Konstantinos Gravanis wins internship in the Vatican’s Raphael Rooms

Kostas Gravanis, who is undertaking a PhD in History and Philosophy of Art in the School of Arts, has just been accepted for a six-month internship in the Vatican Museums.

The Vatican Museums offer an education and training programme for young specialists and students in restoration techniques. Each intern is assigned to a specific project involved in the museum’s activities.

Beginning in April, Kostas will be working in the area of the Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms). The internship is directly related to Kostas’ PhD research, as his project is provisionally entitled ‘Sources, Functions and Meaning of Imagery in the Vatican’s Raphael Rooms’. His PhD supervisors are Professor Tom Henry and Dr Ben Thomas.

The Stanze are a series of reception rooms in the Vatican Palace, famous for their beautiful frescoes painted by Raphael and his workshop (1508-24). The internship will give Kostas the opportunity to get involved with projects for the forthcoming 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death in Rome as well as with on-going restoration work in the Sala di Costantino.

Commenting on the internship, Kostas said: ‘Working in the Stanze at this specific time is a great honour and privilege. The anticipation of Raphael year 2020 is a thrill beyond words while the restoration projects are revealing fascinating new aspects of Raphael’s art’.

Professor Tom Henry, Director of the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies, also commented on Kostas’ achievement: ‘Kostas stood out on our MA in History of Art in Rome and developed his PhD topic while there. It is a tremendous achievement for him to now be offered this highly prestigious internship back in the Vatican Museums and at such an exciting moment.’

For more details on the Vatican Museum internships, please see the page here:

The University of Kent Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies in conjunction with the American University in Rome presents ‘Chaucer in Italy’

We are very excited to announce that on 1 April 2019 at 19:00 our very own Peter Brown, Professor of Medieval Literature and Academic Director of the Paris School of Arts and Cultures, will be delivering a talk on ‘Chaucer in Italy’ at the American University of Rome.


Geoffrey Chaucer (1343–1400) was ahead of his time. Having visited Italy twice on diplomatic missions he modeled a significant number of his narratives on works by Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch, long before these writers were ‘discovered’ during the English Renaissance. My lecture will consider Chaucer’s encounter with Italian culture and how it prompted a rebirth of his creative outlook.

Biography of our speaker:

Peter Brown is Professor of English Medieval Literature at the University of Kent and Academic Director of its Paris School of Arts and Culture. He has recently edited A New Companion to Chaucer (Wiley–Blackwell, 2019) and is the author of Geoffrey Chaucer (Oxford University Press, 2011). He has published on a wide range of topics to do with the cultural and historical context of medieval literature. 

Please go to https://aur.edu/events/chaucer-italy to register!

Portrait of Geoffrey Chaucer from the Regiment of Princes by Thomas Hoccleve.
London, British Library, MS Harley 4866, f. 88 (1411–12).

An Exciting Year Ahead!

Happy New Year everyone!

Tom Henry writes:

Next year’s MA History of Art in Rome (2019-20) will be built around two great anniversaries and the exhibitions that will accompany them. 2019 marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death in France, and will be marked by a great exhibition at the Louvre in Paris (opens October 2019). 2020 is the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death in Rome and there are going to be great exhibitions in Rome (spring 2020) and in London (autumn 2020, I am co-curating this exhibition). Kent’s Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies is putting these anniversaries at the centre of our events and our teaching. I will be teaching first Leonardo (autumn 2019) and then Raphael (spring 2020), and have been asked to give a major lecture linking Raphael and Leonardo. It should be an exciting year.

Looking forward to a very busy and exciting 2019! For more information about our Rome programs, please visit our website: https://www.kent.ac.uk/rome/

Tom Henry delivers Think Kent lecture

Tom Henry [1], Professor of History of Art in the School of Arts [2] and Director of the Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies [3], has delivered an online lecture for the Think Kent [4] series entitled ‘Men in Black: How to Interpret Raphael’s Self-Portrait with a Friend in the Louvre’, which is now available on YouTube [5].

The Think Kent lectures are a series of TED talk-style lectures produced with the intention of raising awareness of the research and teaching expertise of Kent academics and the international impact of their work.

The lecture follows on from Tom’s curation of an exhibition held at both the Louvre [6] in Paris and the Museo del Prado [7] in Madrid, entitled ‘Raphaël à Rome: les dernières années‘, focusing on the final years of the renaissance painter and architect.

The lecture discussed one painting, Raphael’s Self-Portrait with a Friend (c.1519-20), completed shortly before the artist’s death in 1520. Tom argues that to interpret the picture, it is necessary to understand the range of the painter’s activities in his last few years.

In particular, the identity of the second figure in the painting is unknown; however, Tom argues that he is the Italian painter and architect Giulio Romano, a pupil of Raphael, and he develops this argument with a discussion of the role of cloak-giving in artistic adoption and inheritance in the Renaissance period.

The talk may be viewed below or on YouTube via the link:

The Colosseum: Reclaiming Rome from Nero

Students on our Ancient History and Archaeology masters degrees in Rome have written blog posts as part of their assessments due as part of their studies. One student has shared her blog with us, read on to find out more about the Colosseum and its environs:

“As one of the most recognised buildings in Italy, the Colosseum is a well known symbol of the city of Rome, however not many people know the history of this great monument. Nestled in the valley between the Palatine, Esquiline, and Caelian hills1 at the head of the modern Via dei Fori Imperiali (fig 1),2 the Colosseum was used for public spectacles. Built by Vespasian, Titus and Domitian in the 1st century AD, it was an attempt to return the land taken by Nero to the people. This blog will discuss the history and construction of the Colosseum and the origin of its name.

In AD 64, during the reign of Nero, a fire swept through Rome, destroying much of the city.3 Nero took some of the land that had been razed and built the Domus Aurea, his Golden House,4 an expansive luxury complex that would become his imperial palace, which Suetonious describes in detail.5 The place was so large that Martial records that a single house now stood in all the city.”6 After his suicide in AD 68, the city of Rome went through a period of civil war, the Year of the Four Emperors, until Vespasian secured his rule in AD 69.7 A few years later, in AD 70, Vespasian and his son Titus suppressed the Jewish revolt in Jerusaleum which had begun in AD 66, and returned to Rome in AD 71 to celebrate a joint triumph over the Jews,8 which is commemorated on the Arch of Titus.


Seeing the state of Rome, a damaged city after the civil war10 and being dominated by the Domus Aurea, Vespasian sought to return the city of Rome from Nero to the people. This move was well within the Flavian approach, basing their rule on “returing to ‘popular’ and ‘Republican’ values.”11 They did this by draining and building the Flavian Amphitheatre12 on the site of the private pool that had been part of the Domus Aurea complex.13 A recently discovered inscription is thought to state that the Emperor Vespasian ordered a new amphitheatre to be built from the booty [of the Jewish War],14 further enforcing their attempt to give back to the people by reinvesting the spoils of war into their needs. There is some debate over this inscription: all that survives are the dowel holes that secured the bronze letters in place. Hopkins and Beard express their scepticism on this as a suspiciously appropriate solution to ‘joining the dots’.15 It does seem to be a convenient solution, however with construction beginning in AD 7016 and following the years of the civil wars, surely the largest source of income for Vespasian to fund the Colosseum would have been what he could loot from Jeruasleum.

By AD 79, the Colosseum had reached its second level and was dedicated for the first time before Vespasian’s death that year. Titus continued the project and completed the aphitheatre up to the fourth level (fig 2) and rededicated the monument in AD 80 with lavish inaugural games.17 The dedication of the Colosseum is both recorded on coins of the time (fig 3),18 and in ancient accounts. Dio gives details of these events lasting for 100 days, which included beast hunts, group and single combat, the flooding of the arena for “sea battles”, and horse races. There were also distributions of largesse to the people.19 Titus also opened the baths of Titus to the public, which he had remodeled from the private baths of Nero.20 After this, Domitian is thought to have finished the exterior and installed the subterrainan area under the arena21 (fig 4), which would have been used to house animals and equipment used in the events.


The name of the Colosseum also has its own history. While it has been known by many names, like Amphitheatum Flavium22 and the hunting theatre,23 the one which we call it today may owe its origins to Nero. Near to the Colosseum stood a colossal bronze statue of Nero. Pliny records that it was 110 Roman feet tall,24 around 32m, and is thought to have stood in the atrium of the Domus Aurea.25 However, after Nero’s death, because “of the public detestation of Nero’s crimes, this statue was consecrated to the Sunby Vespasian.26 It had been moved closer to the Colosseum by Hadrian with the help of 24 elephants so that he could build his temple to Venus and Rome.27 On a medalian of Gordian III, the Colossus is depicted next to the Colosseum (fig 5)28 showing that it was still standing in the late empire and that it had become a marker of this area as much as the Colosseum and the Meta Sudans, a monumental fountain near the Colosseum, which is also depicted on the medallion. It is thought that at some point between the 8th and 11th centuries,29 the name Colosseum was first asscribed to the aphitheatre because of its proximity to the Colossus rather than its own colossal size.30

The work carried out by the Flavian emperors in the construction of the Colosseum took the private imperial luxuray that was the Domus Aurea and transformed it into a place of pleasure for the people.31 Their efforts to rework and develop the area attempted to remove the mark that Nero had left on the city of Rome but their efforts only go so far. To this day, the Colosseum is so called because of its proximity to the Colossus of Nero, while ascribed after the fall of the Empire, it is a strong reminder of Neros extravagance and the power of memory in history.

1 Coarelli 2007:164.

2 Fig 1: Coarelli 2007:158, fig.43.

3 National Geographic 2014.

4 Coarelli 2000:9.

5 Suet.Nero.31.

6 Mart.Spec.2.

7 Hopkins & Beard 2005:26.

8 Hopkins & Beard 2005:26-7.

9 Platner 1929:45-47.

10 Hopkins & Beard 2005:28.

11 Coarelli 2000:10.

12 Britannica 2018.

13 Mart.Spec.2. Coarelli 2007:164.

14 Aicher 2004:181.

15 Hopkins & Beard 2005:33-4.

16 Hopkins & Beard 2005:36.

17 Coarelli 2007:164.

19 Dio.Rom Hist.66.25. See also Suet.Tit.7.

20 Coarelli 2000:10-11.

21 Coarelli 2007:164.

22 Benario 1981:256.

23 Hopkins & Beard 2005:21.

24 Pliny.NH.34.18.

25 Coarelli 2007:170.

26 Pliny.NH.34.18. Suet.Vesp.18.

27 Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma 1997:8. (SAR)

28 Fig 5: BMCRM 13, p.48.

29 8th: Coarelli 2007:170. 11th: SAR 1997:8.

30 Hopkins & Beard 2005:34.

31 Hopkins & Beard 2005:31-2.

From Paris to Rome

Students from the University of Kent Paris School of Arts and Culture visited our University of Kent Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies recently and were guided by Academic Director Tom Henry around the Villa Farnesina; find out what they got up to on their blog post here: https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/paris-news/2018/04/24/from-paris-to-rome/

Last few weeks of the Spring term for our Rome cohort

The below extract has been sent in by Dr Christopher Burden-Strevens, Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Kent and convenor of our Rome MA in Ancient History and Roman History and Archaeology. He talks about the last few weeks of the Spring term for our students in Rome, how they have celebrated, sites that they have visited and briefs us on their assessed final itineraries.


Students Adam & Manuel giving talks to dignitaries, academics, and diplomats on the fabulous Mortlake tapestries of Julius Caesar and Saul at the Ambassador’s villa

And alas we are back in Canterbury. The time has gone by so quickly. Earlier April was a hive of activity for our students. As the Easter holidays and some well-earned relaxation drew on, the Spring term for our Kent in Rome students drew to a close with a special reception at the British Ambassador’s residence, the Villa Wolkonsky. As we enjoyed our prosecco and canapés, two of our students gave a presentation on the beautiful Mortlake tapestries, pictured just here, to Her Excellency and to invited guests. This was a truly special event and a fantastic farewell to Rome. There is no better way to say a fond goodbye than over a glass of wine as you watch the sun set over Nero’s acqueduct, which runs right through the ambassador’s garden!

Of course for those of us not presenting it was a chance to get dressed up and have some fun. Here I am getting together with our Rome students as a whole group for the last time this academic year and celebrating their success. The group have grown into such a fantastic community: on our visits to Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, and the ancient sea-port at Ostia, and the Villa D’Este it has become so clear how much the group enjoy working together. It’s great to see the that the working relationships they developed while in Canterbury in the Autumn Term have grown into strong friendships too.

Those relationships have been especially important as students work together in pairs on their final itinerary. The itinerary is a two-hour exam, where students choose any ancient site(s) of their choice on which to give a live tour. There were some absolutely exceptional performances, one of which was even of doctoral standard. One group took their examiners (myself and Prof. Elena Isayev, Exeter) down into the ruins of an early Christian complex of worship-houses, 1,700 years old, which now lays buried underneath the Basilica of Saint Martin in the Lateran. Since these ruins are closed to the public and jealously guarded by the clergy and caretakers, this was an exceptional privilege; they are, so to speak, almost lost to history. You won’t find this on any city-guide or tour of Rome.

In fact, our students have spent a lot of time under ground! Another group of our students organised a tour of the Tomb of the Scipios, a deep passage circuit carved into the rock, where lay buried all the major members of the Scipio family. The Scipios are known to history as the conquerers of Hannibal, the Carthaginian invader who from 218–216 BC crossed the Alps with his elephants to decimate the Roman Republic in the Second Punic War. We took a brief break from the formal parts of the exam to pose for a selfie at the Tomb of Scipio Barbatus, whose sarcophagus dates to the 290s BCE, showing the early influence of Greek architectural styles on the Middle Republic. This was a magical experience; I have given so many lectures on this tomb complex. But it’s by getting there and touching it for themselves that Brittany and Dean, pictured here, brought it to life in their fantastic tour.

For our students the last four months have fostered such a greater knowledge and appreciation of their subject, and of Rome itself. As they fly home for the holidays, and to work on their dissertation projects, it’s certainly not goodbye! It’s ‘arrivederci’—‘until we meet again’.


Ambassadors Residence annual event

The annual event celebrating the University of Kent’s Rome School of Classical and Renaissance Studies took place at the British Ambassador’s residence in the Villa Wolkonsky on 4 April.

The evening opened with the hosting of the European Innovation in Academia Awards by Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, David Nightingale. The awards recognise individuals who have made a difference in higher education in Europe or North America and celebrate academic creativity and innovation.



This was followed by a lecture from Dr Thomas P Campbell, former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2008-2017 who spoke about Raphael’s Tapestry Designs for Pope Leo X and their legacy at the Court of Charles I.

Academic Director of the Rome centre, Professor Tom Henry and several of our Rome centre MA students later continued to discuss the Mortlake tapestries based on Raphael’s Cartoons (three of which hang on the walls of the Villa Wolkonsky).

Jill Morris CMG, British Ambassador to Italy celebrated the performance of our students and the University of Kent on her Twitter feed. [51] We are looking forward to celebrating at the residence again next year.



Kent Masters Rome cohort in Ancient History and Archaeology visit Tivoli and beyond

“Just back from a tremendous (but exhausting!) week with our Rome MA Ancient History/Archaeology students for this year. On Thursday we arranged a minivan to take us all out of the city of Rome–which the students are expert in now!–and off to Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli, a spectacular pleasure palace from the 2nd century AD. Since we were in Tivoli, though, it hardly made sense to miss the Villa D’Este: a grand Renaissance palace built by a cardinal and relative of the dukes of Ferrara in the 16th century. The gardens in particular were exquisite: the students were all awed at the fountains, and the spectacular view! After a day’s rest, on the Saturday we made the short and easy train journey to Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient sea-port on the banks of the Tiber. We arrived around 10 and by 4:30 most of us were shattered. Fortunately a few soldiered on to see the Christian ruins and the synagogue by the Porta Marina; the rest of us headed to the café for a well-deserved drink in the sunshine. Here are a couple of snaps of us enjoying the blissful panorama from the Villa D’Este and admiring one of the largest and best-preserved mosaics in the ancient city of Ostia. We will definitely be going back to both next year!”

 (sent in by Dr Christopher Burden-Strevens  – Ancient History lecturer on our Rome MA programmes https://www.kent.ac.uk/secl/classics/staff/burden-strevens.html)


Kent in Rome event – April 2018 at the British Ambassadors Residence

The University of Kent annual event celebrating our Rome Centre for Classical and Renaissance studies will take place this year on the 4 April at the British Ambassadors residence in the Villa Wolkonsky.

The schedule for the evening includes the European Innovation in Academia Awards and a lecture by Dr. Thomas Campbell. This will be our second European Innovation in Academia Awards. The Awards recognise individuals who have made a difference in higher education in Europe or North America and celebrate academic creativity and innovation.

Our guest lecturer, Dr Thomas P. Campbell, was Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2008-2017. His academic specialism is the study of Renaissance tapestries and he will lecture on ‘Raphael’s Tapestry Designs for Pope Leo X and their legacy at the Court of Charles I’, taking the Mortlake tapestries based on Raphael’s Cartoons (three of which hang on the walls of the Villa Wolkonsky) as his starting point.

Dr. Campbell studied at Oxford University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, before embarking on a career that has been dedicated to the preservation, study and promotion of cultural heritage. Having become interested in European tapestries while working on the art and propaganda of the European courts, he became a curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, he was appointed Director and CEO of The Met in 2008. Serving for nine years as the ninth Director of the Met, Dr. Campbell pursued a ground-breaking agenda that combined scholarship with accessibility, and reimagined how a museum can engage with diverse, global audiences.  His focus was on simultaneously reinforcing the museum’s excellence in faculty, collections, galleries, exhibitions, publications and international engagement while ensuring its scholarship remains accessible, engaging and thought-provoking to a contemporary audience. He has recently stepped down from this position and is currently at the Getty Research Institute and at Waddesdon Manor in the UK as the Getty/Rothschild fellow 2017/18.