Mundus
The project’s starting point was a description of the ancient Romans’ city-founding rituals. In his “Life of Romulus,” Plutarch notes two meanings of the word mundus:
Concept
City and Cosmos
Urban Astronomy
“…a circular pit was dug on what is now the comitium and in it were placed firstlings of all the things whose use was allowed by the law or required by nature. And finally everyone threw in a handful of dirt which he had brought from the country from whence he had come and stirred everything around. Such a pit is called by the Romans mundus, a name that also applied to the heavens. Thereupon it was encircled, like the center of a compass, to mark the circumference of the city.”1 
Architectural historians suggest that the mundus pit was filled with honey, wine, oil, fruit and earth from the inhabitants’ original hearths. It was then covered by a stone and altar where a fire was kept burning.2  The second meaning of mundus, the cosmos, alludes to the pre-modern belief that architecture should reflect the unchanging order of the heavens. The word temple recalls this belief since the templum was an area of sky marked off by Roman diviners.3  Montreal’s public art project re-interprets the dual meaning of mundus in a modern context. Its four installations provide an ancient reading of a modern place. By using architecture to create astronomical sightlines, Mundus deposits yet another layer of meaning on the mundane, modern city. Though commonly understood to mean ordinary, mundane also derives from mundus and so has two meanings: “of the world, worldly; of the universe, cosmic.” 4 The Mundus installations reinvest the city with mundane meaning understood in the second sense of this word.  Mundus also brings basic astronomical awareness to people on city streets. Stars with magnitudes greater than three are still visible from large cities provided viewers are not standing directly beneath lights. However, whereas 3,000 stars can be viewed from the countryside, only about 30 remain visible from Montreal today. This is the legacy of light pollution. Mundus draws attention to this loss by marking not only the visible stars, but stars that lights and pollution have rendered invisible from city centers.
1 Plutarch. "Life of Romulus." Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. 2 Joseph Rykwert. The Idea of a Town. 3 John W. Stamper. The Architecture of Roman Temples. 4 Concise Oxford Dictionary.