The Year 2016 has been exceptional for Rome: the oldest Christian Church in the Roman Forum known as Santa Maria Antiqua was re-opened after a long session of restaurations.
The Church is the evidence of the slight transformation of ancient roman buildings into religious spaces, archelogists suppose that this site located below the imperial residence, probably was the pretorians’ barrack, the elite guard in charge of the emperor’s safety, so it is possible to date it back to Emperor Caligula’s time I cent.a.D.
At the end of the the gothic wars, the byzantine installed its own governor in Rome, and the Palatine Palaces became his residence, no wonder if the greek Plato in the VII cent. became the curator of the imperial palaces and his son later on became Pope with the name of John VII; Pope John VII was responsible for the apse’s fresco in Santa Maria Antiqua: a Crucifixion scene with many biblical phrases, splendid angels and serafins.
In this unique complex there are 250 sqm of stratificated frescoes evidence of the byzantine’s influence in the Italian art; in this specific site the structure is the protype of the slight transition process that brought the ancient roman forum to change function in the early middle-ages, and brought the christian churches increasing their vicinity to the compressed city center.
The artistic and historical importance is related to the very first representation in the western world of Mother Mary in throne, a fresco that is a rare witness of the byzantine art during the period of the iconoclastic crisis 726 a.D. a crisis that caused the wild destruction of sacred images in the eastern world.
During the devasting earthquake of 847 a.D. the precious Basilica remained as sealed by the collapses of the surrounding constructions, and it has been unearthed by Giacomo Boni in 1900.
The site can be considered a time machine, taking back the visitors to times when over the ruins of an ancient glorious city as Rome was, a new capital was raising from its own ashes!