Brixia: Roman Brescia Archaeological Area

Fondazione Brescia Musei

Travel back in time in northern Italy’s largest urban archaeological zone

Brixia: Roman Brescia Archaeological Area
In the heart of the town’s historic centre the well-preserved remains of some of Roman Brixia’s principal monuments still survive. This is one of the most spectacular and extensive archaeological zones in the north of Italy, where visitors may enter a series of buildings dating from the 1st century BC to the 3rd AD and experience directly their architecture and lavish decoration: mosaics, marble flooring, wall paintings and relief carvings.
The area was reopened to the public in 2015, after years of archaeological excavations, conservation work and development to make it completely accessible. The area is equipped with modern communication systems, including Virtual and Augmented Reality which allows visitors to immerse themselves in the life and history of the Roman city.

The monumental remains of ancient Brixia illustrates a series of historical events and architectural transformations, from prehistoric times until the Middle Ages.

The Republican temple
The oldest building, which still survives in part, is an early 1st century BC temple composed of four cult chambers, each of which opened onto a wide podium. Of thes, the westernmost is extremely well-preserved.

Temple portico with ornamentation on the external face: relief friezes, capitals and an inscription.

The 4th chamber of the Republican temple
Even today the temple’s splendid frescoes present a remarkable sight. The wall decoration, a rare example of the ‘early second style’ (100-80 BC), features architectural elements and painting in a close-knit combination: a modular arrangement of imitation decorative-stone panels, with periodic attached Ionic half-columns bearing Ionic-Italic capitals.

Virtual reconstruction of the western chamber, with side aisles marked by lines of stucco-covered brick-built columns. A cult statue would have stood against the end wall.

Decoration of the lower register: a hanging curtain between two painted semi-columns is decorated with an undulating red band and leaf garlands.

The Capitolium
In 73 AD the new temple – the Capitolium – was inaugurated under Emperor Vespasian. The Capitolium was constructed slightly further back than the earlier religious buildings, reproducing the previous temple in monumental form. The new temple stood in the middle of the sacred area, which – following the lie of the land – was above the level of the decumanus maximus and forum.

Virtual reconstruction of the Capitolium. Reconstruction of the Capitolium’s tympanum containing pieces of the original bearing the name of Emperor Vespasian.

The same period saw the rebuilding of the forum, at the southern end of which stood the basilica. The Roman town centre acquired a monumental appearance which may still be appreciated today.

Western chamber of the Capitolium, with original coloured marble flooring and several statue fragments found during archaeological excavations.

The central chamber houses part of Brescia’s Roman inscription collection. On display in the middle are pieces of a monumental statue of Jupiter, to whom this cult chamber was dedicated.

Virtual reconstruction of the central chamber with the monumental statues of Jupiter, which would have been over 4 m tall.

The theatre
Next to the Capitolium stands the theatre, dating to the time of Augustus. Visitors may enter the cavea – the spacious seating area, in part founded directly on the slope of Cidneo Hill – and imagine the atmosphere of the ancient plays. This was one of the largest theatres in northern Italy.

Virtual reconstruction of the Theatre, where Comedies were staged; Brixia’s could hold an audience of 15,000.

In 2011 it with the Monastery of Santa Giulia achieved UNESCO World Heritage listing as part of the site The Longobards in Italy. Places of Power (568-774 AD).

Credits: Story

Comune di Brescia, Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio delle Province di Bergamo e Brescia, Guido Magni, 3D reconstruction By Carraro LAB.

"Mimmo Paladino. Ouverture" is on display at Santa Giulia Museum from 6 May until 7 January 2018.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions (listed below) who have supplied the content.
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