Did you know that in the 12th century one could enter Rome by crossing any of 14 gates in the city's Aurelian Walls? Did you know that "Testaccio" derives its name from the mound of remains of clays vessels that were broken during Tiber River trade activities? And that the Knights Templar had their monastery at Santa Maria dell'Aventino? Barbara Frale invites the reader to follow in the steps of the first Templar grand master, Hugues de Payens, who had travelled from the Holy Land in order to meet the pope in the Basilica of St. John in Lateran and receive the Order's seal. Many people are used to seeing these places through the lens of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, whereas this book unveils medieval Rome: it still exists if one knows where to look!
This book is part of a new series hosting distinguished authors who transform Italian travel itineraries into passageways full of meaning. A visit to a museum, a historic city, or a natural park should not be a mere review of masterpieces or monuments, but rather a historically and culturally harmonious journey, or better yet a set of potentially parallel voyages, giving substance to stones, meaning to maps, colour to the past. Readers will feel like main characters participating in Italy's long history.
Barbara Frale, medieval historian, is currently a paleographer at the Vatican Secret Archives, where she has been able to develop her Templar studies by poring over original documents stored in the papal collections.