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Benedizione col Bambino (S. Maria d'Aracoeli)

A.J.B. THOMAS - the Blessing of the Holy Child from above the stairway of the church of Santa Maria d'Aracoeli.

Here is Piazza Venezia, the pulsating centre of new Rome, and next to it is the Campidoglio or Capitoline Hill with the Tarpeian Rock, taking us back in time to Romolus' struggle with neighbouring peoples. The rock took the name of Tarpeia, a vestal virgin who the Sabines seduced with jewels into revealing a secret path allowing them to surprise the Romans on the Capitoline before they killed her. Ever since, it was used to punish criminals and traitors. Within its rocky surface are eagles and a wolf, the symbols of the city. Before climbing this imposing hill, let us look towards the piazza, one of the most beautiful and interesting ones in Italy. In the background is the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, commonly called the Vittoriano, dedicated to the Unity of Italy and to the heroes of the Italian Risorgimento. It is a work of Roman grandeur by Giuseppe Sacconi, and holds within the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the foot of the Altar of the Fatherland, dominated by an equestrian statue of the "gentleman king" and coronated by a grandiose portico with gigantic propilei cutting into the blue sky and two bronze statuary groups. This admirable panorama within the heart of Rome is accessible by a generous stairway adorned by victories and trophies. On the right, Palazzo Venezia sits grand with its turrets like a medieval fortress. Destined to hold the works of art of Pope Paul II, a Venetian, and later to host the ambassadors from the Republic of San Marco, this palazzo was then the location of the Austrian Embassy to the Holy See, and during the years of Fascism, the official residence of the dictator. It is one of the most important examples of 15th century architecture in Rome. On the inside is a magnificent uncompleted courtyard by Giuliano da Maiano, and within are grandiose, superbly decorated rooms like the Globe room, the Concistoro room, the Regia room as well as a rich collection of art, including paintings, tapestries, antique furniture, arms, bronzes, silver, porcelain, ceramics, sculptures, Persian rugs, embroidery and rare fabric. Next to Palazzo Venezia is the Basilica of San Marco with an external loggia for papal blessings. In the corner between the Palazzo and the smaller palazzetto is a graceful modern pine-cone fountain and the bust of a colossal statue of Iside, commonly called Madama Lucrezia. Next is the beginning of the Via del Mare, and beyond, the green heights of the Campidoglio. On the left is the building of the Assicurazioni Generali, built to imitate Palazzo Venezia, Trajan's Column flanked by the whimsical Baroque churches of Santa Maria di Loreto and Santissimo Nome di Maria. Then there is the Via dei Fori Imperiali and the Colosseum in the distance. Next to the Vittoriano are the ruins of the tomb of Caio Publicio Bibulo, the people's builder. This monument from the last Republican period is extremely important for Roman topography in that it marks the beginning of the Via Flaminia, one of the oldest consular roads which led Rome to world dominion.