About Aquileia Basilica
The Aquileia Basilica – Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta – in northern Italy played an important role in spreading Christianity from as early as the fourth century. Originally constructed in 313 AD by Bishop Teodoro, much of Aquileia’s Basilica was destroyed by Attila and his Huns in 452AD.
Today’s Aquileia Patriarchal Basilica underwent a series of constructions and reconstructions over the centuries, with the current incarnation consecrated in 1031. Yet the evidence of its long history is not erased. Indeed, visitors to the stunning Patriarchal Basilica can still see its fourth century mosaics.
History of Aquileia Basilica
Aquileia is an ancient Roman city in Italy, located at the head of the Adriatic Sea. During classical antiquity it was one of the world’s largest cities, with a population of 100,000 in the 2nd century AD. It is believed to be the largest Roman city yet to be excavated, and was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998.
The basilica and bell tower were commissioned by the Patriarch Popone, and were completed in 1031. It constituted a radical restoration of an ancient religious complex dating to the 4th century BC on the same site, which had been damaged by earthquakes and barbarian invasions.
There are other remains from the 4th century BC on the site, including the Paleochristian Complex, built by Bishop Theodorus, and the famous floor mosaic, which depicts scenes from the Old Testament.
The collection of mosaics on the floor is one of the largest and best-preserved in the Christian world. It was only discovered at the beginning of the 1900s after flooring that had been laid in later centuries was removed. The use of mosaics was both social and political, with the scenes in the basilica depicting religious stories such as Jonah and the Whale, as well as incorporating a number of pagan symbols.
Other remains and mosaics are found in the so-called ‘Slaves’ Crypt’ which is accessible from inside the Basilica. The Crypt of Frescoes also holds Byzantine-style frescoes from the 1100s.
Aquileia Basilica Today
Though less well known than nearby Venice, Aquileia has much to see. Today, visitors can enjoy seeing the Romanesque-style basilica with its few Gothic details which were added in 1348, and the later Renaissance details which, when combined, characterise the building as radically unique and ancient.
In the basilica, a clear elevated platform allows visitors to walk above the mosaics and see them in great and clear detail.
Getting to Aquileia Basilica
From the centre of Aquileia, the basilica is a three minute walk via Via dei Patriarchi/SP91. By car, it takes around 5 minutes, via Via Roma/SP91 and Via Enrico Curiel.
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