Abstract

Symmetry: Culture and Science
Volume 29, Number 3, pages 365-388 (2018)
https://doi.org/10.26830/symmetry_2018_3_365

SYMMETRY TAKES COMMAND: THE CASE OF THE ROMAN CAPITOL

Indra Kagis McEwen*

* Address: Department of Art History, Concordia University, 1515 Ste. Catherine Street W., Montreal, Quebec, H3G1M8, Canada.
E-mail: indra.mcewen@sympatico.ca

Abstract: The earliest known theory of symmetry in western architecture was articulated by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius with, the author claims, intentions that reflected the imperial Roman project of world dominion. “Re-discovery” of Vitruvius in the Italian Renaissance was accompanied by renewed appreciation of symmetry as a touchstone of architectural excellence. The paper seeks to demonstrate how, as in Vitruvius’ day, imperial intentions were written into the symmetrical principles that guided the design of the Campidoglio (Capitol) at Rome between 1450 and 1650 as a site of papal ambition.

Keywords: Alberti, Aracoeli, Campidoglio, Capitol, commune, Constantine, Lateran, Marcus Aurelius, Michelangelo, Nicolas V, papacy, Paul III, popolo, Rome, symmetry, Vitruvius, Vittoriano.