Snatching the sacred from religion and returning it to secular society, unifying ritual, memory and history. La cera di Roma is the fusion of wax candles, the scrap of sacred after the ritual has burned every prayer and litany through the flame. Thousands of candle butts gathered from the churches of Rome take form in a huge plate with mélange hues, impregnated by incenses and scented oils. A pagan tradition that allows to access the philosophical question of fire as light of knowledge, seed of time, vital substance, cosmic principle, archetypical form of matter. Candles and churches are the ritual history of the sacred orography of the Eternal City. The devotion trapped in fused wax, a promise of infinite that, measuring with contemporary society, is freed from any ontological burden.
The Latin sources remind us that the archaic Rome, the squared shape city whose borders where incised by the first king of Romulus during the ritual foundation, was a sacred space: the pomerium, the sacred and augural boundary of the city, could not be crossed neither by armed people, nor by whoever marked themselves by direct or indirect violent actions; within the pomerium living, farming, building, burying the deaths were all forbidden activities. The sacred area was dedicated to the Roman deities, but it was also the “crucial dividing lines between different kind of activities” as the tribal assembly that was kept within the pomerium. Enlarging the empire meant expanding thepomerium as well. “Thus the historian Tacitus refers to an ‘ancient custom’ which allowed those who has extended the empire also to extend the pomerium; and the marker stones of Claudius (conqueror of southern Britain) and Vespasian (conqueror of more of Britain and part of Germany) include the formula ‘having increased the boundaries of Roman people, he increased and defined the pomerium.’ “At time of threat the boundary had to be purified and strengthened”.
Mary Beard, John North, Simon Price, Religions of Rome. Volume I. A History, Cambridge 1998.