Mirabilia Urbis Romae
is a much-copied medieval Latin text that served generations of pilgrims and tourists as a guide to the city of Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...
. The original, which was written by a canon of St Peter's, dates from the 1140s. The text survives in numerous manuscripts.
"Unhampered by any very accurate knowledge of the historical continuity of the city, the unknown author has described the monuments of Rome, displaying a considerable amount of inventive faculty," the Catholic Encyclopedia
The Catholic Encyclopedia, also referred to as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia and the Original Catholic Encyclopedia, is an English-language encyclopedia published in the United States. The first volume appeared in March 1907 and the last three volumes appeared in 1912, followed by a master index...
reports. The legend-filled Mirabilia
remained the standard guide to the city until the fifteenth century. At the time it was written, the inhabited part of Rome, the abitato
, was a small city located in the bend of the Tiber River surrounded by the ruins of the great ancient city, where within the standing walls and gates of the ancient city were fields where cattle sheep and goats grazed among the temples and baths, giving to the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is a rectangular forum surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum...
its name Campo Vaccinio
(the "cow pasture").
From the pontificate of Boniface VIII
Pope Boniface VIII , born Benedetto Gaetani, was Pope of the Catholic Church from 1294 to 1303. Today, Boniface VIII is probably best remembered for his feuds with Dante, who placed him in the Eighth circle of Hell in his Divina Commedia, among the Simonists.- Biography :Gaetani was born in 1235 in...
(1294–1303) to that of John XXII
Pope John XXII , born Jacques Duèze , was pope from 1316 to 1334. He was the second Pope of the Avignon Papacy , elected by a conclave in Lyon assembled by Philip V of France...
(1316–34) the text was revised and enlarged. Its authority was unquestioned until the 15th century, when two authors set out to supersede it with new descriptions from a fresh Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...
point of view. One was Leon Battista Alberti's Descriptio urbis Romae
, written ca.
1433. Another was Flavio Biondo
Flavio Biondo was an Italian Renaissance humanist historian. He was one of the first historians to used a three-period division of history and is known as one of the first archaeologists.Born in the capital city of Forlì, in the Romagna region, Flavio was well schooled from an early age,...
's Roma instaurata
, written in 1444 and circulated in manuscript; it was printed in 1481.
Modern critical attention was first drawn to the different versions of Mirabilia Urbis Romae
by the 19th-century archaeologist of Christian Rome, Giovanni Battista de Rossi
Giovanni Battista de Rossi was an Italian archaeologist, famous outside his field for his rediscovery of early Christian catacombs.-Life and works:He was born in Rome...
, in Roma Sotterranea
(vol I, 1864, pp 158ff). The edition of Louis Duchesne
Louis Marie Olivier Duchesne was a French priest, philologist, teacher and a critical historian of Christianity and Roman Catholic liturgy and institutions....
in the Liber Censuum de l'Eglise Romaine
(I, Paris, 1905, 262-73), gave the text of the original of Cencius Camerarius with the variants of four other manuscripts.
The contents of the Mirabilia
fall into the following sections, the title headings being taken from the "Liber Censuum":
- De muro urbis (concerning the wall of the city);
- De portis urbis (the gates of the city);
- De miliaribus (the milestone
A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road or boundary at intervals of one mile or occasionally, parts of a mile. They are typically located at the side of the road or in a median. They are alternatively known as mile markers, mileposts or mile posts...
- Nomina portarum (the names of the gates);
- Quot porte sunt Transtiberim (how many gates are beyond the Tiber);
- De arcubus (the arches);
- De montibus (the hills
The Seven Hills of Rome east of the river Tiber form the geographical heart of Rome, within the walls of the ancient city.The seven hills are:* Aventine Hill * Caelian Hill...
- De termis (the baths);
- De palatiis (the palaces);
- De theatris (the theatres);
- De locis qui inveniuntur in sanctorum passionibus (the places mentioned in the "passions
A martyrology is a catalogue or list of martyrs , arranged in the calendar order of their anniversaries or feasts. Local martyrologies record exclusively the custom of a particular Church. Local lists were enriched by names borrowed from neighbouring churches...
" of the saints);
- De pontibus (the bridges);
- De cimiteriis (the cemeteries);
- De iussione Octaviani imperatoris et responsione Sibille (the Emperor Octavian's question and the Sibyl
The word Sibyl comes from the Greek word σίβυλλα sibylla, meaning prophetess. The earliest oracular seeresses known as the sibyls of antiquity, "who admittedly are known only through legend" prophesied at certain holy sites, under the divine influence of a deity, originally— at Delphi and...
- Quare facti sunt caballi marmorei (why the marble horses
The colossal pair of marble "Horse Tamers", often identified as Castor and Pollux, have stood since Antiquity near the site of the Baths of Constantine on the Quirinal Hill, Rome, too large to be buried or to be moved very far, though Napoleon's agents wanted to include them among the classical...
- De nominibus iudicum et eorum instructionibus (the names of the judges and their instructions);
- De columna Antonii et Trajani (the column of Antony and Trajan);
- Quare factus sit equus qui dicitur Constantinus (why the horse
The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius is an ancient Roman statue in the Campidoglio, Rome, Italy. It is made of bronze and stands 3.5 m tall. Although the emperor is mounted, it exhibits many similarities to standing statues of Augustus...
was made, which is called of Constantine);
- Quare factum sit Pantheon et postmodum oratio B. (why the Pantheon (Rome) was built and later oration B.);
- Quare Octavianus vocatus sit Augustus et quare dicatur ecclesia Sancti Petri ad vincula (Why Octavianus was called Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...
, and why the church of St. Peter ad Vincula
San Pietro in Vincoli is a Roman Catholic titular church and minor basilica in Rome, Italy, best known for being the home of Michelangelo's statue of Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II.-History:...
was so called);
- De vatican
Vatican Hill is the name given, long before the founding of Christianity, to one of the hills on the side of the Tiber opposite the traditional seven hills of Rome...
o et Agulio
Saint Peter's Square is located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the papal enclave within Rome .-History of St...
(of the Vatican and the Needle);
- Quot sunt templa trans Tiberim (how many temples are beyond the Tiber);
- Predicatio sanctorum (the preaching of the saints).