Santa Maria Antiqua – Byzantine church in the Roman Forum

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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.

 

Santa Maria Antiqua Central Nave




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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

Is The Holy Grail in Rome? Unsolved Mysteries

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There is nothing sought after more than the Holy Grail (the name itself has become synonymous with something sacred and elusive).
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Through Arthurian legends, Knights Templar and Medieval folklore, this Holy Chalice inspired conspiracy theories and modern interpretations evident in films, novels and psychology.
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 But does the Holy Grail really exist?
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And if the Holy Grail does exist, where is it?
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Archaeologist Alfredo M.Barbagallo who heads an association called Arte e Mistero (Art and Mystery) believes the Holy Grail lies beneath the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, one of the seven pilgrim churches in Rome.
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According to Christian tradition, Pope Sixtus V reportedly entrusted the treasures of the early Church to Lorenzo, one of the seven deacons of Ancient Rome. Lorenzo was martyred four days later during the persecution of Emperor Valerian in 258 AD and the Grail was never seen again.
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San Lorenzo Basilica

San Lorenzo Basilica






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While other legends claim Lorenzo sent the Holy Grail to his parents in northern Aragon, Barbagallo insists the Grail never left Rome and it remained on the site of the saint’s tomb upon which Emperor Costantine built a shrine in 4th century, and a century later the main portion of the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura was built on the exact spot.

However, until the catacombs are authorized by Rome to be opened and examined, we will never know if Bargallo’s Holy Grail theory is correct.

 

For more photos of Basilica of San Lorenzo, visit our Flickr Photo Gallery.




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Do you have any unique church or Holy Grail stories to share? Share your stories in the comments box below. We’d love to hear from you!

Sharing is fun! If you found this article helpful, please pass it along to anyone who might benefit from it.

Thank you for reading this blog. We look forward to seeing you soon in Italy!

~The Stefano Rome Tours Team
 
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Discover Caravaggio on your Rome Shore Excursion!

.Caravaggio’s art directly inspired from reality reflects his life, grandiose and dramatic at the same time.




From Milan to Rome and from Sicily to Malta, Caravaggio went from artistic residences to various prisons during his adventurous life that tragically ended in 1610 at the young age of 39.

 

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Even if he lived a short life, this gifted artist started a revolutionary art, influencing the majority of European painters.

 

Caravaggio Painting at San Luigi dei Francesi Church

Caravaggio Painting at San Luigi dei Francesi Church

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Caravaggio’s masterpieces changed the history of painting giving the spectators the new role of eye witnesses who are engaged in the action occurring right in front of them. Standing in front of one of his paintings, one can feel alone in a crowded room surrounded only by the beauty of his art.

No other artist of the past has been able to communicate so intensively with its audience.


Even though writers of his time always struggled with praising his talent in light of his tainted past; today it’s hard to distinguish the two souls of this man and artist.





His tragic death was almost seen at the time as a divine punishment for a sinful life, but today it is just considered a mystery behind the life of one of the greatest artist in history.

He was an honest artist communicating through his art both artistic style and biography with no filters nor obstacles.

 

Caravaggio inside St Maria del Popolo Church

Caravaggio inside St Maria del Popolo Church

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Discover the masterpieces of Caravaggio that are scattered around Rome on a guided tour that will surprise you! From Santa Maria del Popolo Church and San Luigi  dei Francesi Church to Doria Pamphilj and Borghese Gallery you can retrace this artist’s fascinating life.


Stefano Rome Tours offers
shore excursions from Civitavecchia Port  to take you to the most important galleries and churches of Rome that proudly display her most treasured pieces.





Do you have a favorite artist whose art you admire? We’d love to hear from you in the comments box below.

Thank you for stopping by and reading our blog.

With love,

the Stefano Rome Tours team

 

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Christian Rome – Day tour in Rome

A visit to Rome would not be complete without a tour of some of the city’s best known Christian monuments and landmarks, which include the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Wall and of course the Vatican, home to St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

 

 

Our Christian Rome Tour available as a day tour from Rome or a shore excursion from Civitavecchia, will introduce you to the main points of interest that made Rome the centre of Christianity, and you will have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Saints, Popes, and ancient Romans who have contributed to what Rome is today.




Due to magnificent architecture, world famous paintings and sculptures, as well as remarkable frescoes, as all of these spiritually significant sites have a very important and interesting history and are part of Italy’s cultural heritage.

 

 

We start at the Circus Maximus, the enormous ancient Roman stadium at the foot of Palatine Hill where the chariot races took place (think Ben Hur).

 

From here, we continue to one of the four great basilicas of Rome, St. Paul Outside-the-Wall, which was built by Emperor Constantine and said to be located above the burial ground of Saint Paul.

 

 

Continuing along the Appian Way, the 2000-year old road that leads to Apulia and Brindisi and where Spartacus and his army were crucified, we will make our way to the ancient catacombs. It is here where the early Christians would bury their dead or hold church services out of sight from the public, due to a fear of persecution.

Before stopping off for some lunch we will continue the tour to Piazza Venezia and the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, which was dedicated to the first king of Italy.

After enjoying a delicious traditional Roman lunch it is now time to head towards the Vatican, noted as one of the world’s smallest states and more importantly home to the Pope and the Catholic Church.

You will be given the chance to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel with its amazing ceiling painted by Michelangelo. After viewing the masterpieces found in the Vatican, the tour will take us to the Pantheon, once the temple to all Roman gods, it remains one of the best preserved Roman buildings.

Just around the corner from here is our penultimate destination, the city’s largest Baroque fountain, the instantly recognisable Trevi Fountain, where visitors throw in a coin to be assured of a return visit to Rome.

Our tour finally ends at the Spanish Steps, where you can take a rest and enjoy a tasty Italian gelato before we set off back home.

Please don’t forget: To enter any of the churches in Rome, you will have to have your shoulders and knees covered, otherwise you will be refused entry!

Tour Highlights
Circus Maximus :: St. Paul Outside the Wall Church :: Appian Way :: Catacombs :: Vittorio Emanuele Monument :: Vatican Museum :: Sistine Chapel :: St. Peter’s Basilica
Pick up time: approximately 9.00am
Return time: approximately 5.00pm
Full tour details can be found here: http://www.stefanorometours.com/tours/christianrome/       




We look forward to seeing you in Rome!

with love,

the Stefano Rome Tours team