An Early Christian Church May Have Been Uncovered in Rome

Some of the finds from the excavated building, which because of its size, decorations and location archaeologists speculate is a church. (Archaeological Superintendency of Rome)
Some of the finds from the excavated building, which because of its size, decorations and location archaeologists speculate is a church. (Archaeological Superintendency of Rome)

Construction projects in Rome often unearth incredible artifacts from the city’s rich history. Work on a new subway line, for instance, has led to the discovery of ancient army barracks, the remains of imperial homes and centuries-old peach pits imported from Persia. So it is not entirely surprising that electrical technicians laying cables near the Tiber River recently found the remains of a luxurious building, which, as the Local Italy reports, may be one of the earliest churches in Rome.

The ruins were discovered close to the Ponte Milvio, a bridge that crosses the Tiber in the northern part of the city. According to La Repubblica, the site consists of four rooms dating from the first and fourth centuries A.D.

Part of the complex seems to have been used as a warehouse. But one of the structures clearly had a more special purpose. As Nick Squires writes in the Telegraph, it was made of “brick walls and exquisitely rendered floors made of red, green and honey-colored marble from Sparta, Egypt and what is now Tunisia.”

The function of this structure is not entirely clear; Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency called it “an archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” according to the Local. The building may have been an ornate Roman villa. But experts think it could have also been a church. After excavating the surrounding area, archaeologists discovered a small cemetery and several tombs, including one that still held the remains of a Roman man. The find leads archaeologists to believe that the site may have been a Christian holy place since, as Emily Petsko points out in Mental Floss, churches are often attached to mausoleums.

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SOURCE: Brigit Katz
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