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Vitruvius Basilica in Fano, Italy, journey through the virtual space of the reconstructed memory
Fausto Pugnaloni (University professor),
Paolo Clini (Researcher)
Idau, Faculty of Engineering
University of Ancona, Italy
Tel:+39 71 2204501
Fax:+39 71 2204882
"Non minus summam dignitatem et venustatem possunt habere comparationes Basilicarum quo genere coloniae Juliae Fanestri collocavi curavique faciendam cuius proportiones et symmetriae sic sunt constitutae...". Vitruvio starts Chapter I of Book V of "De Architectura" in this way (it is the only handbook of antique architecture that has been handed down to us and it is considered a reference for Italian and European Renaissance architecture). It is a very detailed description of that legendary building known worldwide as the "Basilica di Fano". According to the historical information we have, it is the only building that was planned and built by the great Roman architect, around 19 BC in the "Colony Juliae Fanestris", today called Fano. Fano is in the province of Pesaro and is on the Adriatic coast of Italy. This town was founded just where the consular Flamina road meets the sea and was privileged with great splendor during the imperial era. The building has an extraordinary historical and architectural importance. The description given by Vitruvio showed that its characteristics were different from those typical of a Roman Basilica. Unfortunately nothing is left of this building. It was destroyed during barbaric invasions and a reminder of it can only be found in Vitruvio's written text, in some of the splendid archeological remains found in Fano and in the many reconstructions made by the writers of treatises (Editio Princeps of De Architectura), who have illustrated and commented the De Architectura since 1486. An extremely detailed three-dimensional model of the Basilica, using Autocad and 3DS, has been created based on this text. The model and the images taken from it have been used to create dynamic environments in QT and VRML and to create a multimedia CD-Rom that illustrates all the paths of research. In its final version, however, it could be a great step towards the retrieval of the memory of a building that no longer exists, but can be rediscovered by means of the drawings, which enable us to explore the recesses of history and to recreate the past.
More than the history described in its material form, there is a history of a hidden, destroyed, unknown and unrecognizable architecture, which often lives on in a literary, fantastic and sometimes legendary form. It is a type of ante literam virtual architecture, which we do not pay much attention to, because we are too busy documenting the architectural heritage that we have and because to try to save what can be saved to avoid losing it. Many of the protagonists of this parallel architecture, however, have a great importance in its history and therefore merit more attention.
In order to document and know this heritage better, different approaches are required, which should be more articulated and involve more subjects. Ways of interpreting, which consider the historiographic aspect or the reconstructive one, the archeological aspect or often the philological-textual one.
The case study illustrated, regards one of these buildings, which is actually anonymous but at the same time so extraordinary that it has become a symbol of all the various architectures previously mentioned. It represents the heritage to be safeguarded and preserved just like the heritage we see every day.
We are talking about the Vitruve's Basilica. As we have already mentioned he was a great roman writer of treatises, author of the "De Architectura". This architectural handbook, written in the time of Augustus is the only publication to allow us to have a greater knowledge of classical architecture. It has deeply influenced and characterized western architecture from the VI Century to the present time.
The Vitruve's Basilica
"… There are also other types of basilicas, which are no less dignified or beautiful than the one in the Colony Juliae of Fano, which I planned and built" (Vitruvio, Florian 1978). This is how Chapter I of Book V opens one of the most celebrated and controversial pieces on architecture, written by the famous Vitruvio. A synthetic but detailed description, which Vitruvio makes regarding the "factory" known worldwide as "Basilica di Fano". According to the historical information we have, it is the only building that was planned and built by the great Roman writer of treatises, around 19 BC in the "Colony Juliae Fanestris", today called Fano. Fano is in the province of Pesaro and is on the Adriatic coast of Italy. This town was founded just where the consular Flamina road meets the sea and was privileged with great splendor during the imperial era.
The points of view and the doubts that the historians had in the past were that this text was fruit of successive interpolation carried out after Vitruvio's death, but now fortunately these opinions have definitively been overcome. Therefore now, our attention can focus on the history, the events and on the forms of this extraordinary but curiously often forgotten building. It was destroyed by the barbaric violence of the Goths, who invaded Fano in 540. The modern Fano was reconstructed exactly on the roman ruins, where, during the centuries that followed, grand structures of the imperial era were found. Somebody related these findings to the Basilica of Fano. It is now interesting to know how much of that building has been given back to us. It could be better to know it initially from Vitruvio, who probably drew it in the description made in the Treatise. Unfortunately these drawings together with other "diagrams" which appeared in the text were lost. This was a pity but it was this event that indirectly gave life to a very rich and precious graphic repertory, in which many famous writers of treaties, architects and historians (among others Francesco di Giorgio, Andrea Palladio, Fra' Giocondo, Giovan Battista da Sangallo, Giovanni Poleni, Raffaello …) worked on the interpretation of the text and Vitruvio's rules. This is actually our main subject in trying to graphically reconstruct the Basilica of Fano. Everything starts in 1486, when in Rom, for the Heralt, the first De Architectura edited by Giovanni Sulpicio da Veroli was published. These drawings and etchings are precious historiographic and documentary material. They are also an instrument that can lead to a "modern" attempt to reconstruct the building with the aid of computer technology, through the interpretation and analysis of the building made by each drawing and through the discovery of formal, architectonic, static-constructive "knots" of the Basilica.