Basilica, Pompeii

Basilica, Pompeii

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A raised loggia at the western end of the building was most likely the site of the tribunal. Archaeologists believe it was preceded by wooden stairs. Two small rooms under the loggia might have been used as the temporary prison. Lawyers without customers, teachers without pupils, artists without commissions and other jobless citizens spent their days at the basilica hoping to find a way to make some money. Some of them, perhaps during a particularly idle day, wrote graffiti on the walls complaining they were not invited to dinner by anyone or that Venus did not help them in courting a woman, notwithstanding the offers they had made to the goddess.

Basilica, Pompeii - History

Architecturally, a basilica typically had a rectangular base that was split into aisles by columns and covered by a roof. Main features were named when the church adopted the basilical structure. The immense central aisle came to be called the nave. Side aisles were divided by colonnades (rows of evenly spaced columns). The apse is a recess or projection where the magistrate was seated or where a statue of the emperor was placed. Windows above the central aisle allowed light to penetrate inside the structure became known as clerestory windows.

Scholars disagree over the location and date of the first basilica. Early basilicas and approximate dates are the Basilic Porcia in Rome (184 BCE), Basilica Aemilia in the Roman Forum (179 BCE), and the basilica in Pompeii (second half of the second century BCE).

This short presentation took place in the Roman Forum at the site of Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine. Even after researching the immensity of the basilica previous to visiting the site, I was astounded and excited by the immensity of the stone fragments. Crossing the threshold to the site gave the visitor an idea of what a fabulous, huge building it once was. This basilica once provided a reprieve from the outside world by blocking out street noises and cooling the visitor with its shade. The construction of this basilica was begun by Maxentius in 308 CE. After Constantine defeated Maxentius in 312 CE, Constantine finished construction. The central nave measured 80x25 meters and was covered by three groin vaults of 35 m. Eight Corinthian columns of 14.5 meters supported the structure. Of the original building, three vaults of the north aisle remain. The vaults of the south and central nave collapsed in an earthquake in 847 CE. However, the floor plan remains clearly visible giving a vivid impression of its immense grandeur. The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine is atypical due to its similarities with the architecture of Roman baths most basilicas have flat ceilings.

Part of the reason a date for the earliest basilica is not agreed upon is that it is likely that Romans encountered the basilica in the Greek context and adopted it because it was so well suited for their legislative and commercial needs (Sear). On example of a Greek structure similar in layout was built by Vitruvius. The Greek background to Etruscan art also helps explain Rome’s acceptance of Greek art and architecture.

Vitruvius’ "De architectura" is the only surviving ancient treatise on architecture, likely written between 28 and 23 BCE. In it Vitruvius outlines six fundamental principles of architecture, of which two primary ones are symmetry and eurthymia. Eurythmia is broken down into "eu", good, and "rythmos", shape. Eurythmia means gracefulness that leads to visual harmony. Typically symmetry and eurythmia go hand in hand, but Vitruvius’ states that modifications to the symmetry of a work may be made in order to attain greater eurythmia. Symmetry is broken down into the roots "sym", meaning coming together and "metron", meaning measure. While today we may think of symmetry as an object with mirror images on either side of an axis, the Greek concept of symmetry was based on the proper agreement between members of the work itself. Symmetry, according to Vitruvius, is measurable, absolute, and reproducible. This is a reflection of ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who thought that measure and proportion in form will lead to beauty. Symmetry is thus one of the most deeply rooted and continuous features of Greco-Roman thought, philosophically, artistically and aesthetically.

Similarly, according to Vitruvius, the composition of the human body is such that well-shaped man has a precise relation between its members. (Rowland, 47) The most beautiful bodies were expected to be those that fall into certain measurements, proportions, and ratios. As anybody who has pulled a one Euro coin out of their pocket knows, the Vitruvian man is everywhere. The Vitruvian man is the human body inscribed perfectly in a circle to point out the correct proportions. Correct measurements are listed in Vitruvius’ drawing. Thus analysis of the symmetry of the human body correlates to the building of massive meeting halls based on similar rules of proportion.

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Unexploded WW2 Bombs Beneath The Ruins of Pompeii

Pompeii was an important part of the Roman Empire, a key city that was struck by molten lava when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., blanketing the buildings and citizens and essentially “freezing” them where they stood.

Although at the time the disaster brought the city to a halt, today Pompeii is a bustling, lively tourist destination teeming with history buffs and amateur archaeologists.

Everyone from school children to seniors’ groups traipse carefully across the site’s cobblestones, while well-informed guides explain how and why Pompeii fell prey to the volcano.

Ancient ruins in Pompeii

Well-over three million people travel to Pompeii each year, anxious to learn all about the vagaries of Mother Nature, and how she inflicted on Pompeii a hot rage that buried the city instantly. It brings in vast sums of money to the Italian government, which in turn ensures that the site remains in good condition, and a prized World Heritage destination.

Unfortunately, Pompeii was also a target for a different kind of disaster, one that was entirely man made. In the 20 th century, this city south of Naples became vulnerable to Allied bombs during World War II, when Italy’s leader, Benito Mussolini, was aligned with Germany’s Adolf Hitler.

It was vulnerable and exposed, and Pompeii had 165 bombs dropped on it by the British and Americans. Now, archaeologists are recommending that Pompeii be carefully scanned for leftover, unexploded bombs – as many as 10, according to some experts – that put the precious historical site in peril.

WW2 bomb found in the Rhine near Koblenz. Holger Weinandt CC BY-SA 3.0 de

It was during the summer of 1943 that concentrated bombing of Pompeii occurred, but in the years following the war, much was done to identify, diffuse and remove bombs that remained at the site.

But Alessandro Pintucci, president of Italy’s Confederation of Archaeologists, believes more needs to be done. In an interview with Il Fatto Quotidiano, a daily newspaper in Italy, he said that he thinks the site is facing significant risk. “This is an occasion to acknowledge the spirit of Pompeii, and its valuable heritage,” he told the paper.

“While protection of the site is conducted on a daily basis for any damage caused by tourist traffic or the passage of time, we need to broaden our scope.”

The “occasion” to which Mr. Pintucci refers is a new stage of excavation, the most advanced excavation since the 1950s, known as: The Great Pompeii Project. Italy and the European Union are paying for the new dig, and items such as mosaics and frescoes never before seen are being discovered.

Osanna, director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, said in a recent interview with The Telegraph that he fully concurs with Mr. Pintucci. But he pointed out that extreme care is taken wherever, and whenever, digs occur.

Ancient ruins of basilica, Pompeii.

“Under the law,” Osanna explained, “before any excavations can be carried out, we must work with military engineers to clear the site. A bomb went off 30 years ago, but that is impossible now under the regulations.”

Still, Osanna agreed it is also impossible to say with absolute certainty where all the bombs lay. But he stressed that every precaution is taken before a shovel even goes into the ground anywhere near the city.

“Two years ago,” he said to The Telegraph, “we spent two months actively monitoring and clearing Zone 5, where The Great Pompeii Project is taking place.” Osanna admitted, however, that no one can be 100 per certain they’ve all been found, and would be delighted to have the help of the British Royal Air Force (RAF), as they could help identify where bombs were dropped.

“There could be unexploded bombs beneath the soil in the area that has not (yet) been excavated,” Osanna acknowledged. “The total number is hypothetical.”

Yet, the archaeologist was quick to add, there is no risk whatsoever to the tourists, workers and diggers who flock to the site each day. Those folks can, and should, continue to enjoy the beauty of Pompeii, marvel at its history, and learn about the events that took place all those centuries ago.

And soon, thanks to The Great Pompeii Project, there will be new and exciting aspects to the site, all worth exploring at one of world’s most prized historical destinations.

Description of the Basilica (Reg VIII, Ins 1, 2)

The building reflects some of the structural conventions later codified by Vitruvius in De Architectura (known today as The Ten Books on Architecture), specifically Book V, chapter I - 'The Forum and Basilica',

However, it differs in the proportions and in the fact that the main entrance (A) is on the short side overlooking the Forum, instead of on the more normal long side as a result the tribunal (D) (the raised area on which the magistrates were seated) is on the short back wall, on an axis with the entrance. The entrance has five doorways (pictured upper left), one at either side of the portico and one between each pair of columns.

In addition to the main entrance, the basilica also has two side entrances (E) and (F), on the Via Marina and the Vicolo di Chanpionnet respectively.

At the west end the tribunal is flanked by symetrical exedral rooms. The raised tribunal is fronted by six Corinthian columns (opposite) with an engaged order on the rear wall. Above the tribunal was an upper order of engaged columns framing rectangular windows.

The Basilica played an important role in both civil and commercial life of Pompeii. Not only was justice administered here, but it was also the focus of the commercial life of the city.

The Basilica stands near the west corner of the Forum and is the oldest and most important public building in Pompeii. Measuring 24 x 65 metres, it was built between 120 and 78 B.C. and is the best example in Pompeii of pre-Roman architecture.

The interior has a central nave (B) and two side isles (C) the nave is bordered on four sides by twenty-eight large brick built columns while a row of Ionic half columns about half the height of the central order is engaged into the side walls. Above these are signs of the lower part of an engaged upper order. Between the columns the side walls are covered with stucco formed into panels characteristic of the first style.

Many fragments of free standing Corinthian columns of the same diameter as the upper order in the side walls were found near the north wall. Exactly what the elevation of the basilica looked like is still open to debate, but these fragments led to a reconstruction by Ohr in his book Die Basilika in Pompeji in which the upper order columns are engaged into a masonry balustrade for half their height and above that are freestanding. Thus the building would have been lit by the spaces between the columns as shown in the elevation top right. There are precedents for this arrangement for example the columns which run round the upper part of the atrium in the Samnite House in Herculaneum.

One building or two? A building was partially discovered in 1739 by Alcubierre. Described as a ‘temple’, it had semi-circular niches containing the well known frescoes of Thereus, Telephus, Chiron and Achilles and others. In Cochin and Bellicard’s book 1954 is a description of a building containing the frescoes and two equestrian statues. Cochin’s plan of the building, shown opposite, notes the location of the finds. Variously described as a temple, a basilica, and a forum, the building measured 68m by 40m and was placed on the north side of the Decumanus Maximus.

If this building, the source of these well known frescoes and equestrian statues, and the Basilica Noniana are one and the same, some obvious anomalies arise:

a) The location – on opposite sides of the Decumanus Maximus, this difference could be explained by the difficulty in locating the building due to the many twists and turns in the access tunnels.

b) The size – Cochin measured the building as 68m by 40m (larger, by the way than the Basilica in Pompeii) while the Basilica Noniana is less than half the size. Could Cochin’s measurements by out by a factor of two?

c) The orientation – Cochin placed the main entrance on the souhtwest side of the building, whereas the entrance to the Basilica Noniana is plainly on its northeast side, off the Decumanus Maximus.

Graffiti in the Basilica at Pompeii - Collection

Please use the contact information below to request access to this data.

Contact Information


Researchers interested in obtaining access to materials in the collection should contact [email protected] at Macquarie University

Brief description

The collection was produced as part of the project "Graffiti under the Caesars".

That project sought to uncover the lives of ordinary men and women, their thought processes, cultural relations and how they understood their world in terms of the Latin language by studying the surviving graffiti from the Basilica at Pompeii.

The collection consists of:

· 296 digital photographs covering all 191 graffiti from the Basilica at Pompeii the photographs were taken at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples.

· tables presenting indexes by typologies, specific locations, and possible identities of those inscribing graffiti and

· annotations relating to connecting graffitii found in the Basilica with those found in other places in Pompeii.

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      Pompeii - Fuggitivi Gardens

      Herculaneum - Casa del Tramezzo di Legno (House of the Wooden Partition)

      Herculaneum - House of Neptune

      Herculaneum - House of Neptune - Photo by Mentnafunangann

      Torre Annunziata - Villa Poppaea - Exterior - Photo by Amadalvarez

      Torre Annunziata - Villa Poppaea - Photo by MatthiasKabel

      Torre Annunziata - Villa Poppaea - Photo by MatthiasKabel

      Torre Annunziata - Villa Poppaea - Photo by Amadalvarez

      The archaeological areas of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata (just a stone's throw from Naples) make up one of Italy’s 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

      The ruins of the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79, but they still offer an unparalleled window into the quotidian life of classical antiquity.

      The cities, both of Oscan origin, were dominated by several different populations after the Social War (91-88 B.C.), Pompeii was elevated to the rank of colony, with the name Cornelia Venera Pompeiana, while Herculaneum was demoted to municipium. In 62 A.D. Pompei was partially destroyed by an earthquake, and as its reconstruction was still ongoing, on August 24, 79 A.D. the eruption of Vesuvius covered the city and its suburban villas with a thick layer of stones, ashes and lapilli (thick, glassy lava). Herculaneum, on the other hand, disappeared beneath a flood of volcanic mud.

      Since the discovery of the two buried cities in the 18th Century, scholars have excavated countless ruins that bear witness to the cities' architectural importance.

      From Pompeii the main forum and public buildings – such as the Capitolium, a temple dedicated to the divine triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva the Basilica or tribunal court and the public baths, comprised of the triangular forum with two theatres (the larger of Greek origin but modeled on Roman tastes). Other public buildings of note here include the well-preserved Stabian Baths.

      Due to its healthy climate and pleasant scenery, Pompeii was a holiday resort for rich Romans. It is now famous for its civic buildings lining the streets that are still intact today. Some of these include the Surgeon’s House, as well as those of the Faun and the Chaste Lovers, which are exceptional examples of the epoch’s architecture. Another remarkable construction is the House of Mysteries, which derives its name from the murals depicting the initiation rites (i.e., the mysteries) of the Dionysian cult. A peculiar characteristic of Pompeii is the florid graffiti covering the walls in just about every building this is because when the volcanic eruption happened, Pompeii was set to carry out elections in the days ahead – hence the writings and ideograms, which feature both political and sexual content.

      Legend has it that Hercules founded Herculaneum, but in reality we know very little about this buried city (even if, ironically, its buildings are the best-preserved). The Baths, along with the College of the Priests of Augustus and a theatre are all almost completely intact. Also extant are the House of the Bicentenary and the House of Stags, which contain ample courtyards and are rich in decoration. Herculaneum was a thriving commercial zone, and various jars and containers filled with foodstuffs resisted the destruction and subsequent burial from the eruption.

      The suburban community of Oplontis (today’s Torre Annunziata), suffered the same fate as the nearby cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Known as a vacation resort for its saltmines and thermal complexes, the so-called Villas of Poppaea and of Lucius Crassius Terzius are also located here.

      Throughout Herculaneum, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997, one can view rare and beautiful sculptures, mosaics and mural paintings.

      Useful Information

      Region: Campania
      Province: Naples

      November 1 to March 31: 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM (last entrance at 3:30 PM) April 1 - October 31: 8:30 AM - 7:30 PM (lat entrance at 6 PM). Closed May 1.

      Single, Validity 1 Day - Full Price: 11 Euro - Reduced Price: 5.50 Euro
      Access to 5 sites (Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, Stabiae, Boscoreale) - Validity 3 Days - Full Price: 20 Euro - Reduced Price: 10 Euro

      Traveling to the Basilica of Our Lady of Pompei:

      The Basilica stands out notably in the center of town and can be reached by train car, bus or taxi from Naples. Get train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here.

      And Pompeii itself is a popular port of call on many cruises as well as secular tours.

      Address: Piazza Bartolo Longo, 1, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy

      GPS coordinates: 40° 44′ 59.2548” N, 14° 30′ 2.4624” E

      Tel: (+39) 081 857 7111 (+39) 081 857 7258

      Click here for the official website of Our Lady of Pompeii in Naples (in Italian…use Google translate).

      ⇐ Back to Catholic shrines & places of interest in Italy

      1. Daniel M. Madden, A Religious Guide to Europe, Collier Books, 1975.
      2. Pasquale Mocerino, The Blessed Bartolo Longo, Editions of the Shrine of Pompeii, printed 2006.
      3. Photos courtesy Wikimedia and Our Lady of Pompeii Shrine

      Honoring Our Lady of the Rosary in the Basilica

      The Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel features a relief of Mary and the Child Jesus surrounded by 15 flames, representing fifteen decades of the Rosary

      Every October, we honor Our Lady of the Rosary, celebrating her Feast on October 7. This celebration was first instituted by Saint Pius V in 1573, following the extraordinary victory of the Christian naval fleet over the Turks at Lepanto. Tradition holds that the victory was achieved almost effortlessly in spite of the fact that the opposing fleet was nearly three times their size – a miracle which the faithful attribute to the soldiers’ fervent prayer of the Rosary. Now, nearly 450 years later, we continue the tradition of the Rosary, entrusting ourselves to the loving care and protection of the Blessed Mother.

      In praying the Rosary, we reflect upon the mysteries of our salvation through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ. At the Basilica, we honor Mary as Our Lady of the Rosary in a variety of settings – the Rosary Walk and Garden , the Our Lady of Fatima Oratory , the Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel , and the Our Lady of Pompei Chapel .

      Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel

      The Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel is located on the Upper Level of the Basilica, memorializing the popular tradition that the Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Dominic during the 13th century and bestowed on him the devotion of the Rosary. The chapel itself is a gift of the Dominican Order.

      The Blessed Mother portrayed in the Oratory of Our Lady of Fatima

      Meditating on the role of the Blessed Mother under her title Our Lady of the Rosary, let us pray:

      O God whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has won for us the rewards of eternal salvation grant, we pray, that we who meditate on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

      Our Lady of Fatima Oratory

      The Our Lady of Fatima Oratory is named for the town of Fatima, Portugal, where Mary appeared in a series of visions to three shepherd children, imparting prophetic insight and asking them to pray the Rosary.

      The oratory includes this prayer to Our Lady of Fatima. Let us request the supplication of Our Lady, who offers us continual guidance:

      Most Holy Virgin who hast deigned to come to Fatima, to reveal the treasures of graces hidden in the recitation of the Rosary, inspire our hearts with a sincere love of this devotion, that meditating on the Mysteries of our Redemption recalled therein, we may obtain the conversion of sinners, the conversion of Russia, and the favors we ask now for the greater glory of God for your own honor, and for the good of all souls. Amen

      Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, pray for us!

      Our Lady of Pompei Chapel

      Dedicated in 2008, this chapel includes the five mosaics of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary and a Crucifix blessed by Pope Benedict XVI. The connection of the Rosary with Pompei dates back to the late 1800s, when Mary appeared to an Italian named Bartolo Longo and instructed him to promulgate the Rosary. Bartolo led an effort to build a Marian Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary in Campania – a town not far from the ruins of Pompeii. The great tragedy of that site reminds us of the faithful protection of the Blessed Mother to those who seek her help in times of trouble, as this prayer in the chapel reads:

      Remember, O most gracious Virgin of the Rosary of Pompei, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession through the Rosary was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you, O Mother of Mercy, Virgin of virgins, powerful queen of Victories. To you I come, before you I stand: I implore compassion, I seek grace. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but through your most holy Rosary, graciously hear and answer me.

      Watch the video: Pompeii Basilica (May 2022).