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EAUH Conference 2018


Session ZSS26 - The Long Afterlife of the Wonders of Ancient World: the Paradigm of Marvel Architecture in European Towns, XVI-XVIII Centuries

Coordinators: Marco Folin (, Monica Preti (

Read Session abstractIn 1572, the Antwerp printer Philips Galle published a series of engravings drawn by Maarten van Heemskerck, representing the Wonders of the Ancient word (Octo mundi miracula). It was the first attempt to depict organically all the seven canonical monuments, to which Heemskerck added an eighth (the Colosseum), as an emblem of the great achievements of Roman architecture.
The plates printed by Philips Galle met with an extraordinary success. Within a few years after their release, the image of the Wonders spread in a wide variety of contexts: we can trace its echoes in engravings and paintings, tapestries and ‘memory theatres’, world maps and atlases, architectural treatises and encyclopedic compilations. The session aims to focus on this broad dissemination, in order to explore its cultural reasons, as well as its artistic, architectural and urban consequences.
Indeed, in the early modern age it’s not rare to come across building projects of different scale and character which refer to the Wonders, and which seek legitimacy in through the aura of legend they evoke. Seen as monuments of a mythic past as well as fictive inventions, as examples of timeless perfection as well as emblems of Vanity, as allegories of mankind’s creativity as well as symbols of the transience of any human construction, the Wonders continued for centuries to evoke the architecture of power par excellence – or rather the power of architecture to give tangible substance to the ambitions of sovereigns. From that point of view the Wonders − in their dual dimension of relics of the ancient world and benchmarks of the modern imagination – can be considered as one of the most protean and long-lasting political metaphors of Western civilization, and as a ghost which continued to linger for a long time in European towns.

Topics could include, but are not limited to:
Projects of urban renewal inspired by the image/rethoric of Wonders
The Wonders and architectural theory (the reception of Pliny’s and Vitruvius’ descriptions; the Wonders in architectural treaties and historiography…)
The Wonders as source of inspiration for ‘new’ architectures (funerary monuments, ephemeral structures, architectural fantasies…)
The Wonders’ imagery in the visual arts
The Wonders and geographical imagination (atlases, maps, travel journals…)
The Wonders and antiquarian scholarship
The Wonders as means of political ‘propaganda’
Classical VS Christian Wonders (architectural metaphors in religious texts; biblical Wonders…)
New Wonders VS Ancient Wonders (modern lists of Wonders; eighth Wonders…)
Keywords: architecture; urban renewal; urban iconography; visual arts; architectural metaphors