Piranesi’s panoramic views of the Forum and its ruinous remains feature six roofed and working buildings which all turn out to be churches: S. Adriano, built into the Senate House, S. Lorenzo in Miranda, built into the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, SS. Cosmas and Damian, S. Francesca Romana, SS. Luca e Martina, and the now demolished S. Maria Liberatrice. The Forum had become a Christian sacred space. Indeed, it has been a place of worship for about two thousand eight hundred years, and for over half that time the worship has been Christian. The churches were all entered from, and looked on to, the Forum. But the growth of archaeology and the transformation of the space into a designated archaeological site means that those of them that survive now tend to be entered from outside the Forum, in other words from their rear. They have in effect been written out of the Forum’s history.
David Watkin is an Emeritus Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and Professor Emeritus of History of Architecture in the Department of History of Art at the University of Cambridge. He is author of over thirty books including A History of Western Architecture and Morality and Architecture.