Priscilla Pallante: Augmented Rome is an NFT project exploring the Eternal City through nine of its historical sites and many of its contemporary sounds. A partnership between Accursed Share and Mat3ria, Rome, Pallante’s NFT collection will give collectors access to the artist’s unique engagement with her hometown landscape. Offerings include a set of 9 cymatic ‘slices’,27 3d acoustic maps, and 9 architectural souvenirs that, taken together, scale the city’s structures based on their audial feedback.
This entry continues our series of posts inviting the Accursed Share and larger NFT community to learn more about the sites and histories that Pallante pictures in Augmented Rome. Here, we will discuss San Pietro, Piazza del Popolo, and Ponte Sisto, as Pallante weaves together her interpretations of these locales in an accompanying video.
San Pietro, or Saint Peter’s Basilica, is Pallante’s final stop on her journey across the Eternal City; here, commencing this introductory trailer as an excellent case study in Rome’s spiritual associations. The Basilica is located in the rarefied quarters of the Vatican, the city’s autonomous papal enclave. Commissioned in the 16th century by Popes Nicholas V and Julius II, the Basilica reimagines a prior structure built by the Roman emperor Constantine. In Catholic tradition, it is neither the mother church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome (this would be the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in the city proper), yet it is considered among the holiest, together with its adjoining public square, playing host to thousands of pilgrims and locals every year who seek to participate in its sacred liturgies.
The early modern Basilica took approximately 120 years to build, its elaborate decorative regime supervised by such masters of Renaissance and Baroque design as Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. As Pallante’s 3d maps emulate, the church interior is one of epic, soaring proportions, its sublime effects only heightened by dense ornamentation with marble, relief work, gilding, and other architectural flourishes. As its name would suggest, the Basilica is the alleged burial site of Jesus’ apostle, Saint Peter, first bishop of Rome, said to be entombed below its high altar, the Altar of the Confession. The baldachin that hovers over the altar is a Bernini production, as is the sculpture at its apse that decadently encloses the Chair of Saint Peter relic. Other popes and luminaries are buried here, too, as the nave fans out into niches and chapels, where Western masterpieces like Michelangelo’s Pietà are duly situated. San Pietro’s artistic opulence is entangled with its religious functions, chiming with Pallante’s task of urban symbology.
Piazza del Popolo
Bright and splendorous, the Piazza Del Popolo, Pallante’s second stop, is a wide urban square resting at the gate of the Aurelian Walls, the point of origin for the Roman empire’s Via Flaminia, an important route north. Piazza del Popolo is a destination for sojourners: in pre-industrial times, it supplied travellers with a first glimpse of the city. Nowadays, the Piazza is lit up on a daily basis with the conversations that waft between the tourists and passersby who flood its open space. Pallante captures a place that is both the square of people, as its name suggests and, as its Latin name suggests, of Rome’s iconic poplars (after Santa Maria del Popolo, one of three adjacent churches). These arboreal motifs are echoed in the piazza’s layout and by the monuments that lie at its centre.
The modern piazza follows the neoclassical style of 19th century architect Giuseppe Paladier, comprising two semicircles conjured in Pallante’s cymatics and that form a boulevard leading, on an upwards slope, to the shady verdure of Pincio Hill. In the square stands an Egyptian obelisk carved in the reigns of Sety I and Rameses II; treelike, it is among the tallest and oldest of such works in Rome, first brought to the city on Augustus’ orders and eventually moved to the square from the Circus Maximus. Egyptian-style lions, also late additions, round the base of this obelisk to enclose playful fountains. The piazza itself is a delta, or ‘trident’, from which branches out Via del Corso, Via di Ripetta, and Via del Babuino, down which Pallante will eventually take us.
The Ponte Sisto is a sort of connective tissue at Rome’s historic centre, a bridge between two of its main banks, and districts, along the Tiber River. The Ponte ties together the Campo de Fiori marketplace south of Piazza Navona, along Via dei Pettinari, with the city’s hipper “downtown” hamlet of Trastevere. The bridge was constructed by Pope Sixtus IV in the late quattrocento, but its foundations are far older. The Ponte’s architect, Baccio Pontelli, reused the remains of the Roman Pons Aurelius, and possibly even blocks from the Colosseo, to give the structure an ancient stability. It also features an oculus (“eye”) at its core spandrel to help manage pressure from the river’s heft in the event of flooding.
On the left side of the bridge are facsimiles of two marble slabs, the rectangular shapes of which are echoed in Pallante’s souvenir model, with Latin inscriptions that honour Sixtus IV’s contributions, while on its right, at the intersection of Pettinari and via Giulia, a fountain once stood carrying water from the Acqua Paola, an original aqueduct carrying water from Lake Bracciano that was revived and remodelled along with other infrastructural renovations. Seen from an aerial vantage, Trastevere’s lavish Villa Farnesina is mirrored by the Palazzos Farnese and Falconieri, with the Ponte as a link between them. Pallante calls on us to envision both sides of the bridge bustling with conversation, particularly Trastevere as more youth-oriented and supposedly less known to tourists. As the artist captures in the tall spires of her map works and the concentric ripples of her cymatic images, a rush of water and voices makes the Ponte a place for reflection on the way to other compelling destinations.