Imitatio Romae: similarities between Washington DC and the Eternal City

Every year, I live at least a month and a half in Alexandria, Virginia, a few miles from Washington DC (District of Columbia), a guest of dear friends.

Even here in the US, the federal capital Rome is with me, it never leaves me. Yes, because DC (as the Americans call it) was designed and built at the end of the 18th century, precisely in 1791, like New Rome, New Rome.

This imitation of Rome is not only in the monumental and most important buildings but also in the decorations of public buildings, built in neoclassical style in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The National Mall

irst of all Capitol Hill, the political district housing the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

Already in the name, Campidoglio, there are references to Rome. Then the Dome, which was inspired by Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s in the Vatican.

cupola-di-san-pietro cupola-campidoglio-usa

It is interesting to note that the fresco of the dome, the “Apotheosis of George Washington”, was created by the Roman painter Constantine Brumidi, who worked in Rome for the Torlonia and for Pope Gregory XVI in the Vatican.

He then emigrated to the USA, gradually becoming the official artist of the government, eventually he was to be know as the American Michelangelo.


The Washington Monument

We continue with the largest obelisk in the world, the Washington Monument, in the middle of the Mall.

obelisco-vaticano-1 washington-monument-1-723x1024

This obelisk is 162 meters tall and is the largest copy of the Vatican obelisk, which is in the center of St. Peter’s Square.


National Gallery and Jefferson Memorial

Another Roman monument that the Americans are passionate about is the Pantheon.

pantheon jefferson-memorial

The Central Hall of the National Gallery copies it somewhat, as does the Jefferson Memorial and the same two buildings designed by the president himself as the main character in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence: the Great Hall of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and his Villa in Monticello.


Supreme Court, Union Station and Library of Congress

The seat of the Supreme Court of that time was built in 1935. It resembles the Temple of Hadrian in Piazza di Pietra in Rome.

Supreme_court_east_facade tempio-di-adriano-roma-1

The Union Station, the central railway station, was built to resemble the Baths of Diocletian.

The enclosure of the Library of the Congress is often interrupted by large benches in gray marble shaped like seated tombs with Roman imperial eagles at their head.


Madison Memorial Building and Watergate

But also the architecture of the Twenties is remembered.

In the Madison Memorial Building the facade is similar to the Palazzo delle Fontane all’EUR, a work from the 1940’s by the architect Gaetano Minnucci.

And finally Watergate, probably one of the most beautiful residential complexes in the world, designed by the architect Luigi Moretti for the General Real Estate Company which in the 1960’s a considerable amount of interest was owned by the Vatican.

And finally, to think a little bit of Washington, DC, in a stream now dug in the subsoil called the Tiber Creek Washington City Canal. Yes, it’s really called that: Tiber.