Murder in the Piazza: A Maggie White Mystery
by Jen Collins Moore
About Murder in the Piazza
Maggie White, a downsized American executive stuck in Rome on her husband's expat assignment, is finding the dolce vita isn't all it's cracked up to be. She's taken a job offering painting instruction to well-heeled travelers and her boss-a rather unpleasant English lord-has turned up dead in his penthouse. Maggie's left with a palazzo full of suspicious guests, a valuable painting her boss might have stolen, and a policeman who's decided she's the prime suspect. Now Maggie must keep the tour up and running while she tracks the killer and works to clear her name.
About Jen Collins Moore
Jen Collins Moore is the author of the Maggie White Mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mystery Weekly, and she is the editor of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest newsletter. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, as well an established marketer and entrepreneur. A transplanted New Englander, she lives in Chicago with her husband and two boys.
The Barbarians of Rome
by Jen Collins Moore
The Roman Empire has long been a passion of mine. As a teenager I could rattle off all the emperors between Augustus and Domitian. (Well, all except the three who were assassinated in quick succession in a single year. Their names never stuck.) I studied archaeology in college and still remember a little Latin.
So when I first began travelling to Rome, my interest was in the ancient. I was more interested in the Coliseum and the Forum than in the Vatican or Borghese. But it’s hard to visit (and write about) the city without appreciating the Renaissance.
That’s the period that came after the Dark Ages, during which Rome had fallen into decay along with the rest of Europe. Then, amid a new interest in classical philosophy, literature and art, the Catholic Church commissioned artists to return the city to its grandeur. Much of the city’s feel today is thanks to the urban planning and architecture of those visionaries.
But as much as they appreciated Classical ideals, the artists and their benefactors weren’t interested in preserving the artifacts of Ancient Rome. Far from it. The ultimate collapse of the Empire was interpreted as proof of God’s will against a pagan civilization, so preservation wasn’t exactly high on their list.
Visitors to Rome during the Dark Ages (I’m still baffled by who these tourists could have been) reported seeing marble reliefs and sculptures throughout the city. One tally reported:
- 424 temples
- 304 shrines
- 80 statues of gods made of precious metal
- 64 statues of gods made of ivory
- 22 equestrian statues
- 36 triumphal arches
- 3,785 bronze statues
Think about that. Those are huge numbers long after the barbarians sacked the city. And there’s nowhere near that number of antiquities left. So what happened?
The city’s best preserved ancient building—the Pantheon—survived because it was turned into a Christian church in the Seventh Century, protecting it from the looting, or, more generously, scavenging, that occurred later.
Other monuments were less fortunate. Stones taken from the Colosseum were reportedly used to construct Pope’s palaces and churches around the city, including Il Palazzo di Venezia, San Marco, La Scala Santa and Palazzo Farnese.
And the others? Marble from that temples, shrines, and statues was burned for the high quality lime it produced, which was then used to create new works of art. There’s something poetic about it, but for the antiquarian in me, also tragic.
One of the joys of writing the Maggie White Mysteries is getting to go down into research rabbit holes that might end up in a single line of dialogue. In this case, one of my favorite characters in Murder in the Piazza, Eloise Potter, lectures guests on the painting tour about the Renaissance’s transformation of marble back into limestone. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did.
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