Document Type

Book Chapter


Final Published Version

Publication Title

La Cattedrale Cosmatesca Di Civita Castellana

Publication Date



The “Romanness” (romanitas) of the cathedral portico in Civita Castellana is obvious, but within Rome the criteria of “Romanness” are not so clear. This article takes the architecture of twelfth-century churches as a case in point. Scholars generally agree that romanitas is retrospective and evocative of local tradition, but many of the signature features of these churches – bell towers, marble cloisters, Ionic trabeated porches, marble altar ciboria, paschal candlestands, the “schola cantorum” – were eleventh- or twelfth-century innovations, some- times imported from elsewhere. It is proposed that these features were “invented traditions” as defined by Eric Hobsbawm, which create a “factitious” rather than factual continuity with the past maskings underlying change. In fact, the genuine Roman tradition of church building lapsed in the tenth and early eleventh centuries, when papal patronage of monumental buildings was replaced by the proliferation of small, private or community churches sponsored by laypeople and monasteries. When papal and curial patronage resurfaced in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries, its invented traditions included non-Roman features, like the combination of columns and piers (Stützenwechsel), which were made palatable by their translation into a familiar idiom of building. It is suggested that linguistic metaphors might be employed to categorize the heterogeneous buildings that resulted, including “bilingualism”, “vernacular” (romanesco) and “classical” or “Latin” (romanico)