Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Baths of Caracalla … Rome, 2008

Thanks to the generosity of my daughter and her husband I was able to visit Italy for the third time in 2008. My oldest son was my traveling companion.

We had ten days to take in the wonders of Florence and Rome and all the surrounding towns and it wasn’t until the very last day that we happened upon the famous Baths of Caracalla. I had no idea that it would prove to be one of the most fascinating of all our adventures.

We were having lunch in a small café after having visited the Coliseum and our waitress asked if we’d been to the baths yet. When we said that we hadn’t she informed us that it was just a short walk from there and we decided to go.

When the buildings came into view we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. The Baths of Caracalla complex was built in 212 AD and, despite the fact that it is now in ruins, it still retains the feeling of those bygone days. It was so eerie to be walking through rooms with inlaid mosaic tiling on the floors and the remains of marble statues everywhere.

We read that libraries, gymnasiums and even cafes were part of the elaborate layout and they even installed a system of burning coal and wood underneath the ground to heat the buildings and the water.

But the strangest thing that we saw was a fresco of the Madonna with Child on the wall of one of the less ruined baths. It was amazingly well preserved but totally incongruous in that setting. Obviously it had been painted at a more recent date and we were sure there was a story attached to it.

When we finally had our fill and were leaving we asked the curator to tell us about the mysterious fresco. He just shook his head and said that it was indeed a mystery, and one that has baffled scholars and art critics for years.

(I guess it’s honorable to stick to facts but you’d think they could have made up something to satisfy us !!)


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

They have maintained the sense of mystery this way.

6:02 AM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

What a fascinating place. It is hard to think that it is an easy walk from the Coliseum when it appears to be in such a rural setting.

8:03 AM  
Blogger NCmountainwoman said...

You would think they would have an answer, wouldn't you? Once my husband asked a tour guide what made the amazing formations. She answered without a pause, "Nature." It's becomes our standard answer.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous schmidleysscribblins, said...

The year 212 would have been 212 years after the birth of Christ, so it is possible that the fresco or mosaic dates from the time the buildings were constructed.

Plenty of Christians were around during this year, and in 313, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which declared religious tolerance throughout the Empire. Constantine converted to Christianity, although he continued to honor the most high God (Sun God) on Sunday as he had always done. Hence our Christian Sundays.

Caracalla apparently died in 217, about 1 year after the baths were completed, so perhaps the mosaic was installed just after his death as he was a nasty piece of work who persecuted others and murdered his own brother. Just a thought.

I love Roman history, and enjoyed your tour today.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

I'm so envious of your trip Ginnie. That is one of my dream trips! The baths sound amazing. I love that feeling you get when entering a very old or ancient building. It must have been exciting! I'd love to see photos of the inside. I don't suppose they let you take pictures. Great post!
Love Di ♥

4:04 AM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

One of our "bucket list" travel trips would be to visit Ruome and Greece (both) and to see what remains of once glorious and imposing structures and to think that it was all done without the conveniences of modern engineering or equipment too.

12:59 PM  
Blogger possum said...

Oh, how cool! I never saw them... a hidden(?) treasure. But then there are so many hidden treasures in this world. Lucky you!

4:52 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

The Romans were interesting. Did you ever see the series "The Romans"? It was on HBO or Showtime--but I enjoyed it. They were such a contradiction between being civilized and uncivilized--kind of what we are today.

4:58 AM  

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