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Sanctus Anriva
(Castel Sant’Angelo) With partner Katie Lomax

56-70 A.D. | Tiber Valley, Italian Peninsula

Anriva, the religious peoples of the Apennine Peninsula lowlands, are rooted in early Etruscan civilizations and the early Roman pantheon. Anrivans believe the highest form of knowledge comes from nature (i.e., water, air, land, animals, and plants) and humans are only minuscule members of the universal order. They seek integration with nature through meditation and ardent care of all spirits, manifested in physical elements and creatures. Mythologies record Anrivan deities as beings with multiple attributes, human and non-human. To seek similar transcendence of mind and body is the society’s paramount fulfillment.

Political Organization
Unlike most Etruscan settlements that adopted the Greek polis, Anriva received independence to govern their own affairs. They recognize districts with a Concilium of Elders to rule over the affairs of administration, as well as religious teaching. One aisath, a priest-governor, was chosen as senior authority but held few powers outside of symbolic ritual.

Language Spoken
The Anriva dialect of the Etruscan language was suppressed during Roman Imperialism. It was maintained, though diluted with Latin-based Italic languages, through the Rapa Vela (sacred chronicles). At Sanctus Anriva, a modified version of Anrivan-Etruscan is still spoken.

Building Commission
After cycles of flood and famine plagued the Tiber Valley, Etruscan settlements migrated to the highlands and coastal plains for refuge. The Anrivans, despite ruined soils and a dwindling population, held their ground for hope in the ancient spirits. Much of their culture had been lost in the flux, unguarded from outside influences. Sanctus Anriva was built to protect the only surviving chronicles of Anriva’s history and preserve their way of life in a time of uncertainty. The Rapa Vela, sacred chronicles, holds a record of important events and religious teachings within one volume. Similar to the Bible of Christianity, the Rapa Vela are considered precious and sacred. No other books of such worth have been found. Other books deemed relevant and instructive to Anrivan culture, though not written by the society, have been compiled into other smaller libraries. Records of the town and council meetings have also been found and preserved. The elders unanimously commissioned the construction of a sanctuary with small fortifications to house the sacred chronicles. All other remaining artifacts, including other minor texts, were collected and housed alongside the chronicles. Aisath Lathikus charged the council to send future leaders to the sanctuary for a season of training and contemplative study to maintain the devout Anrivan lifestyle.

In addition to the cylindrical sanctuary plan, Aisath Lathikus developed a defensive wall and battlement system to reduce the threat of outsiders. Built in a time of peace, the stronghold was not meant to defend major attacks, but to provide refuge and preserve history. The project was completed in 70 AD, after fourteen years of construction.

Since the Anrivans were in such a vulnerable state after the chaos of flood and famine, they needed a location that could provide the essentials for a stable civilization. The Tiber River location not only provided added safety for the Rapa Vela, but also provided the necessary water supply as well. Proximity to the river further emphasizes the Anrivan bond with natural elements that manifest their godlike qualities in physical attributes. The river’s perennial flow and sporadic flooding, though troublesome for building, is praised. As the civilization stabilized and grew, the adjoining town was linked to the Sanctus through the processional bridge. Surrounding agricultural lands built on fertile soils remnant of the volcanic era provide food for both the town and the sanctuary. The aqueduct, built after the cities expanded, brings water to new town of Anriva through the sanctuary.

Program & Building Form
The building was constructed for the main purpose of protecting the Rapa Vela during difficult and uncertain times and is thus focused around it. The exterior curtain walls house the military and serves as the protection of the building. The walls, with defensive towers on each of the four corners, form a square around a cylindrical core. Narrow rectangular buildings adjacent to the walls contain military quarters, storage, and guard posts. The military sector operates independently, with little need to enter the core. Minimal or no security within the actual core reduces a prison-like atmosphere. Guards are limited to the wall perimeters and building openings.

The cylindrical center is solely for the use of the Anrivans. It towers high above the walls and carries the statue of an angel at its peak. There are many different rooms that can be traveled through and discovered. Each of which is filled with the remaining texts of the Anrivans, with the most important located deeper into the core of the building. The final chamber at the center of the inner core houses the one and only Rapa Vela, which is not to be removed from the chamber. Housing for the visiting Anrivans is located on the exterior layer of the inner core in an attempt to further secure the manuscripts as well as to hide their existence and location. Additional libraries with desks for study make up the rest of the core. From the libraries and rooms there are covered walkways to contemplate and view the city. Benches and smaller seating areas along the walkway provide places for pause or reading.  On the roof of the core, a large terrace overlooks the land. In this space morning ritual and outdoor activities can occur. A small kitchen and dining room in the core allows Anrivans to prepare and eat their meals with fellowshipping.

Outside the walls of the sanctuary, a large garden with a labyrinth of paths provides a place to meditate among nature. To distinguish the sanctuary’s gardens from the rest of the land, a raised tree-lined walkway forms a secondary wall of protection.

The Rapa Vela
The sacred chronicles are the Anriva equivalent of the Holy Bible. This one book is the single most important text in their society’s history. It contains stories of transcendence, deities, and teachings. Also included are historical events. The chamber that houses it is located in the center of the core. To enter, each council member travels through the dark ramp that encircles the core. The prolonged journey takes the knowledge-seeker into a new world that disregards time and place. The path is not easy and it is meant to slow down the thoughts of the seeker. After walking the incline, the floor levels and the view of the city is hinted at through small windows. To enter the main chamber, the seeker must go towards the center of the core and find a small descending staircase. The entrance is meant to be subtle and private. Only one person may enter at a time. At the first door, there remains a torch that is to be taken with them into the core. The first door must be unlocked to descend the staircase and still another door unlocked before entering. At the second door, the seeker is confronted with another torch that is to be lit before entering the room as a signal to others that the space is occupied. The room is made of brick and stone, cylindrical with a low dome. As the seeker enters, he/she will light the mounted torches all around the room as a sign of their earnest desire for knowledge. The Rapa Vela is then found, already open from the last reader, on a stone table in the center of the room. The reader’s torch is finally placed next to the table and they will proceed to read standing up in reverence to the text.

At the end of each day, an advising elder will secure the text to insure its safety throughout the night. The Rapa Vela is stored inside the stone altar, which was created as a puzzle box in order to provide maximum safety of the text from intruders. In order to open the altar the steps must be taken in the correct sequence and moved in the correct direction. The first step is to find the two pieces on the front of the stone design that are actually moveable, not simply part of the etchings, and remove them from the box. This unlocks the next piece that must also be found from the side and removed as well. This move unlocks the lid of the altar allowing it to be pushed backwards and the Rapa Vela inserted or removed from its center. The knowledge of this altar’s workings as well as the sequence necessary to unlock it are known solely by the advising elders who are in charge of securing the Rapa Vela at the end of each day.

Daily Rituals
As an elder-in-training, the day at Sanctus Anriva begins with sunrise ceremonies and morning reflections. Life in the sanctuary generally calls for silent meditation, individual study, and self-reflection. This monastic style of training focuses the individual on the ideals of knowledge and wisdom found through text or nature. During individual reflection, trainees are free to walk as they please in the gardens, perimeters, along the river’s edge, and on the terraces. Afterwards, trainees meet one-on-one with an elder for lessons and guidance. This establishes accountability and helps pass wisdom and knowledge down to future generations. After advising, all the participants prepare their own meals and eat together as a community. They will have a chance to go to local farms or markets together outside of the sanctuary, and return to cook for themselves. There is no staff to serve them. After the meal, a long period of study follows. Though generally quiet in nature, the Anrivans are allowed to talk but they are expected to be following their own courses of study. The main chamber holding the Rapa Vela is always open for them to read throughout the day, but the chamber is closed during sleeping hours for security reasons. All of the Anrivan texts are available in smaller libraries organized by topic. The libraries, located in the upper core, contain desks for study and are connected to courtyards and covered walkways to encourage contemplative walking and interaction. In addition to studying, throughout the day the trainees are given tasks to foster humble spirits and disciplined leaders. Possible duties include gardening, caring for animals, choosing produce for meals in town, buying supplies, and sanctuary maintenance. The second meal of the day takes place during the afternoon. After the second meal, quiet hours commence. Trainees are encouraged to document their progress through the 1-3 month season in a written diary. In this way, the libraries will continue to fill up with the musings and revelations of its people.

The outer walls of the building, which is used for security purposes, have very minimal openings, solely for the controlled entrance and exit of allowed individuals. One opening leads a procession from the main town to the sanctuary on the bridge. The two other openings lead into the garden. The pathway into the core of the building also has no openings in hopes of disorienting and delaying intruders. The top of the inner core, which houses the least vital manuscripts opens up to views of all of Rome, while each consecutive layer below receives less and less visual connection to the outside world due to the increasing importance of the texts.

The building is oriented on the Tiber River with the main entrance facing due south. The covered exterior walkways allow full walks around the building. Here the visitors are able to orient themselves in the landscape, viewing the world from a higher elevation. Views are constantly directed up and out, with the exception of the main sacred chamber that focuses internally.

The top few floors of the inner core used for rooms and more common Anrivan texts are well lit from the many windows and openings. The rooms located within the interior of the core receive little to no natural lighting in order to reduce the wear on such texts vital to the continuation of the Anrivan religion. The passageways into the main core also rely solely on artificial lighting as a method of added protection as well as religious custom of leaving the outside world behind as you enter into the sacred spaces.

The very base of the inner core was constructed out of stone in order to provide a strong and nearly indestructible base for the entire building. After multiple layers of stone, the inner core continued to be built with brick allowing for both the strength of the building as use of protection, as well as being a manageable building material for the height of the inner core. The brick was layered all the way up, forming the open spaces of rooms as it went, eventually topping off the building. They began construction on the exterior core after the initial stone layer of the inner core was placed. Construction on the exterior began with the corner bastions and ended with the curtain wall that finally closed off the building entirely.