British School at Rome (BSR), The


The idea to establish the British School at Rome came in 1898 from Prof. Pelham of Oxford University. In 1899 the aims of the School were constituted to, broadly promote the study of Roman and Graeco-Roman archaeology and paleography and to consider every period of the language, literature, antiquities, art and history of Rome and Italy. The BSR was formally founded in 1901 as a School of Archeology and in 1912 it was extended to include the fine arts.

The British School at Rome, founded in 1901, was constituted along the same lines as the British School in Athens, founded 13 years earlier, and envisaged from the first as serving artists and architects as well as scholars, although with a broader perspective than merely for the studying of classical antiquity. While the RIBA was one of the biggest subscribers from 1902 onwards, it is noteworthy that from the outset there would be students from the British Colonies. Amongst these earliest subscribers were Canterbury College, Christ Church, New Zealand and McGill University in Canada. In the Cape Colony Herbert Baker, was from the start an enthusiastic supporter of the School. In 1901 the Committee received a letter from him in Cape Town suggesting an application to the Colonial Government of South Africa for funding. From 1910 onwards he found the money himself. He also made smaller contributions, including, in 1926, a gift of £100 to pay for a carpet for the Entrance Hall (Exec Ctee 21.1.26) now in the Director's flat. There was to be a distinguished series of Herbert BAKER Students down to the declaration of sanctions against South Africa in 1961.

Located north of the Pincio in the elegant Parioli district, the main structure of the British School at Rome was designed by Sir Edwin LUTYENS and (copied stone-for-stone from the west front of St Paul's cathedral) for the British Pavilion at the International Exhibition held in Rome in 1911 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

In 1910 Sir Edwin LUTYENS was commissioned to design the British Pavilion for the Rome Exhibition of 1911-2. For inspiration, LUTYENS referred to Sir Christopher Wren’s St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It was decided that this building should become the British School at Rome. From 1912-16 LUTYENS transformed the original structure to accommodate the resident artists and scholars, a library, administrative facilities, etc. Additional facilities have recently been added to celebrate the centenary of the BSR. The British School at Rome is situated in the Via Gramsci not far from the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Borghese Gardens.

The British School at Rome is an interdisciplinary research centre for the humanities, visual arts and architecture. The BSR hosts a continual programme of seminars, lectures and exhibitions. It enables the resident scholars to also gain access to the unique facilities like museums, libraries, archives, galleries, ancient monuments and historical sites that Rome offers. On average, there are two lectures/conferences a week and six art exhibitions a year. These activities cover a wide range of study interests, namely archeology, classics, history, art history to contemporary art and architecture. The British School promotes self-study and it encourages a broad and interdisciplinary understanding of art and culture. To encourage this process of self and mutual discovery and enrichment, an intellectual and physical environment exists where the scholars from the different disciplines share their knowledge and experiences and can collaborate with each other. It offers taught courses of limited duration for post graduate students in classics, ancient history archaeology and art history. Furthermore, it presents an annual ‘Ancient Rome Summer School’ which is open to undergraduate students. The school carries out archeological fieldwork projects and it provides a range of research facilities in its archaeological laboratory. These activities are reflected in the numerous publications emanating from the BSR.

The BSR is one of 17 similar foreign academies in Rome. Each of these academies provides similar facilities to the British School. In combination, these academies form a strong international presence of scholars in the city. The value of this situation, resides in the exchange of ideas and other interactions that occur between counterparts of the various academies.

For resident South African Architects see ROME SCHOLARS.

Extracted from an electronic document authored and forwarded by Prof Paul KOTZE.

Visit the British School at Rome website.