Santa Maria Antiqua: a pearl of art rediscovered in Rome

After thirty years of careful architectural renovations, the church of Santa Maria Antiqua – built in the 6th century inside the Roman Forum – re-opened to the public last March.

One of the oldest churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome, it is an extraordinary example of Roman painting and Greek-Byzantine art from the Early Middle Ages.

The church was created during the Byzantine Age inside a structure originally meant to house Pretorian Guards under Domitian (second half of the 1st century AD), and showcases splendid frescoes from the period between the 6th and 9th centuries.

These works of art were always crucial in studying Byzantine painting, since almost all examples in the Orient were completely destroyed during the iconoclast madness unleashed in the 8th century.

Now the church will be featured in an exhibition until September 11th 2016, titled “Santa Maria Antiqua between Rome and Byzantium”.

For the occasion, the icon of the Madonna with Child has been returned from the Basilica of Santa Francesca Romana where it had been since 847, after an earthquake led to Santa Maria Antiqua’s abandonment.

According to some critics, this “imago antiqua” of Mary and Jesus dates back to the time when the church was built, making it the oldest icon of Mary in Rome.

For the occasion, a selection of 8th-century mosaics commissioned by Pope John VII (705-707) to decorate an oratory in the original Basilica of Saint Peter, will be showcased.

And so Rome adds another beautiful pearl to the very long “necklace” of beauty and art that the entire world envies her.

©Angelo Rubino/Mibact/Iscr, ©Agenzia Dire

April 25, 2016

Santa Maria Antiqua: a pearl of art rediscovered in Rome

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