Welcome to the Santa Maria Antiqua Website
Founded in the mid VI century A.D. on the north-western slope of the Palatine Hill, Santa Maria Antiqua is the earliest and most important Christian monument within the Roman Forum. It is a good example of an early Christian sanctuary built into the remains of a pre-existing pagan building, thus representing a key element for the understanding of the cultural and urban development of the Roman Forum from Antiquity into the first centuries of the Christian era.
Santa Maria Antiqua is one of the most important examples of a functional conversion of a pre-existing pagan building. The church contains a unique collection of wall paintings spanning a period (6th - late 8th century) that is unequalled in Rome and elsewhere; they are of utmost importance for an understanding of the development of early medieval and Byzantine art. In fact, in the territory of the former Byzantine Empire, most paintings were destroyed during the IconoclasmDoctrine and movement against the cult of images, which developed in the Eastern church in the 8th century. As a consequence, a huge part of the heritage of Christian art was destroyed in the 8th century.
The church was abandoned in the 9th century and remained "sealed" for more than 1000 years until its rediscovery in 1900. Due to its peculiar history, this monument now offers a unique opportunity to trace the original architectural layout and to savour the atmosphere of simplicity in a church belonging to the first centuries of the Christian era.