Santa Maria Antiqua

17 Mar 2016 – 19 Mar 2017

Having been closed for more than 30 years and undergone major restoration, the Basilica of Santa Maria Antiqua, the church discovered in the early 20th century in the Roman Forum on the slopes of the Palatine Hill, is being re-opened to the public. An outstanding immersive exhibition documents the difficult restoration works using the latest in hi-tech.

Work on the building itself was followed by the restoration of the wall paintings, which document the extraordinary history of the monument. Santa Maria Antiqua has a collection of paintings that is unique in the Christian world of the first millennium. The paintings date from the 6th to 9th centuries, executed prior to the church’s partial destruction and subsequent abandonment in an earthquake in 847.

In this case, the monument itself is on display, since it is a unique example of the development of Roman painting and of the early-mediaeval Greek-Byzantine world as a whole, given that the advent of the Iconoclasts erased many of the sacred images from that period.

The complex stratification of the paintings has been made more comprehensible through the use of digital technology. Video mapping, which was used for the first time in the Roman Forum, made it possible to reconstruct the missing parts of the paintings that decorated the two chapels on either side of the presbytery, while light mapping was used to identify the six layers of paintings dating from the 4th-5th to 8th centuries A.D. The large fresco fragment near the apse decorating the so-called Palimpsest Wall is regarded as a true milestone in the history of mediaeval painting.

A monument that has been given a new lease on life to tell the unique tale of its own story.

Start date
Thursday 17 March 2016

End date
Sunday 19 March 2017

Santa Maria Antiqua al Foro Romano,
00186 Roma
go to site


Curated by
Maria Andaloro, Giulia Bordi, Giuseppe Morganti

Promoted by
Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo e l’area archeologica centrale