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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Baths of Diocletian, Rome


On my last day in Rome I visited the Basilica. It was originally part of the Roman Baths of Diocletian and I wanted to see the interior. During my stay in Rome I became enamored with the unbelievable scale of the ancient roman structures. They are so grand that they seem as if they were built for giants. In architecture we talk of building to the human scale in order for buildings to feel accessible to the people using them. Or to have materials scaled to the human hand or body so that people may somehow find a sense of relationship with their surroundings. But it is absolutely magical to enter a building that insists on showing me how small I am, while reminding me how large the cosmos is. It is rather like being Alice in Wonderland. In spaces such as these (including La Sagrada Familia) I found myself enveloped in the spiritual.
The Basilica and the Piazza della Repubblica are just a part of what was once the Baths of Diocletian, which sprawled over 10 acres and bathed 3,000 Romans at once! This huge complex was built in only 10 years (about AD 300). Piazza della Repubblica is where the caldarium was located and the curved buildings around it retain the shape of that missing mass. The current basilica was the tepidarium, and is the size of a football field, and the ceiling's arches were an architectural feat unmatched for a thousand years.



Inside the Basilica was a display on Galileo Galilei. At the end of the post are some of the quotes I liked.



The interior of the Basilica



Piazza della Repubblica which retains the shape of the former caldarium.

I love Rome's fountains!

"....God could have made birds fly, with bones of heavy gold, with veins full of living silver, with flesh heavier than lead and with small, heavy wings,

and in so doing He would have demonstrated His power even further;

He could have made fish heavier than lead, (which) is 12 or more times heavier than water,

But He made the first of bones, flesh and the lightest of feathers, and the second as light as water, to teach us

that He enjoys simplicity and easiness..." - Galileo Galilei

"The great Galileo Galilei said that God wrote the book of nature in the form of mathematical language. He was convinced that God gave us the gift of two books: that of the Sacred Scriptures and that of Nature. And the language of nature - thus was his conviction - is mathematics, therefore it is a language of God, of the Creator."

"Now let's see what math is: per se, it is an abstract system, an invention of the human spirit and does not exist as such in its pure form. It is always realized approximately but - as such - it is an intellectual system, is is a great, ingenious invention of the human spirit. What is surprising is that this invention of our human mind really is the key to understanding nature, that nature is really structured in a mathematical way and that our math, invented by our spirit, is really the instrument to be able to work with nature, to put it to our service, to exploit it by means of technical knowledge."

"It seems to me almost incredible that an invention of the human intellect and the structure of the universe should coincide: that the mathematics invented by us really gives us access to the nature of the universe and makes it usable for us. Thus the intellectual structure of the human subject and the objective structure of reality coincide: subjective reason and reason objectified in nature are identical. I think this coincidence between something we have thought and how nature works and behaves, is a great enigma and challenge, because we see that, in the end, there is 'one' reason that connects them both: our reason would not be able to discover this other one if both did not originate from a single identical reason." -- Benedict XVI, St. Peter's Square, April 6, 2006

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