27 May 2008

Marble Flooring

I have a weakness for Victorian literature. I like the flowery prose, the formality and intricacy of relationships and conversations, and the structure to the texts. There’s an elegance and flow to it that I find lacking in much contemporary writing. I can get lost in Hardy on the moors or Hugo at Notre Dame.

I am also fairly detail-oriented as a person, so I am inclined to notice the minutiae in texts and places. The details matter for me.

In visiting churches around Rome, I have often been drawn into the intricate patterns and impressive displays of marble. After walking on cobblestone streets, the marble is also a welcome, smooth relief for my ankles and feet. I find myself understanding why the Americans in the nineteenth-century were mad for imported Italian marble. It is exquisite, varied, and worked my master craftsmen (and, yes, it would have been men then).

Here are a few examples of some of the marble. At St. Peter's Basilica:

At San Clemente's entrance, they have this sinuous design down the aisle:

Some of the detail, up close, includes gilted marble. They also had a lot of pastel colored marbles, as shown below at right. Do forgive the blurriness--the light was very low and flash photography was much too reflective to capture the colors well.

At S. Giovanni in Laterano, the floors look as though they are quilted, even down to the intricate drains (the first picture below). You can see a variety of the patterns, including some of the tricks, below.


Tom Benson said...

Be sure to have a look at Santa Prassede (and re-read Browning's "The Bishop of St. Praxed's Orders His Tomb").

Have a look at Santa Maria Maggiore on the same walk.

Hillary A. Jones said...

I also found that the floors at Santa Maria in Trastevere are really fantastic. The sinuous designs from San Clemente are also in place here, and the floor is done in a similarly quilted pattern. They are actually famed for the work there, so it is a good place to visit for floor viewing, as well!

Works Cited

Fiona Wild, ed. Eyewitness Travel Rome (London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1993), 2007 edition.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Marble Faun. New York: Penguin Books, 1990/1860.

James, Henry. Daisy Miller. New York: Penguin Books, 2005/1878.

Powers, Alice Leccese. Italy in Mind: An Anthology. Toronto: Vintage Books, 1997.

Steves, Rick. Rick Steves' Italy 2007. New York: Avalon Travel Publishing, 2006.