Saturday, 9 May 2009

Breakfast time on the Piazza Navona

Is there any townscape as beautiful as the Piazza Navona? At eight in the morning, before the tourists arrive en masse, you can see that the shape corresponds exactly to the stadium of Domitian which stood here two thousand years ago - the three fountains along its length are built on the same site as markets for chariot races. At the far end lies the church of St.Agnes. She was a virtuous Christian girl martyred for her faith - the story goes that she was flung naked into a brothel and was about to be despoiled by legionnaries when miraculously she was decorously covered from head to toe by a coat of celestial hair. If you ask you can still see the Roman house that lies under the church . This still has its wall paintings from the time when the miracle is said to have taken place. The artists tasked with representing the miracle for later generations clearly found the subject of female nudity to be too salacious and the poor girl is represented looking rather like a cross between a grissly bear and the Michelin man.

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