Ara Pacis Museum
Ara Pacis Museum
Address: Lungotevere in Augusta-Roma
Web Site: en.arapacis.it
Pubblic Transports: Subway (A/red) / Flaminio stop
Access: ADM ticket needed
The Ara Pacis Augustae (Latin, “Altar of Augustan Peace”; commonly shortened to Ara Pacis) is an altar in Rome dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace. The monument was commissioned by the Roman Senate on July 4, 13 BC to honor the return of Augustus to Rome after three years in Hispania and Gaul, and consecrated on January 30, 9 BC. The altar reflects the Augustan vision of Roman civil religion. It consists of a traditional open-air altar at its center surrounded by precinct walls which are pierced on the eastern and western ends by openings.
The Ara Pacis is perhaps best known for the decoration on the exterior of the precinct walls composed of two tiers of friezes. On the north and south, the upper register depicts the procession of members of the Imperial household and the larger regime, while on the east and west, panels depict allegorical themes of peace and Roman civic ritual. The lower register of the frieze depicts vegetal work meant to communicate the abundance and prosperity of the (Latin: Pax Augusta). The monument as a whole serves a civic ritual function whilst simultaneous operating as propaganda for Augustus and his regime, easing notions of autocracy and dynastic succession that might otherwise be unpalatable to traditional Roman culture.
The Altar was originally located on the northern outskirts of Rome, a Roman mile from the boundary of the pomerium on the west side of the Via Flaminia. It stood in the northeastern corner of the Campus Martius, the former flood plain of the Tiber River which was developed by Augustus into a complex of monuments. In succeeding centuries, the monument gradually became buried under four meters of silt deposits. Although parts of it were recovered and restored—with limited accuracy—as early as the Renaissance, the vast majority of the Ara Pacis was recovered in the twentieth century. It was reassembled in its current location in 1938
The new museum complex for the Ara Pacis was designed by Richard Meier & Partners Architects, an architectural studio in the United States, which has been responsible for several of the most notable museums of the second half of the twentieth century. The building work for the project was awarded to the Italian company Marie Engineering and was overseen, for the Municipal Administration, by the Government Office of Cultural Assets and the Office of the Historic City. The building, which remains substantially unaltered, was designed to be permeable and transparent in the midst of an urban environment, without compromising the safety of the monument. The structure follows a linear course, which develops along the principal north-south axis and is articulated by its covered areas, an environment completely closed in and in a closed area, but visually open to the penetration of light.
The new museum complexis subdivided into three principle sections. The first section, a gallery closed off from natural light, is reached through a staircase which negotiates the disparate levels of the Via di Ripetta and the bank of the Tiber, and links the new construction to the pre-existing neoclassical church. The staircase makes use of two elements which connect it to the past: a fountain, a relic of the Ripetta Gate which remained in the area, and a column, which is placed at the same distance from the Altar as, in the age of Augustus, it stood from the great sundial’s obelisk. The Gallery, which contains the entrance areas, performs the double function of introducing the visitor to the monument and “screening” the Altar from the sundial. After the shade of this section, comes the central Pavilion, where by day the Altar is bathed in light diffused by skylights and by wide panels of filtering crystal. This was achieved by mounting more than 1500 square metres of tempered glass, in plates of up to three by five metres each, so as to prevent the Pavilion from having a cage-like appearance and to guarantee the greatest possibility visibility.
The third section, to the north, contains a Conference Hall, laid out over two floors and provided with an area for restoration work. Above the hall stands a spacious terrace facing onto the Mausoleum of Augustus and open to the public. Profiting from the disparate levels of the Lungotevere and the Via di Ripetta, a vast semi-underground floor has also been dug out, flanked on either side by the Wall of the Res Gestae, the only element of the old pavilion that has been preserved. A library will be built in this space, as well as staff offices and two large and artificially lit rooms, where those fragments of the altar which were not part of the 1938 reconstruction will be displayed, as well as other important reliefs from the so-called Altar of Piety. These spaces will also be used for temporary exhibitions. It will be possible to access them either internally or by two independent entrances at the North and South of the Via di Ripetta.
Tuesday-Sunday: 9.00 am – 7.00 pm
24 and 31 December: 9.00 am – 2.00 pm
Last admission 1 hour before closing time
Closed Monday; 1 January; 1 May; 25 December;