been reading White as we’ve dawdled the past few days near his long-time Brooklin home in Maine, our feet very much on the ground (and water).  The first dictionary definition of dawdle is “to waste time,” but then options such as “moving slowly and idly” are put forth, as is “languid” and “saunter.”  I prefer the latter choices, as we’ve been dawdling, but definitely not wasting time.

Monday we sat outside the Pilgrim’s Inn, at water’s edge, and read for a couple of hours in the morning, enjoying a picture perfect Maine summer day.  Then we sauntered (if you can do so by car) over for a late lunch at the Brooklin Inn.  Our friends Tim Boggs and James Schwartz had invited us to their area home for an afternoon sail and dinner.

As we were walking out of the Inn, James and Tim drove by, stopped, and encouraged us to hop in for a short tour of area sites.  First stop – the graves of Katherine and E.B. White.

White Graves

Graves of Katherine and E.B. White

We then drove by the White’s old house and farm, made famous in many a book and New Yorker essay, and had a quick wave from the current owners who are friends of our hosts.  Afterwards we stopped back to pick up our car and browse through a wonderful book and gift store (where I picked up In the Words of E.B. White:  Quotations from America’s Most Companionable of Writersbefore heading to the summer home of our friends.

Candice in Wilbur

Candice with our hosts in “Wilbur”

Candice and I are not sailors, but after a quick house tour we headed out at low tide in “Wilbur” – the dinghy – and boarded the beautiful wooden boat “Red Head” that Tim and James have moored in the bay near their home.  Over the next 90 minutes we dawdled while Tim and James worked.  It was a delightful way to take in their environs on a day made for sailing.  Along the way we enjoyed views of the lighthouse at the end of Herrick Bay, along with views of Blue Hill and Acadia National Park.

Red Head

Red Head (photo courtesy of James Schwartz)

 

DJB at the rudder of Red Head

DJB stops dawdling long enough to take a turn with the tiller

We returned as the tide was coming in for drinks, conversation, and a wonderful meal with our hosts.  It was great to catch up with both of these friends.  They have been colleagues, family friends, and much more to all four of the Browns, and the evening passed much too quickly.  As the summer light was fading, however, Tim took us down to the water’s edge to see the remarkable sky at sunset.

Sunset in Maine

Sunset in Maine

Today we dawdled some more, with reading book-ended around a lunch-time trip to near-by Stonington.  That gave me the chance to finish the In the Words of E.B. White book.  A delightful read, and I’ll leave you with just a few thoughts from one of the 20th century masters of our language.

  • Never hurry and never worry!  (Charlotte’s Web)
  • Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.  The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.  (The Elements of Style)
  • If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy.  If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem.  But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day. (E.B. White:  A Biography)
  • I discovered by test that fully ninety per cent of whatever was on my desk at any given moment were IN things.  Only ten percent were OUT things – almost too few to warrant a special container.  This, in general, must be true of other people’s lives too.  It is the reason lives get so cluttered up – so many things (except money) filtering in, so few things (except strength) draining out.  (One Man’s Meat)
  • I would really rather feel bad in Maine than feel good anywhere else.  (Letters of E.B. White)

I suspect you’ll see more of these in the future…but now I need to go and dawdle a bit.

More to come…

DJB

Acadia

Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole at Acadia National Park

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, Candice and I spent last Thursday at Acadia National Park in Maine – with thousands of our newest friends – to enjoy this magnificent landscape (and the first national park east of the Mississippi River).

On a beautiful summer day, the park was brimming with people taking every form of transportation imaginable to access a part of Mt. Desert Island.  We enjoyed the loop ride, and stopped along the way to see treats such as the magnificent views at Thunder Hole.  It was fun to see young couple skipping from rock to rock while grandparents pulled out their lawn chairs and sat in the shade just to watch the endlessly fascinating waves break against the shore.

Thunder Hole Panoramic View

Panoramic View of Thunder Hole

After a lunch in Seal Harbor, we headed up to Cadillac Mountain in the center of the park.

Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 feet (466 meters), is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6. It is one of over 20 mountains on Mount Desert Island (MDI), Maine that were pushed up by earth’s tectonic and volcanic forces millions of years ago. Were it not for the once enormous glaciers that sheared off their tops, they would be even higher than what we see today. 

Frenchman Bay View

View of Frenchman Bay from Cadillac Mountain

 

View looking west from Cadillac Mountain

View looking west from Cadillac Mountain

We also took the time to hike part of the 45 miles of carriage roads in the park.  Acadia’s carriage roads…

…are the best example of broken-stone roads – a type of road commonly used at the turn of the 20th century – in America today.  They are true roads, approximately 16 feet wide, constructed with methods that required much hand labor….

The gift of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and family, (the carriage roads) weave around the mountains and valleys of Acadia National Park.  Rockefeller, a skilled horseman, wanted to travel on motor-free byways via horse and carriage into the heart of Mount Desert Island.  (The construction) efforts from 1913 to 1940 resulted in roads with sweeping vistas and close-up views of the landscape.

Carriage Road signage

Signage along the carriage roads in Acadia National Park

 

View from a carriage road

View from a carriage road

We had a wonderful day and were reminded – once again – of why our national parks are “America’s best idea!”

At Acadia National Park

Candice and DJB at Acadia National Park

More to come…

DJB

Guns, Wedding Gowns, Cold Beer

Pilgrim Inn

Pilgrim’s Inn at Deer Isle, Maine, in the late afternoon light

While driving through Central Maine to reach our destination on the coast, we passed a convenience store on a small rural road that had a sign which read:

Guns

Wedding Gowns

Cold Beer

We were laughing too hard to stop and take a picture, so you’ll have to trust me on this one.  Depending on the willingness of both sides to get married, these three things comprise almost all the essential ingredients needed for a (shotgun) wedding.  Add a Justice of the Peace (or these days, in internet-approved minister) and you’re all set.

Seriously, we’ve had a wonderful introduction to Maine.  On Saturday we stayed at a B&B in Littleton, Massachusetts, to split the drive in two (the Lyttleton Inn), and in the small world department it turns out that the innkeeper is the aunt of a former colleague at the National Trust.  We savored the delicious breakfast and interesting conversation with Mary (the innkeeper) before hitting the road north.

The second day’s drive was uneventful (just what you want) and we reached our destination – the Pilgrim’s Inn – by mid-afternoon.  The building dates from 1793 and first served as an inn in the early 20th century.  The current configuration as The Pilgrim’s Inn dates from 1977, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

As we were leaving our inn on Deer Isle last evening to head to dinner, we met a classical guitar player and his wife who are on  a “more vacation than tour” tour.  After talking guitars briefly, he said, “I’ll play anything…maybe we can get together.”  Finally, at dinner last evening in Stonington, we stuck up a conversation with a couple while waiting for a table. It turns out he’s a retired Episcopal bishop from Texas and we were able to make all sorts of connections.  As the evening ended he and his wife invited us to join them later in our visit to see E.B. White’s home.   Candice – the former elementary school teacher – was all in.  We already had plans to see other friends who have a home nearby while on Deer Isle, so our connections have tripled in the first night in Maine.

Nice folks here in Maine – even with the guns and wedding gowns.  We’re looking forward to a rewarding and relaxing two weeks.  (With thanks to Andrew and Claire for holding down the fort at the old home place.)

Pilgrim's Inn View

View from the deck at The Pilgrim’s Inn

More to come…

DJB

 

Check Off Another One!

With Claire at Church and State

Celebrating week’s end with Claire at Church and State in Los Angeles

My goodness, it has been a busy week of travel!

  • Attend the Main Street Now 2016 conference on Monday and Tuesday in Milwaukee and get energized by all the work going on in downtowns across the country – check.
  • Stop by and visit the amazing Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory Domes in Milwaukee – check.
  • Catch a bad head cold and endure a 4 1/2 hour flight from Chicago to San Francisco – unplanned, but check.
  • Have lunch in Carmel with one of the elder statesmen of preservation – the indefatigable Knox Mellon and his wife Carlotta – check.
  • Celebrate the beginning of the construction phase of our work at Cooper-Molera historic site with more than 100 people from the city staff, California State Parks, our local stakeholders, and our development partners in Monterey – check.
  • Over a wonderful dinner celebration in Monterey, talk baseball with the wife of one of our partners at Cooper- Molera, who has the perfect marriage…she’s a Red Sox fan and her husband is a Giants fan…so on the west coast with the MLB package they can start watching the Sox games at 4 p.m. and follow that with the evening Giants game (how amazing is that!) – check.
  • FINALLY begin to shake the head cold and take off to Los Angeles for two days of family R&R with my Claire, where we celebrate on Friday evening with some of her housemates in the Jubilee Consortium at the wonderful Church and State bistro – check.
  • Make a return visit to the Huntington Gardens with Claire, and spend all day wandering through that amazing landscape – check.
  • To top it off, Claire and I take in a LA Angels game in Anaheim (after finding a great local craft beer brewery) to check off another stadium from the old bucket list – check.

Let me hit a few highlights:

The Shaw Neighborhood in Washington, D.C. was one of three Great American Main Street Award winners in 2016.  They were featured in this amazing video, which I encourage you to watch.  Congrats as well to Audubon Park, Florida, and Dahlonega, Georgia, the other GAMSA winners.

Mitchell Park Domes

The incredible Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee

While I was in Milwaukee, I made a stop by The Domes.  Located in Mitchell Park, these three conoidal (bee hive shaped) glass structures are the first and only domes to house plants in different climates. The shape allows for an excellent angle for efficient solar heating and it also gives more height for taller plants.  The Domes were designed by local architect Donald Grieb and drew accolades from around the world when completed in the mid 1960s.  No less than Lady Bird Johnson – then the First Lady of the U.S. – officially dedicated The Domes in 1965.  It just goes to show that  Calatrava wasn’t the first to design amazing modern architecture in this Midwestern city.

Interior of the Show Dome

The interior of the Show Dome

 

Show Dome Ceiling

Show Dome Ceiling

Speaking of modern architecture…

I’m staying at the historic Biltmore Hotel while in LA, which is just a few short blocks from the new Broad Museum and Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.  I took a stroll down the street after arriving to check both out up close.

Broad Museum detail

Detail from the Broad Museum on Grand Avenue in LA

The Broad is a new contemporary art museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. The museum is designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler.  It sits next to the already iconic Disney Concert Hall, which has won accolades from its opening in 2003. The mix of landmark contemporary and historic buildings (such as the LA Central Library) has helped revive this part of downtown in a city that is not known for a strong core.  I don’t have time here to go into all the different aspects (positive and negative) of this new development in LA, but I’ve tucked these images and thoughts away for future mulling.

Church and State with the Jubilee Gang

Caroline, Edgar, Claire, and Gracie (l to r) at Church and State Bistro

Claire and I also explored another part of LA – the revitalized Arts District – when we went with friends for dinner at Church and State bistro.  Good friends and good food – always a treat!

For my last full day in Southern California before heading home, Claire and I decided to revisit the beautiful Huntington Gardens, which we first visited a couple of years ago. As usual, Claire captured some wonderful scenes with her camera.

Desert Garden

The Desert Gardens at the Huntington (photo credit: Claire Brown)

 

Huntington sculpture

Huntington Garden sculpture (photo credit: Claire Brown)

Claire and I wrapped up our weekend by taking in a baseball game at Angels Stadium in Anaheim – which allowed me to check off another MLB stadium from my bucket list. On the drive down, Claire went online and found a microbrewery within walking distance so we could sample some local IPA.  We succeeded – drinking IPAs at Noble Ale Works and making new friends in Brooks and Jen.

Angels Stadium

Angels Stadium (photo credit: Claire Brown)

Then it was off to the stadium.  We found a local favorite food – the grilled cheese sandwich – at The Big Cheese.  Though not traditionally a ballpark food, the grilled cheese is hugely popular with fans. I had mine with short ribs, while Claire had arugula and tomatoes with her sandwich.  The home team looked to be on a roll when Mike Trout and Albert Pujols hit back-to-back jacks (or homers, taters, four baggers, dingers, you name it) in the first inning, setting off an impressive fire display in the waterfall just beyond the center field fence, but that was about it for the offense and the local nine fell to the Houston Astros 4-2.

With Claire at the Big A

With Claire at the Big A

We realized that with her joining me tonight at her seventh stadium, Claire has been my companion at more stadiums that anyone else.  (By my count, I have been to five stadiums each with Candice and my former work colleague Dolores McDonagh.)  For those keeping score, here is the list of ballparks visited:

  • Atlanta Braves – Fulton County Stadium (multiple visits in 1980s; never got to Turner Field before they tear it down, but this counts given my rules)
  • Baltimore Orioles – Camden Yards (multiple visits in 1990s and 2000s)
  • Boston Red Sox – Fenway Park (1988)
  • Chicago Cubs – Wrigley Field (1964, 2007, 2012)
  • Chicago White Sox – US Cellular Field (2013)
  • Cleveland Indians – Progressive Field (2014)
  • Colorado Rockies – Coors Field (2008, 2013)
  • Kansas City Royals – Kauffman Stadium (2009)
  • Los Angeles Angels – Angels Stadium (2016)
  • Milwaukee Brewers – Miller Park (2005)
  • Minnesota Twins – Target Field (2014)
  • Oakland A’s – Oakland Coliseum (2008)
  • Philadelphia Phillies – Citizens Bank Park (2008)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – PNC Park (2013)
  • San Francisco Giants – AT&T Park (2012 and 2014)
  • Seattle Mariners – Safeco Field (2009)
  • St. Louis Cardinals – Busch Stadium (old – 1993; new – 2012)
  • Tampa Bay Rays – Tropicana Field (2012)
  • Washington Nationals – RFK (multiple times) and Nationals Park (multiple times + part of a season ticket group since 2012)

And here is the ballparks remaining to visit list:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks – Chase Field
  • Cincinnati Reds – Great American Ball Park
  • Detroit Tigers – Comerica Park (Another park I’ve seen but haven’t made a game.)
  • Houston Astros- Minute Maid Park (Which I am planning on visiting later in June)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers – Dodger Stadium (This is the only park that a family member – Claire – has seen before I have had the opportunity. Three or four times, no less. That’s just not fair!)
  • Miami Marlins – Marlins Park
  • New York Mets – Citi Field (I think this is an easy one to do, but it never works out.)
  • New York Yankees – Yankee Stadium (I know – how can I not have made it to Yankee stadium yet?!  Just goes to show I’ve never been a big Yankees fan)
  • San Diego Padres – Petco Park (our new friends Brooks and Jen were raving about this stadium)
  • Texas Rangers – Texas Stadium
  • Toronto Blue Jays – Rogers Centre

Hopefully, by the end of the season I’ll be at 10 or less left to go!  If I keep traveling as much as I have this week, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Heading home on Sunday, and ready to check off another Memorial Day holiday.

More to come…

DJB

Three Churches (Part Two)

San Lorenzo in Miranda

San Lorenzo in Miranda

Over the past two weeks, we have visited three distinctive churches that each took our breath away in different ways.  The first is rarely seen.  The second is seen by almost every tourist in Rome.  And the last is one of those masterworks of architecture that really must be seen to be fully appreciated

So to follow-up on our earlier post of looking at churches in sets of threes, here comes Three Churches (Part Two).  Let’s begin with San Lorenzo in Miranda, the church that is rarely seen.

Each Friday we were at the American Academy, I took part in the “Fellows Walk.”  The last of those – for us – took place a week ago Friday and it was titled “The Presence of Absence:  The Medieval Roman Forum.”  I’ll turn to the AAR’s description of the walk to fill you in on the focus:

Rome brims with a seemingly endless number of sites that loom large in the popular imagination.  But how does the imagined city compare to our actual, sensory experience of Rome?  This final series of Walks will lead us through a selection of sites — forum, church, neighborhood, villa and garden — designed to provoke a set of distinct, physical experiences.  Charting places of sensory input across time, these Walks will encourage us to become aware of the presence of absence, visual perspective, mathematical order, scale, materials, topography, labor, fragrance, temperature, color and much more beyond.

Today’s visit will focus on how we experience Medieval Rome through both the traces — and voids — of this stratum of the city’s history.  We’ll concentrate on a series of sites in the Roman Forum, which witnessed some of the early transformation of Rome’s ancient, pagan monuments into places of Christian worship.  We’ll begin our discussion on Via dei Fori Imperiali, a Fascist-era road that cut through the Forum and obliterated much of Medieval Rome in the process.  From here, we’ll visit three churches that emerged between the 6th and 9th centuries: Ss. Cosimo e Damiano, S. Lorenzo in Mirandola, and S. Francesca Romana.  These locations represent the varying degrees to which we can experience the history of Medieval Rome in sites that were once the center of Roman society and culture yet today are rarely open to the public and thus remain a mystery to contemporary residents and visitors alike.

Many people know San Lorenzo as “the church in the temple” in the middle of the Roman Forum.  Others know it as “the church where the entrance door hangs in mid-air on the second floor.”  Those two things are connected.

Altar in San Lorenzo in Miranda

Altar in San Lorenzo in Miranda

This is a 17th century Baroque church, but it was originally the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, built around 141 CE.  Over time through the Middle Ages, as the Forum filled in with silt and occupation debris, the floor of the church – and thus the entrance door from the Forum side – was raised to its present location.  When archaeological excavations began in the 19th century, there was some pressure to demolish the church to leave only the Roman temple remains.  That did not happen, however, and the current church provides one of the most interesting – and seldom seen – views of the Forum.

Forum View from San Lorenzo

Forum view from San Lorenzo

 

Entrance to San Lorenzo

The “entrance door” to the Forum from San Lorenzo

The conversation on the walk focused on how the Medieval Forum was lost – intentionally – to the archaeology of the 19th century (with its focus on Imperial Rome) as well as the 20th century fascists changes to the city (which also had a focus on returning Rome to its Imperial glory).  Absence is often a very important part of the historical record, as we see here.

Yesterday, Candice and I visited a church that – unlike San Lorenzo – is on every tourist’s “Top 10” list of places to see.  That would be the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo.

Raphael Mosaics in Chigi Chapel at Santa Maria

Raphael mosaics in the Chigi Chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo

Santa Maria del Popolo is an art museum and a church.  Raphael?  Check.  Caravaggio?  Check.  Bernini? Check. And that’s only the beginning.

Conversion on the Road to Damascu

Caravaggio’s “Conversion on the Road to Damascus”

 

Crucifixion of St. Peter

Caravaggio’s “Crucifixion of St. Peter”

 

Bernini's Daniel and the Lion

Bernini’s “Daniel and the Lion”

 

Santa Maria del Popolo

Santa Maria del Popolo

Santa Maria del Popolo – located on the beautiful Piazza del Popolo – is a well-loved church by people of all faiths and no faith. As found in the church’s brochure,

I have always considered Santa Maria del Popolo (Our Lady of the People) as an example, a perfect example of the specific nature of Italian cultural patrimony….

Well said.

San Carlo exterior

Exterior of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

Finally, I want to return to a church mentioned in an earlier post – San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (Saint Charles at the Four Fountains).  This design – a masterpiece of architect Francesco Borramini – is both “extraordinary and complex.”  Working with a very difficult site and needing to include a number of elements to complete the architectural program, Borramini came up with a design that works and thrills at the same time.

Altar at San Carlo

Altar at San Carlo

 

San Carlo detail

San Carlo detail

It is the dome, with its exquisite geometric pattern, that caps this wonderful space and brings it all together.

Dome of San Carlo

Dome of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

There is more I could show, but my pictures do not do this building justice.  So I am going to end this visit to Italian churches with a segment on San Carlo from Daniel Solomon’s Bedside Essays for Lovers (of Cities) – a favorite text.

Borromini was eclipsed for much of his career by the flashier and more charismatic Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and his oeuvre are mostly second-tier commissions – smallish buildings on undistinguished city sites.  His greatness is built on surmounting the contradictory demands of these commissions – simultaneous city fabric and monument.  Second-tier commissions produced some of the most complex and subtle works of the Western canon…

Never have the ordinary and the extraordinary been reconciled with more sublime elegance than at San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.  Its interior is nothing less than a three-dimensional cosmological map depicting in its intricate geometries and its filtration of light the relationship of heaven and earth.  But the sanctuary of San Carlo sits on an unremarkable street corner on the consistent street frontage of via Quirinale, leading to the magnificence of Palazzo Quirinale and Piazza Quirinale a couple of blocks up the street.  Mediating between the glories of the interior and the important but subservient role of the exterior is a subtly undulating wall, true to the demands of both inside and out.  In this most complex of mediations, Borromini leaves the enduring lesson of how to be both a humble city builder and an architect of thundering power.

If you are in Rome, get thee to this church!

More to come…
DJB