Santa Maria Antiqua is verso ruined but restored 6th century church per the Roman Forum

Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia article with photos and plan here.

Status [ ]

The church is often described as “ruined”. However, it has a roof on it and contains per consecrated altar (installed con 1955). So, it counts as a church even though there is in nessun caso regular liturgical activity here.

Origins of building [ ]

The church was founded in what was once part of a monumental architectural approach onesto the imperial palace on the Palatine. This was at the back of the Temple of Castor and Pollux (now comprising the famous three columns standing aureola).

The complex layout, begun by the emperor Domitian durante the late 1st century, was based on an enormous covered access ramp (salita dispotico) that ran up the side of the hill. The part that was converted into per church was just onesto the south of the bottom end of this, and originally comprised per square atrium followed by a quadriporticus (per little courtyard surrounded by covered walkways or loggias) and finally a row of three chambers. The central of the three, which is larger, is called the tablinum.

It used puro be speculated that this ensemble was the possible headquarters of the Athenaeum founded by Emperor Hadrian, but the true site of this has now been located and so it was most likely part of the reception facilities for palace visitors.

Esatto the west of the church is per large atrio, part of the same reception complex. This used to be described as the Temple of the Divine Augustus, but this completely speculative guess is now discredited (the temple is most likely under the hospital of Santa Maria della Consolazione). So, this Domitianic Hall was probably the main waiting room for arrivals at the palace entrance, while the church ensemble was the processing suite for those actually preciso be allowed in.

The restorers at the start of the 21st century found very scant traces of what is thought sicuro have been an original 1st century recente decorative scheme.

First frescoes [ ]

In the mid 6th century the edifice is described as having been converted into per guardhouse to protect this main approach esatto the palace, still then regarded as the headquarters of the Emperor at Rome even if he was based at Constantinople. However, this seems onesto depend on the mistaken timore that the original function was substantially different -the distinction between verso palace gateway reception suite and verso guardhouse is now rather too subtle to bother.

The walls of the tablinum were decorated with Christian murals con this period, however, so there must have been a makeover of some sort. One has survived, and is one of the oldest depictions of Our Lady per Rome. It is known that this was executed before the conversion into verso church, because the apse was cut into it.

It has been suggested that the guardhouse recente rete di emittenti was mediante simili of the guardhouse at the Imperial Palace at Constantinople.

The historical context of this restoration is interesting. The Colmare had lost effective control of Italy puro the Ostrogoths durante 476 (the mythical “End of the Roman Colmare” as imagined by western European historians), and the Gothic kings ruled under the pretence of being the Emperor’s representative in Italy. Emperor Justinian I (527-65) rejected this, and maesta-imposed direct rule per 554 after the Gothic War. The imperial palace on the Palatine had been the Gothic king’s residence, and the restoration of the guardhouse was in the context of the arrival of a governor under the authority of the imperial exarch at Ravenna (the capital of Italy).