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Publishers WeeklyThe head of Rome's Artistic Cultural Heritage Department, Campitelli presents a scholarly but entertaining history of the Vatican Gardens, including not just photographs but a wealth of historical maps and illustrations. Organized chronologically, Campitelli's volume follows the growth and evolution of the Vatican garden from the 13th century (and Cardinal Orsini, later Pope Nicholas III, the first pope to live at the Vatican). Though meant to represent heavenly Eden ("and to represent on earth the Virgin Mary and her virtues"), the periods of Vatican Garden construction, land acquisition, landscape architecture, and investment closely parallel church and European politics, fashion, and the fortunes of powerful families like the Farnese, Medici, and Borgia. After the sack of Rome in 1527, Paul III ordered extensive renovations and construction, including the cultivation of new plants obtained in the Age of Exploration. Renaissance popes encouraged the new science of botany, and the period's archaeological discoveries inspired Graeco-Roman motifs with clear pagan influences (later removed during the Counter-Reformation). Napoleon ransacked the gardens while occupying Rome in 1798; the century that followed saw only intermittent reconstruction, which resumed in earnest in the 1920s. Closing chapters contain numerous color photos of the contemporary gardens.
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