[by Fred Lynch, near Boston, Massachusetts]
Jupiter himself greets you as you pass into Roman town of Falerii Novi. He looks down at you from the Gate of Giove (Jupiter) - one of the last of eight gates that once surrounded the town, along with eighty towers. This was a busy place, long, long ago. But now, inside the crumbling walls, everything Roman from the ground up is gone. Falerii Novi is mostly farmland today. I explored a bit of the area, following markers along an overgrown path, through lunging, spikey weeds, to a grid of large stone blocks. But I had a hard time picturing the Roman theatre that once stood there.
Despite the town being called Falerii Novi (New), there was nothing new here. It was built to replace another town which was destroyed and deserted in 240 BCA, in a war between the locals and the Romans to the south. By the 7th Century, Falerii Novi was also abandoned too, in favor of the better-fortified Civita Castellena which sits high upon a hill.
With the exception of a chicken coop, built by farmers who now use the property, the newest buildings that I could see were the church and abbey of Santa Maria of Falerii, a monastery constructed by Cistercian monks from Savoy, in the 11th Century. A few centuries later, they left too.
What’s left behind is a peaceful pastoral place. Torn between drawing the ancient gate (which may be the oldest example of an arch in this area of Italy), and the beautiful Medieval abbey, I made the only fair decision that I could image - to draw both. I stayed drawing for hours as the slowly setting sun caused a bigger and bigger shadow to grow on the abbey’s facade.
The farmer and I left at dusk. The chickens stayed behind.