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The Golden Age

Rome has played an important role in the development of Western civilization. It had grown into one of the world's greatest powers until the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century. This paper will examine the middle ages that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, from 500 to 1500. Sometimes referred to as the Golden Age in Rome, this period witnessed the transformation of Europe to Christianity and Rome was at the center of that transformation. This discussion will demonstrate that the fall of Rome's political power led to its rise as a spiritual center from 500 to 1500, and this spirituality was depicted in spiritual nature of Rome's art and architecture during this period.   

The Golden Age

The decline and fall of the Roman Empire caused the city of Rome to lose its political power and much of its wealth, and the city began to decay. Although Rome was no longer a political or military power in Europe, it became the religious center of Europe . Devotees from all over Europe traveled to Rome as pilgrims visiting the city's holy shrines. For some, Rome had become a symbol of the spiritual world, for others, it Rome became a place where they could retire and pursue a life of devotion.

In the years proceeding the fall of the Empire, Rome had lost much of its grandeur with grass and ruins taking over areas within the old city walls. Even as the population declined, yet Rome remained an impressive city with spectacular architecture such as the Coliseum, and basilicas that were far greater than any other in England. In addition, there were many churches and holy places, as well as a great deal of religious relics, most of which were for sale. The catacombs which were early Christian burial grounds outside the walls of the city became important devotional sites in the early centuries after the fall of Rome, but after the eighth century devotion was confined to churches within the city.

Although almost all of the art created during this period in Rome was religious in nature, an account from the mid-twelfth century describing the statue of Venus demonstrates that art remained an appreciated and important part of the city. The account praised the sculpture, "This statue, of Parian marble, is finished with such marvelous and inexplicable skill that it seems more a living creature than a statue".

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