Santa Maria Antiqua Church: Medieval Sistine Chapel

Buon giorno and welcome to Stefano’s RomeCabs Transfer and Tour blog.

The Roman Forum has just gotten more interesting in year 2016 from March 17 to September 11 with the opening of the much anticipated Santa Maria Antiqua Church (Ancient Church of Saint Mary).  

For a limited time, you can visit this amazingly unique 6th century church that is one of the earliest surviving ancient Byzantine churches in Rome.

Santa Maria Antiqua Church: Medieval Sistine Chapel



Just behind the Temple of Castor and Pollux at the foothill of Palatine Hill you will discover what appears to be ancient ruins of imposing Roman structures. Inside one of these structures is the ancient church as it was built within an Roman structure.

This makes this church even more amazing: it was a Christian sanctuary converted from a 1st century Roman structure built by Emperor Domitian.

This ancient structure, still partially intact, was an imperial ramp that connected the palaces on Palatine hill with the Roman Forum below. Eventually a guard house was built to guard the entrance of the ramp. Shortly after, the guard house was converted into a church in in 565 AD that became Santa Maria Antiqua


Santa Maria Antiqua Church

Santa Maria Antiqua Church


For nearly 3 centuries the church was decorated with Byzantine frescoes and mosaics several layers deep.


Santa Maria Antiqua Chapel of Theodotus

Santa Maria Antiqua Chapel of Theodotus


Disaster struck in the 9th century when an earthquake caused a portion of the Palatine Hill to crumble and bury the church in rubble, sealing it for 1,000 years.

The disaster was also a blessing since it preserved the church’s original style and works of art during the time of the Iconoclasm when a large number of Christian iconography were destroyed. Because the church was buried, it kept it unchanged until it was rediscovered in early 1900.


santa Maria Antiqua Mosacis

Byzantine Mosaics inside Santa Maria Antiqua Church


Although heavily damaged by the earthquake and time, decades of painstaking repairs produced a remarkably restored sanctuary with stunning and vibrant ancient biblical frescoes depicting the Virgin Mary, infant Jesus, saints and martyrs.

The remarkable works of art that covered the walls of the chapels have contributed to Santa Maria Antiqua to be referred to as the Medieval Sistine Chapel.

For complete article and information on Santa Maria Antiqua church, and how to visit this impressive sanctuary, please continue on to our main company Blog and click on the title below:



If you are interested in visiting Santa Maria Antiqua on any of our day tours in Rome, please visit our website at where you will find a wide variety of Day Tours Around Italy and Shore Excursions from Civitavecchia

Thank you for choosing Stefano’s RomeCabs. We look forward to showing you Rome!

The RomeCabs Team


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For fabulous views of the Roman Forum from the top of Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, enjoy our FLICKR PHOTO GALLERY:

Views from Vittorio Emanuele II Monument



Cruise Critic

Fodor’s Forum


Thank you very much for choosing Stefano’s RomeCabs! We look forward to welcome you to Rome!

Stefano’s RomeCabs




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