Beauty upon beauty, in the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in Aquileia
Although it was founded around the 11th century, the Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in Aquileia has much more ancient roots. Its origins may be traced back to 313 AD, when bishop Theodore had a structure built for Christians to practice their faith in the important city, now part of the province of Udine.
That was the year Constantine I and Licinius – the heads of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire – passed the Edict of Milan, finally granting their people the right to publicly worship any divinity they believed in. They had, in other words, established religious liberty throughout the Empire.
The current building – officially completed in 1031 when the 73-meter-tall bell tower was erected – is the result of many layers built over the years. It includes rooms decorated with 4th-century mosaics and later incorporated into new additions, next to further expansions such as the crypt, transept, and portico – which were started under Patriarch Maxentius in the 9th century, along with the so-called “Pagans’ Church” (which welcomed the catechumens).
The layering of different projects went on for centuries, until the 1500s, and has left a beautiful, composite church for us to enjoy and explore today.