A fascinating reading, "Rome: Profile of a City, 312-1308" reconstructs the way in which events and passions reshaped the city of Rome after the end of the Roman Empire, from the insertion of Byzantine buildings and churches in the urban tissue to the progressive release of land from monasteries to build the medieval Rome, from the refusal of St. John in Lateran as symbol of Christianity to the increasing favour of pilgrims and local people for the holy sites of St. Peter's and St. Paul's. Roman ruins became the main walls of early Middle Ages buildings. Ancient temples turned into marketplaces. Towers flourished everywhere - for aggression and defence - even one (now destroyed) to spy into the Palace of Popes at St. John in Lateran. Monasteries enlarged immoderately in territory and power, then scaled down giving up land for building the core of the historical centre of present-day Rome - from Circo Massimo to Piazza del Popolo. Krautheimer's narration helps readers regain the historical reason behind streets, churches and buildings of pre-Renaissance Rome.
Most histories of Rome rush over the long period between the decline of the empire in the west, at the end of the 5th century, and the advent of the Renaissance, almost a thousand years later. However, this is almost exactly the time-frame on which Krautheimer chooses to focus his scholarly eye, a period marked by the transformation of the city from capital of the pagan to the Christian world. The book starts in 312 when Rome, with a population of about 800,000, was still the capital of the empire. By the time the book reaches 1308, the empire has been dead for centuries, the papacy is on the verge of moving to Avignon and the population has shrunk to roughly 40,000. (It will shrink still further to 15/20,000 before the Popes return to Rome, in 1377). The period saw power shift slowly but dramatically from the emperor to the pope, while the urban landscape underwent a seismic change, as churches spread like wildfire both inside and outside the city walls. At the same time the monumental buildings of ancient Rome were plundered, destroyed or simply left to fall apart. Krautheimer tells this long and complex story in great detail with the assistance of maps, drawings and old photographs. 'Rome: Profile of a City, 312-1308' is a demanding, but rewarding read and I am confident that it will long remain the authority on Rome's forgotten centuries.
A great narrative description of the architectural development of medieval Rome. Very readable and a great help to me in pointing out some lesser known aspects of the city. Has encouraged me to wander off the beaten track when in Rome to investigate features that few tourist see.