Santa Maria Antiqua – Byzantine church in the Roman Forum

Santa Maria Antiqua –
Byzantine church in the Roman Forum

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There is something new and wondrous waiting for you when visiting the Roman Forum until September 11, 206.

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For a limited time Santa Maria Antiqua, one of the earliest surviving ancient Byzantine churches that is considered the “Sistine Chapel of the Medieval Era”, is open to the public and it’s something that you don’t want to miss!

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(click PLAY to WATCH “Santa Maria Antiqua” Video)

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At the foot of Palatine Hill behind the Temple of Castor and Pollux is the 6th century Roman Catholic Marian church that was built within a massive 1st century AD Roman structure built by Roman Emperor Domitian.

 

This ancient structure served as a winding imperial ramp that connected the Roman Forum below with Palatine Hill above where the imperial palaces overlooked ancient Rome.

You can also access a portion of what remains of these ancient ramps – see the Visit Tips below.

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Santa Maria Antiqua Ancient Roman Structure

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By mid 6th century, this massives structure was transformed into a guard house that served to protect this very important imperial access.

 

Brick pillars were assembled to support a roof to cover the atrium space, and the walls were frescoed with Christian themes.

A couple of decades later, the guard house itself was transformed into a church that served the needy in the community through charity.  The previous brick pillars were replaced with granite columns, the porticos were converted into 2 sided isles, and a large apse was carved out of the existing brick wall.

 

For a duration of 3 centuries, the interior walls of this ancient Byzantine church were adorned with stunning mosaics, polychrome marble, and vibrant frescoes that were discovered superimposed over 7 layers as newer frescoes were painted over older frescos creating a palimpsest offering viewers a peek into the progression of early Medieval and Byzantine art.

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Santa Maria Antiqua Byzantine Icon

 

Due to an earthquake in the 9th century, Santa Maria Antiqua buried by rubble and sealed from the world more than 1,000 years until it was rediscovered in early 20th century.

 

Thanks to centuries of being sealed off from man, Santa Maria Antiqua was saved from the 8-9th century Byzantine iconoclasm and modifications during the Baroque and Counter-Reformation eras when many churches were altered.

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Santa Maria Antiqua Chapel of Theodotus

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Even though heavily damaged as a result of the earthquake a thousand years of neglect, following decades of extensive work to restore this ancient sanctuary, we can now admire the amazing early Christian Byzantine frescoes depicting the Virgin Mary with infant Jesus, saints, angels and martyrs adorn the walls of the sanctuary.

Digital representations of the church in its original condition play on a wide screen inside the church near the mosaic display. 

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Santa Maria Antiqua Digital Display

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Inside the Chapel of Theodotus, Chapel of the Medical Saints, and presbytery, you can enjoy digital projections on the walls depicting how the original frescoes looked a thousand years ago bringing to life the glory of this “Sistine Chapel” of the Medieval era.

 

From 1980 to 2012, the Santa Maria Antiqua church was closed to the public and access was limited only to scholars who applied for a special visit to study this ancient monument and its remarkable frescoes.  An extensive 2.7 million Euro conservation undertaking between the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome and the World Monuments Fund resulted in the phenomenal results that the public have the privilege to see for themselves for a limited time.

 

The sanctuary is open for public visitors from March 17 to September 11, 2016.


You can visit Santa Maria Antiqua inside the Roman Forum with a combination ticket valid for Roman Forum – Colosseum – Palatine Hill.  Tickets are currently 12 Euros per person purchased on arrival, or 14 Euros if purchased in advance online (to avoid ticket lines on arrival).

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If you wish to visit Santa Maria Antiqua church on our ROME IN A DAY TOURCHRISTIAN ROME TOUR,   or  VACANZE ROMANE TOUR,   please let us know so we can assist you with a visit to the Roman Forum from where you can access the sanctuary.

 

Helpful Tips on visiting Santa Maria Antiqua

 

  • When visiting the Roman Forum, please wear comfortable footwear suitable for uneven terrain.  Sandals, long heels, and flipflops are not recommended when visiting the Roman Forum.
  • To find Santa Maria Antiqua church, proceed to the Temple of Castor and Pollux towards the foot of Palatine Hill and look for posted signs directing you to the church.
  • For an informative visit, watch the digital reconstruction of the church video that plays continuously on a large screen on the right side wall near the Mosaic exhibition.
  • Don’t miss the spectacular digital projections on the walls  of the Chapels of Theodotus and Medical Saints. Text in Italian and English appear with details and descriptions.
  • Do not use flash when taking photos inside the church as flash photography is prohibited. Most importantly, camera flash damages the ancient and delicate frescoes on the walls. Prior to entering the church, adjust the settings on your cameras and turn off the automated flash.
  • Follow the “Belvedere” sign at the front end of the long wall with the saints mural, and turn right at the entrance. This tall passageway will lead you upward along the ancient imperial ramps, and you will arrive at a terrace for a gorgeous view of the Roman Forum below.
  • Avoid potential ticket lines by booking your Roman Forum / Palatine Hill / Colosseum combo ticket online in advance HERE:

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Santa Maria Antiqua Movie Screen

Roman Houses / Case Romane del Celio

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Buon giorno and welcome to Stefano Rome Tours Travel Blog!

Case Romane del Celio (Roman Houses on Celio Hill) is one the places featured on our Postcard Rome Tour for Cruisers.  Most of you have never heard of it.
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We’d like to introduce you to a magnificent place that will take you on an underground  journey through Ancient Roman complex of residential and commercial buildings where people once lived and worked, and have left behind stunning architecture, frescoes, and mosaics.

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Roman Houses / Case Romane del Celio

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Located below the Basilica of Saints John and Paul (Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo) laid buried layers of ancient history that were not discovered until late 19th century.  

Paul and John were 2 Roman Christian soldiers and brothers who were martyred late 4th century AD during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate and buried in their house on Celian hill.  

The Basilica above was initially built at the start of 5th century AD initiated by Senator Pammachius – a wealthy Roman and prominent Christian, and likely the last owner of the residential complex upon which the church was built.

Case Romane is accessible from a street named Clivus Scauri, one of the most significant ancient Roman roads on Celian Hill, and the entrance was once the portico of Roman shops that were once located here.

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Clivus Scauri Case Romane Stefano Rome Tours

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By 2nd century AD, this area was occupied by a luxurious 2 level residential building ( a “domus”)  running parallel Clivus Scauri. By 3rd century, an apartment building (an insula) was erected with shops on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors for the less well off.  

The apartments were accessed through the shops. In Ancient Rome, the upper floors were the least desirable as summers were very hot, winters very cold, no indoor plumbing that required going out to use public bath facilities, and the risks of fire from indoor cooking made it very dangerous if a lower level apartment caught fire and there was no escape for the upper levels dwellers. Often the shop owners lived on the floor above their ground level shops and further up the levels the cheaper the rent.

By the start of 4th century, a prominent wealthy figure purchased the domus and insula complex and integrated them into a large luxury residence.  If you go forward in time several decades, you’ll arrive at the time when the 2 brothers John and Paul lived here before they were martyred.

It was over this residence that the basilica was erected at the request of Senator Pammachius – possibly also the last owner of the residence.  Most of the Roman Houses were abandoned in order for the foundation of the church to be built on top, but some areas were still accessible over the centuries as indicated by a medieval oratory discovered there.

Basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo

Basilica Santi Giovanni e Paolo

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Now that you know the history of the Roman Houses, here are the splendid rooms and spaces not to be missed on your visit. As you  make your way through the labyrinth of rooms and alleys, imagine what life must have been like for the former inhabitants of these houses nearly 2,000 years ago.

 

ROOM OF THE GENIUSES

 

Case Romane Room of Geniuses

Case Romane Room of Geniuses

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Upon visiting the Roman Houses you will enter into the Room of the Geniuses (or “geni” – Roman mythological divine spirits present in every living being and objects).  This space was originally a storage area transformed into an elegant space during the 3rd century.

The upper walls will instantly grab your attention  with two bands of beautiful paintings  of youthful winged nude figures (likely the geniuses), garlands of  flowers and fruit from the summer harvest.  In the band above grape vines meander among cupids and exotic birds.

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ROOM OF THE FAUX MARBLE

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Case Romane Room of the Faux Marble

Case Romane Room of the Faux Marble

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From here, you will enter the Room of the Faux Marble.  Marble was precious in the ancient times as it is today, and decorative marble inlaid into walls to create patterns of images (opus sectile) was sometimes imitated with paint.  

Altars and and Christian inscriptions found here indicates that religious activities occurred in these rooms even as recent as  late 19th century

 

ROOM OF THE ORANT
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Case Romane Room of the Orant

Case Romane Room of the Orant

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Perhaps the most ornate room is the vaulted Room of the Orant (Worshipper) based on the subject painted on the wall. The walls were painted during the 4th century, with figures of philosophers, mask of Slienius, a female theater mask, fantasy monsters, sheep and goats,

Acanthus leaves and faux alabaster opus sectile decorate the lower part of the walls.

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THE ORATORY

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Case Romane Oratory

Case Romane Oratory

 

By mid 4th century, a small chapel (a confessio) within an alcove was assembled where visiting pilgrims were able pray before the painted Christian scenes.

THE NYMPHAEUM OF PROSERPINA

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Case Romane Nympaheum

Case Romane Nympaheum

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The Nymphaeum of Proserpina was originally an interior open air courtyard that separated the residential buildings from the commercial ones. Niches, fountains, frescoes and mosaics are well preserved and quite remarkable.

The large late 3rd century AD fresco on the upper part of the wall depicts mythological scenes taking place at sea: nude cupids fishing or sailing, a large barge in the center with 2 reclining female figures – one draped in cloaks and one semi nude, a nearby male figure pouring the ladies a drink.

Interpretations of this scenes vary with one version calling the reclining semi nude female Venus, the Roman mythological goddess who was born from sea foam and often depicted on a half shell at sea. The other version interprets the female as Proserpina – the Roman goddess associated  with the underworld, joined by her mother Ceres and Bacchus (the wine god).

If you look down you will notice the original floor made of multi colored marble pieces.  

In an adjacent alcove, you can admire the black and white tile floor with geometrical and floral motifs.

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ANTIQUARIUM

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Case Romane Antiquarium

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Last but not least is the Antiquarium – the museum where the ancient Roman and medieval artifacts excavated on this site are on display.

Located right below the Chapel of Saint Paul of the Cross, the museum is in the shape of a Greek cross.

Here you will find a myriad of objects excavated between 1887  and 1936: ancient 1st -7th century AD amphorae (elongated terracotta jugs used to transport liquid and dry products), tableware, sewing needles and thread spools, oil lamps, sculptures, and among other precious items a large 12th century fresco of Christ between saints John and Paul.

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This marks the end of your visit through time and through the ancient Roman Houses.

Be sure to also visit the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, it has a magnificent interior reminiscent of a early 20th century ballroom with its chandeliers. No wonder it’s a popular church of wedding events.

 

VISITOR HOURS:

10 AM – 1:00 PM then 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays
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TICKETS:

Adult price: 8 Euros

Children 12-18 years old: 6 Euros per person

Children up to 12 years old accompanied by adult: FREE

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For more information on our POSTCARD ROME TOUR FOR CRUISERS that includes a visit to the Roman Houses, please CLICK HERE.

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Postcard Rome Tour for Cruises by Stefano Rome Tours

Postcard Rome Tour for Cruises by Stefano Rome Tours

 

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Thank you very much for reading our blog, and for choosing Stefano Rome Tours for your Day Tours and Shore Excursions in Italy.

 

The Stefano Rome Tours Team

www.StefanoRomeTours.com

 

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Fun and Useful Blog Posts by RomeCabs

Buon giorno and welcome to Stefano Rome Tours, Rome’s leading company for private Day Tours and Shore Excursions from Civitavecchia, Livorno and Naples.

This travel blog is dedicated to all the great things that make Italy one of the world’s greatest travel destinations.

In this article we’d like to introduce you to some interesting travel articles from our sister company RomeCabs as featured on their travel blogs.

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VIDEO POSTCARDS FROM ROMECABS

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RomeCabs has launched a weekly series of Video Postcards featuring places in Rome and throughout Italy where RomeCabs offers tours.

Each Video Postcard is 30 seconds long set to fun and lively tunes, giving you a morsel of the great beauties of Italy.

CLICK HERE to enjoy more Video Postcards from RomeCabs with a description of each place featured in the video postcard.

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How The Train Ruined the Cruise for Thousands of Cruisers

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Italy has quite an extensive train system that travelers can use to access many popular destinations in Italy from Rome. One of these popular destinations is Civitavecchia, the cruise port of Rome located about 1.5 hours away.

The commuter train that runs about every 30 minutes (less on Sundays and bank holidays)  is the usual means to travel between Rome’s Termini Station and Civitavecchia Train Station  (the 2 endpoints for this commuter train route).

Under the assumption that the train is an easy and cheap transportation alternative between Rome and Civitavecchia, many cruisers opt for what would appear to be a convenient, reliable and inexpensive mode way to travel between Rome and Civitavecchia.

At  5 Euros per person it’s very inexpensive indeed.

But easy, convenient AND reliable?

Thousands of cruisers left stranded did NOT find it reliable.
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CLICK TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED
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HOW THE TRAIN RUINED THE CRUISE

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Traveling to Italy this Summer?

Don’t Forget to Bring THESE Things With You!
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Summer is the most popular time of the year when millions of visitors worldwide travel to Italy on their summer vacations. While many travelers choose to travel light (with less luggage) for convenience and since summer clothing take up little space, there are a few things that you must bring with.

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Click to FIND OUT MORE
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TRAVELING TO ITALY THIS SUMMER.

TOP 10 MUST SEE PLACES IN ROME PHOTO GALLERY

 

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Rome is a treasure trove of  thousands of years worth of history, architecture, beauty and charm that a lifetime is not long enough to discover all of Rome’s ancient secrets and hidden treasures.

The Eternal City has amassed a vast number of things to see and do during its extensive 2,700 years of history.  

And with so little time to see and do everything on your visit to Rome, you don’t miss some of the most exciting sites that make Rome one of the world’s most visited cities and top travel destinations.

CLICK TO SEE  GALLERY

10 MUST SEE PLACES IN ROME PHOTO GALLERY

How To Get From Fiumicino to Civitavecchia in 3 Easy Steps

Whether you are Flying in Rome pre cruise or departing from Rome post cruise, chances are you will need a transfer from Fiumicino to Civitavecchia, or from Civitavecchia to Fiumicino Airport.

This RomeCabs Trave Article shows you how to get from Fiumicino to Civitavecchia in 3 Easy Steps.

CLICK TO FIND OUT MORE

HOW TO GET FROM FIUMICINO TO CIVITAVECCHIA IN 3 EASY STEPS with romecabs

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Thank you very much for visiting our blog.

For more information on Day Tours and Shore Excursions, please visit us at www.StefanoRomeTours.com

For more information about RomeCabs, please visit www.RomeCabs.com

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We look forward to seeing you in Italy!

Stefano Rome Tours Team

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RomeCabs Transfers and Tours

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