There are things in Rome that are so hidden which is very difficult to know their history. Moreover there are masterpieces that could seem common inside a church or a huge and luxurious palace. Finally, there are also some mosaics belonged to a very ancient period which was discovered less than one century ago. A mosaic that counts the history of Rome. And in order to see it, we should go to the unknown church of Santa Balbina.
This sacred place is set in the Aventine Hill, next to the majestic remains of the Caracalla’s Baths.
From its main door we could observe the greatness of Rome, but we should focus themselves also in this little but old church. In fact, it took its origins from the V century AD, when a “titulus” was formed.
A “titulus” was the first unofficial church in Rome, and it was organized by Romans who were very close to the new Christian religion, which started to spread out in the city from the I century AD, after the Jesus Christ’s death.
These Romans wanted to give a refuge and a place for the pray to all the Christians who were under persecutions. Over the centuries the church of Santa Balbina got bigger and it was restored and embellished during the IX and mainly in the XIII century. For this reason, today it is one of the most curious and beautiful example of the Romanesque art, an artistic style that developped so much in Rome and making it finer than before.
The Church of Santa Balbina hosts many works of art, as for example the gorgeous episcopal pulpit, set in the apse, which is decorated with fine and coloured marble pieces. The red and the green of the little marble pieces make it one of the best example of the Cosmati art, a family of craftsmen who worked so much in Rome during the XIII century. They became the symbol of the Romanesque style and we could find their work all over in Rome! But then inside the church we could see an ancient marble tomb dates back to the XIII century which embellished the old St Peter’s Basilica. Moreover, along the sides of the nave there are a black and white mosaics. They are decorated with naturalistic reliefs and drawings, but what is special is their history: in fact, they are dating from the I-II century AD, and they were discovered during the excavations occured at the beginning of the XX century in the area of the Roman Forum, the real political and civil heart of Rome.
Why are they so special? Just because they still exist. In order to restore and conserve them, they were moved in this little and unknown church, where they still live for our eyes and our memory. Many archeological pieces and ancient remains were destroyed during the excavations of the Roman Forum, when Mussolini desired to rebirth the memory of the powerful Roman Empire, in order to create a relationship with his Rome and Italy. But probably he didn’t care about the real memories, that proofs of a civilization which managed to rule quite the entire known world. And that well preserved mosaics, in the little church of Santa Balbina, remember us how was huge the roman heritage.