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CALL. 01.02.2019: Rebuilding / Restoring Rome. The Renewal of Buildings and Spaces as Urban Policy,


Everywhere in Rome, monuments are covered with ancient or modern inscriptions that not only contain the name of the original builder but also commemorate their restoration. Popes from the Quattrocento and Cinquecento who acted as urban planners, such as Sixtus IV, presented themselves as ‘restorers’, even when they were actually modernising the City. This phenomenon is not restricted to the Renaissance period: many Roman emperors already claimed to be rebuilders, such as Augustus who repaired all the damaged temples of Rome according to the Res Gestae, or Septimius Severus who was called Restitutor Vrbis on his coinage. Rome thus seems to be a city that constantly needs to be restored, rebuilt, born again. In the vein of the studies on urban heritage and memory and on cities’ resilience after disasters, more and more historians are interested in the question of restoration. This conference aims to investigate how the notions of restoration and rebuilding were a driving force of Rome’s urban transformation throughout its history, from Antiquity to the 21st century, as well as a political program put forward by the authorities and an ideal more or less shared by the different key actors of the city.



LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: École française de Rome, Sapienza Università di Roma (Rome, Italy)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Bruno Bonomo (Sapienza Università di Roma) ; Charles Davoine (École française de Rome) ; Cécile Troadec (École française de Rome) ; Scientific Committee Martin Baumeister (Deutsches Historisches Institut in Rom) ; Bruno Bonomo (Sapienza Università di Roma) ; Sandro Carocci (Università di Roma Tor Vergata) ; Amanda Claridge (Royal Holloway, University of London) ; Charles Davoine (École française de Rome) ; Chiara Lucrezio Monticelli (Università di Roma Tor Vergata) ; Jean-Claude Maire Vigueur (Università Roma Tre) ; Cécile Troadec (École française de Rome) ; Vittorio Vidotto (Sapienza Università di Roma) ; Maria Antonietta Visceglia (Sapienza Università di Roma)



Three aspects of this topic will be discussed. First, the conference will analyse the rebuilding and restoration programs of Rome and its main monuments. We shall consider the scope of these programs, compare the main objectives of the projects and their actual realisation, and examine the concrete aspects of their implementation (funding, construction operations, use and creation of specific tools, etc.) The more paradoxical aspects, such as destroying in order to restore or presenting modernisation as a return to the past, will be welcome. We shall also enquire whether the ideal of renovation was an obstacle to a broad urban restructuration. We invite speakers to look at paradigmatic cases, and to keep a view on the city or district scale rather than narrowly focusing on a single building.

The second aspect concerns the political implications of Rome’s rebuilding. To what extent and in which ways did restoration projects fall within more general political programs, as for example the restoration of the State and its political traditions under the Roman emperors, the reinforcement of papal authority during the medieval and modern periods, or the recreation of classic Rome (republican or imperial) from the ‘French period’ to the fascist regime? What are the connections between the practical and the symbolic dimensions of restoration? Is the purpose always to tend toward the same ideal, to get back to the same period? All these questions are closely related to how

the very idea of ‘Rome’ has evolved, from Antiquity to the present. Nevertheless, speakers should avoid a purely metaphorical understanding of the notions of ‘restoration’, ‘rebirth’ and ‘return to the past’: all the papers should connect ideologies and policies with actual interventions or at least projects of material renewal.

Finally, we would like to examine the relationships between rebuilding projects and urban actors (central, municipal or spiritual powers, public experts, inhabitants, etc.) taking into account claims, resistances and conflicts. The wish to return to a previous or idealised form of the city was sometimes a demand expressed by the inhabitants of Rome in response to urban transformations initiated by the popes or the public authorities or caused by economic imperatives. Some humanists, such as Flavio Biondo, even wanted to protect Rome from the ‘violence’ of its own population, and from the popes themselves! At the end of the Middle Ages, the idea that the Romans had been stripped of their own past became a topos. In the second half of the 20th century, associations devoted to heritage preservation like Italia Nostra and intellectuals like Antonio Cederna petitioned for the dismantlement of the fascist urban design of Rome’s area centrale, in order to enhance its historical heritage. More broadly, we shall examine who were the initiators of these restorations, and whom these projects were to benefit.

Speakers are also invited to pay attention to vocabulary and concepts. We will interrogate and historicise the terms of ‘rebuilding’, ‘restoration’, ‘renewal’, ‘restitution’, etc. Are these terms interchangeable or do they have very specific meanings, both in the sources and in the categories used by historians? This conference will provide an opportunity to reflect simultaneously on the production of urban space and on the discourses about the city.


This conference is part of the activities of the LIA Mediterrapolis – Espaces urbains, mobilités, citadinités. Europe méridionale-Méditerranée. XVe-XXIe siècle, and is co-financed by the Centre Roland Mousnier.

The conference will be held at the Ecole française de Rome and Sapienza Università di Roma, on 30-31 October 2019. Papers are accepted in English, French and Italian.

Paper proposals (500 words) should be sent by 1 February 2019, together with a brief bio-bibliography (150-200 words), at the following email address:

The École française de Rome will provide accommodation to the selected speakers and contribute to their travel expenses.

A selection of papers from the conference might be considered for publication in a journal or edited book.

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