Giuliano da Sangallo’s “book of designs”, and the Septizonium

I was looking through the Vatican manuscript Barberini lat. 4424, the “book of designs” by Giulano da Sangallo (d.1516), and I found what seems like an old favourite – a drawing of the Septizonium, the now vanished facade that once stood at the end of the Via Appia to hide the Palatine.  The drawing is on folio 30r of the manuscript (looking at the numbering top right) but inscrutably this is given as f.32r by the online viewer.

I’ve downloaded it, and here it is.  (How one curses the obtrusive watermark, on so faint an item!)

But then I found something even better.

The destruction of the Septizonium (or Septizodium) took place in 1588-9.  The building was unsafe, and Pope Sixtus V wanted the materials for building.  A contemporary account of all this exists in the Vatican.

What I found was an article discussing all this, and giving even more contemporary drawings than I had known.  There is, for instance, a set of plans for all three levels of the remaining fragment, with measurements!

The article is Christine Pappelau, “The Dismantling of the Septizonium – a Rational, Utilitarian and Economic Process?”, in:  S. Altekamp &c (eds), Perspektiven der Spolienforschung 2. Zentren und Konjunkturen der Spoliierung, 2017, 357-379.  It can be downloaded from here.

It is a wonderful article, and shows the difference between the professional scholar and the intermittent searches of amateurs like myself!

But I shall still collect pictures of the Septizonium anyway!


Leave a Reply