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Journey to Rome
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Roma is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and commune, with over 2.7 million residents in 1,285.3 km2 (496.3 sq mi). In 2006 the population of the metropolitan area was estimated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to have a population of 3.7 million. The city of Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy. Rome's history spans over two and a half thousand years. It was the capital city of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, which was the dominant power in Western Europe and the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea for over seven hundred years from the 1st Century BC until the 7th Century AD. Since the 1st Century AD Rome has been the seat of the Papacy and, after the end of Byzantine domination, in the 8th century it became the capital of the Papal States, which lasted until 1870. In 1871 Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, and in 1946 that of the Italian Republic. In 2007 Rome was the 11th-most-visited city in the world, 3rd most visited in the European Union, and the most popular tourist attraction in Italy. The city is one of Europe's and the world's most successful city brands, both in terms of reputation and assets. Its historic centre is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Monuments and museums such as the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum are amongst the world's 50 most visited tourist destinations (the Vatican Museums receiving 4.2 million tourists and the Colosseum receiving 4 million tourists every year)
The Flavius amphitheatre is the biggest and most imposing in the Roman world, but is also the most famous monument in Rome and is known as the "Colosseum" or "Coliseum". Started by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavia family, it was opened by his son Titus in 80 A.D. What we see nowadays is just the skeleton of what was the greatest arena in the ancient world. Three-fifths of the outer surrounding brick walls are missing. In the Middle Ages, when no longer in use, the Colosseum was transformed into an enormous marble, lead and iron quarry used by Popes to build Barberini Palace, Piazza Venezia and even St. Peter's. The amphitheatre could hold up to seventy thousand spectators. The tiers of seats were inclined in such a way as to enable people to get a perfect view from wherever they sat. Entry was free for all Roman citizens, but places were divided according to social status, the seats at the top were for the people, the nearer you got to the arena the higher your social status. The highly ostentatious opening ceremony, lasted one hundred days during which people saw great fights, shows and hunts involving the killing of thousands of animals (5000 according to the historian Suetonius). For the opening, the arena space was filled with water for one of the most fantastic events held in Roman times, naumachias – real sea battles reproducing great battles of the past. Imagine it all white, completely covered in splendid travertine stone slabs. It is elliptic in shape in order to hold more spectators. It had four floors; the first three had eighty arches each; the arches on the second and third floors were decorated with huge statues.
The Pantheon is the Roman monument with the greatest number of records: the best preserved, with the biggest brick dome in the history of architecture and is considered the forerunner of all modern places of worship. It is the most copied and imitated of all ancient works. Where it stands was not chosen by chance, but is a legendary place in the city's history. According to Roman legend, it is the place where the founder of Rome, Romulus, at his death was seized by an eagle and taken off into the skies with the Gods. The name comes from two Greek words pan, "everything" and teon "divine". Originally, the Pantheon was a small temple dedicated to all Roman gods. Built between 27 and 25 B.C. by the consul Agrippa, Prefect of the Emperor Augustus, the present building is the result of subsequent, heavy restructuring. Domitian, in 80 A.D., rebuilt it after a fire; thirty years later it was hit by lightening and caught fire again. It was then rebuilt in its present shape by the Emperor Hadrian; under his reign, Rome reached its maximum splendour, and the present structure is probably the fruit of his eclectic genius and exotic tastes. In fact, the Pantheon combines a clearly Roman, cylindrical structure with the splendid outer colonnade of Greek inspiration. Although the new structure was very different to the original, Hadrian wanted a Latin inscription on the façade, that translated means "It was built by Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time.
It is thanks to Peter, the first Apostle and the first pope and leader of the Church that the most important basilica in the Christian world, the St. Peter's Basilica, was built in Rome. The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter (Latin: Basilica Sancti Petri), officially known in Italian as the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano and commonly known as St. Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. St. Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, holding 60,000 people. It is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites. It has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom". In Catholic tradition, the basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St Peter's since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the 4th century. Construction of the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626. St. Peter's is famous as a place of pilgrimage, for its liturgical functions and for its historical associations. It is associated with the papacy, with the Counter-reformation and with numerous artists, most significantly Michelangelo. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. Contrary to popular misconception, Saint Peter's is not a cathedral, as it is not the seat of a bishop. It is properly termed a papal basilica. The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral church of Rome
The Roman Forum is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Three thousand years ago, this valley between Campidoglio and the Quirinal, which was to become the future social and political centre of one of the greatest empires of ancient times, was submerged in marshland. By an incredible invention of engineering, this was commissioned by the last two Etruscan kings, the so-called Cloaca Maxima, a canal that is still in function to this very day, allowed for the drainage of the land. The area soon began to develop and already at the end of the 7th century BC, it was home to many markets and a hive of social activity. Forum was the name that the Romans gave to the central square of the urban settlement and we must try to imagine this busy, crowded place as the pulsing centre of a modern city. Here the masses would flock to see the meetings of the orators, attend criminal trials and discuss internal politics or the latest military campaigns, or quite simply to comment on the games or running races (an activity that the Romans particularly enjoyed) It was only in the eighteenth century that the Forum was rediscovered and finally the definitive process of the recovery of the ancient ruins began, bringing this long-forgotten and barbarically plundered historic patrimony back to life.