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Grant number like: FA-50498-04

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Richard Wittman
University of Delaware (Newark, DE 19716-0099)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2005 – 6/30/2006

Monument, Memory, and Public Debate: The Reconstruction of S. Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome

My new book project focuses on the Holy See's lengthy rebuilding of the church of S. Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome between 1825 and 1930, and in particular on official representations of the project and their public reception at the Roman, Italian, and international levels. The rebuilding followed the destruction by fire of the original fifth-century basilica of S. Paolo in 1823, and developed into the longest-running, most important, and costliest work of Church-sponsored architecture in Rome during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The project was immediately loaded with a variety of different meanings by groups all along the political and religious spectrum; meanings that inevitably mutated constantly during a period that saw the revolutions of 1848-9, the unification of Italy, the end of the Pope's temporal rule, the tense period of the "Roman questions," the crisis of the liberal state and the rise of Fascism, and the great Reconciliation of Church and State in the Lateran Pacts of 1929. By examining public discourse on the church as represented in newspaper articles, essays, polemics, memoirs, engraved prints, popular culture, official proclamations, speeches, and ceremonies, I aim to uncover how presentations of and commentaries on S. Paolo reflected this continually fluctuating political situation. In so doing, my project will make a contribution to our understanding of a central theme in modern Italian history, namely, the long battle to define the historical meaning of Rome and thus to control its contemporary significance. At the level of the humanities in general, the book will broaden our awareness of how historical imagery and memorial land- and cityscapes have been used to project messages of authority, and crucially, how those projected messages have been received, contested, or even misunderstood by the publics they target.