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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

History Class

I think the best way to find hidden gems in a touristy city like Rome is take an architectural history class taught by Jan Gadeyne. He’ll take you to all the sights, even the ones lost to history. But be wary, he won’t cautiously walk backwards at a glacial pace, maintaining eye contact as he goes. No, he walks faster than most people bike, and, at the ripe age of somewhere in the sixties (?), it’s pretty impressive. But the other day, we toured the Aventine and Caelian Hills as a class, church hopping. Our top right now is the early Christianization of Rome. One of the churches we went to is named Santo Stefano Rotondo, because its floor plan is a central floor plan, and therefore was laid out in the round and had a dome. This church is one that I would never have stumbled upon on my own. It’s tucked away out of view deep in the Caelian hill on the side of an ancient via. The history behind it is mysterious, as no one, not even Jan, knows who built it or what the status of it was. One theory is that the bishop of Rome at the time, who built Santa Maria Maggiore, built it. That’s just a theory. What’s truly magnificent is the interior, which is composed of two concentric circles of columns and an explosion of light in the center. I highly recommend a detour to this place, you won’t regret it.


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