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Multi­di­sci­pli­nary approach to multi­layer monu­mental site studies: the case of the Quirinal Hill in Rome

Marie Skło­dowska-Curie Indi­vi­dual Fellow­ship (9.2015–8.2017)Dr. Ales­sandro Spila, Poli­tec­nico di Torino

The co-exis­tence of multiple of histo­rical phases in a single site is a funda­mental charac­te­ristic of cultural heri­tage. The project MuMo­SiSt was aimed at  devi­sing a metho­do­lo­gical approach that takes account of such multi­pli­city. It was devoted to  deve­lo­ping methods that can bridge a gap that curr­ently exists between studies that are too narrowly focused on a single histo­rical  moment, and studies that are overly broad. One of the goals of the rese­arch was to develop an inter­ac­tive data­base contai­ning data about the histo­rical phases of a parti­cular site – the Temple of Serapis in Rome – while offe­ring a global assess­ment of its deve­lo­p­ment over time.

Given its complex stra­ti­graphy, the area of the ancient Temple of Serapis on the Quirinal Hill in Rome offered an ideal case study. The rese­arch involved the syste­matic coll­ec­tion of data related to all phases in the histo­rical deve­lo­p­ment of this area, inclu­ding the Temple’s destruc­tion. The analysis of all temporal phases was funda­mental to the crea­tion of a method that  brings toge­ther the exper­tise of specia­lists working in diffe­rent histo­rical periods. This overall approach is one parti­cu­larly suited to the study of ancient monu­ments which no longer survive, but are known prima­rily by means of the post-antique docu­ments  cata­logued in the Census.

During the project, rese­arch was carried out on the post-clas­sical topo­graphy of the Temple of Serapis, with parti­cular focus on the houses of the Colonna in the early modern era: the so called Palazzo dell’Olmo and the Loggia dei Colon­nesi, which parti­ally over­lapped with the ancient ruins of the temple’s eastern double stairway. A number of unpu­blished docu­ments from the Colonna archives were coll­ected, analyzed and compared with early modern docu­men­ta­tion of the remains of the ancient compound preserved in the Census data­base. Rese­arch was extended to archival and icono­gra­phic sources related to buil­ding in the area in more recent times, espe­ci­ally the cons­truc­tion of the Piazza del Quiri­nale between the 17th and the 19th century. Multiple layers of history and topo­graphy were inves­ti­gated simul­ta­neously, thus allo­wing for the study of this area in its  full comple­xity. This approach models a method that can link toge­ther scho­lars working in diffe­rent specia­li­sa­tions, and can be applied in future larger studies dealing with multi­layered sites and monuments.

The coll­ec­tion of sources in the MuMo­SiSt data­base,, brings toge­ther an enormous amount of infor­ma­tion rele­vant to the analysis of this complex monu­ment as well as plani­me­tric reconstructions.

Ales­sandro Spila, Recon­s­truc­tion of the stair­case and Temple of Serapis on the Quirinal hill

Related publi­ca­tions:

A. Spila, ‘I Giar­dini nel Sette­cento. Gli inter­venti promossi dal conte­st­a­bile Fabrizio IV e dal cardi­nale Girolamo II’, in Palazzo Colonna. Giar­dini. La Storia e le Anti­chità, ed. Maria Grazia Picozzi. Rome: De Luca, 2018, pp. 183–206.

A. Spila, ‘The Double Stairway of the Temple of Serapis on the Quirinal Hill: Fame and Obli­vion in the Early Modern Period,’ Pegasus. Berliner Beiträge zum Nach­leben der Antike 18/19 (2018): 39–71.

A. Spila, ‘Palladio e Antonio da Sangallo il Giovane sul grande tempio del Quiri­nale’, Annali di archi­tet­tura. Rivista del Centro Inter­na­zio­nale di Studi di Archi­tet­tura Andrea Palladio 29 (2017): 135–142. 

This project has received funding from the Euro­pean Union’s Horizon 2020 rese­arch and inno­va­tion programme Marie Skło­dowska-Curie actions (MSCA) under grant agree­ment No 655480.