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Restoration of the Chapel of Theodotus


Plan view of the Church of Santa Maria Antiqua illustrating the position of Theodotus’ chapel The chapel is placed to the left of the presbytery and it is named after its commissioning client Thedotus, a high church official, indicated in the inscription accompanying his portrait as primicerius defensor and dispensator of the diaconate of Santa Maria Antiqua, in other words the first of the lawyers of the Curia and civil administrator of the diaconal institute. The paintings in the chapel, created during Zaccarias’ (741-752) papacy, are dedicated to the martyrdom of saints. These are the most legible and complete paintings belonging to this church and among the most significant episodes of pre-Carolingian Roman art. They occupy the lower register of the walls where, on top of a painted velum, a sequence of episodes describe the martyrdom of Quiricus and Julietta disposed within 8 frames next to which panels of iconic character are placed including the client by himself or with his family in front of images of the Virgin or the saints to whom the chapel is entitled. The southern wall is occupied, in the lower portion, by an ample panel with an enthroned Virgin with Child sided by Peter, Paul, Julietta, the little Quiricus, Theodotus and Pope Zaccarias, while on top of the altar, within a niche, the Crucifixion is painted.

On the walls there is a cohabitation of medieval paintings, the setting mortar for the Opus SectileDecoration composed of thin, polychrome marble slabs which form an inlay work belonging to the late Roman period and, on the highest portion and on the vault, white plaster with traces of red decoration probably belonging to the Domitian period.

Chapel of Thedotus. General view after restoration The paintings belonging to the southern wall were detached in 1947 and 1954, due to excessive humidity.

Within the present restoration task, the panel with the Virgin, the saints, Pope Zaccarias and Thedotus, preserved since its detachement , in the Forum’s Museum, has been put back in situ recreating the original pictorial sequence of Theodotus’ chapel.

The chapel was restored during the 2005-2008 period thanks to the funds donated by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation / World Monuments Fund European Preservation Program e dal World Monuments Fund ® Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Preserve Our Heritage