I often ride the 628 bus which I can catch on the street just behind our flat. It takes you to the City Center past Circo Massimo, Piazza Venetia, Piazza Navona and then turns by the Tiber River to continue going north. I’ve often passed a very modern building that looks a bit out of place in such an old city, and wondered what it was. Now I know.
The building is Museo dell’ Ara Pacis. It was the first modern building to be built in the historic center of Rome since the fall of fascism. Designed by the famous American architect, Richard Meier, it houses the Ara Pacis, an ancient altar that was constructed in 13 B.C. in honor of the Emperor Augustus. It’s original location was on the Campus Martius, a field that lay outside of the City. Due to flooding of the Tiber River and the softness of the earth in this area, the altar eventually sunk and was lost for millennium.
When it was rediscovered in the late 1800’s, it lay under a palace. In 1937-1938 it was finally reconstructed to mark the bi-millenium of Augusta’s birth and a temporary structure was built around it, again on the banks of the Tiber. The War prevented further protection of the altar and over time, it suffered from the effects of weather and pollution.
The Museo is now temperature and humidity controlled to protect the monument. It also houses additional exhibition space which currently has a show of Avantgarde Russian painters that I got to visit. I saw 3 Marc Chagall early paintings, wonderful Kandinsky and many other Russian artists influential in the modern movement in the early 20th century.
It was a lovely afternoon…something old and something new. This city will never cease to amaze and delight me.