Welcome to the Vatican Exhibit.
The City Reborn
How the City Came Back to Life
Rome now is one of the grandest cities in the world. Millions of
pilgrims and tourists come every year to admire, and be awed by,
its treasures of architecture, art, and history. But is was not
always this way. By the fourteenth century, the great ancient
city had dwindled to a miserable village. Perhaps 20,000 people
clung to the ruins despite the ravages of disease and robber
barons. Popes and cardinals had fled to Avignon in southern
France. Rome was dwarfed in wealth and power by the great
commercial cities and territorial states farther north, from
Florence to Venice. In the Renaissance, however, the popes
returned to the See of Saint Peter. Popes and cardinals
straightened streets, raised bridges across the Tiber, provided
hospitals, fountains, and new churches for the public and
splendid palaces and gardens for themselves. They drew on all
the riches of Renaissance art and architecture to adorn the urban
fabric, which they saw as a tangible proof of the power and glory
of the church. And they attracted pilgrims from all of Christian
Europe, whose alms and living expenses made the city rich once
more. The papal curia--the central administration of the church-
-became one of the most efficient governments in Europe.
Michelangelo and Raphael, Castiglione and Cellini, Giuliano da
Sangallo and Domenico Fontana lived and worked in Rome.
Architecture, painting, music, and literature flourished. Papal
efforts to make Rome the center of a normal Renaissance state,
one which could wield military as well as spiritual power,
eventually failed, but Rome remained a center of creativity in
art and thought until deep into the seventeenth century.
Please feel free to enter the Exhibit by going to the