At last a book providing a comprehensive study of the church of Santa Maria Antiqua in Rome, the complex that was once the heart of the Christian Forum. Over the years, it has been widely studied, excavated and restored with the aim of recreating the authentic appearance of the buildings and paintings in a true temple of early-mediaeval art.
This compendium of authoritative works describes the topographical context from a chronological point of view (the Imperial Roman stratifications below the church, the transformations of the Middle Ages and modern times, the demolition of Santa Maria Liberatrice and the restoration work) with particular emphasis on the architecture and the murals in various parts of the complex (the church, the chapel of St Quiricus and St Julietta, the chapel of Theodotus, the oratory of the Forty Martyrs). These have been brought alive in an extraordinary and up-to-date series of illustrations, photographed specially, together with 3D renderings, complete digital reconstructions of the decoration of the church. The exhibition is the brainchild of one of Italy’s foremost mediaeval art experts, Maria Andaloro. It probes deeply into areas of the historical and cultural background: portraits dating from the 5th and 6th centuries, work done under Pope John VII in the oratory of St Peter and its marvellous and hitherto scattered mosaics, reunited here for the first time, as too the fresco fragments from the church, now in private collections, and the sublimely beautiful icon of Santa Maria Nova. The book contains a catalogue of the artworks in the church, such as the pagan and Christian sarcophagi and the hitherto unpublished material found during the excavations conducted by Giacomo Boni. There is an interesting description of the fortunes of Santa Maria Antiqua over the centuries, with documentation about the paintings executed here from the 18th century onwards, and fascinating accounts by travellers and artists who visited the church in the 20th century.