Roma communis patria
Foreign Communities in Rome between the Middle Ages and the Modern Era
Residence of the Papacy, destination of pilgrims, and metropolis of art, the city of Rome was a perpetual hub for foreigners from all over the globe. From the Middle Ages on, groups of compatriots in the Eternal City gathered in confraternities and founded hospices, oratories and churches. These groups mirror the linguistic, ethnic, and cultural characteristics of their places of origin, and appear as "national" representative bodies long before the idea of a nation state had established itself on a continental scale.
This is why early modern Rome provides a suitable setting for paradigmatic studies of the pre-modern concept of nationhood and the collective identities associated with it. In addition to territorial and linguistic criteria, shared memories, traditions, rituals and identification figures fostered a feeling of belonging among foreigners.
To what extent art also played a role in this process is a central question of the research project Roma communis patria by considering not only painting, sculpture, and architecture, but also the broader spectrum of artistic production, including prints, objects of daily use, and the vast world of ephemera for religious festivals and processions. The objective is to detect the unifying elements of the individual nations and show how these elements – for instance, language, religion, values, and customs – found expression in the visual culture, or, in other words, how a sense of belonging to a specific cultural community could arise through the use of recognizable semantic formulae. The study also seeks to verify to what degree art commissioned by foreigners resident in Rome was on the one hand the product of «self» presentation as distinct from the «other», or on the other, of the penetration and cross-fertilization between imported artistic phenomena and local working procedures consolidated over the course of centuries.