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Excavations under St Mary Major

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“Hic fecit basilicam nomini suo iuxta Macellum Liviae”

With these words the Liber Pontificalis reports on the Roman Basilica St Mary Major, which according to legend was built by Pope Liberio in 352 on the spot where, on the 5th of August in that year, there was a miraculous snowfall.

Again, according to the book of the popes (Liber Pontificalis) the Basilica was built around the Macellum Liviae, a big butcher’s market.
The excavations carried out under the Basilica between 1966 and 1971 uncovered the perimeter of a Roman building with frescoes.

When the debris was removed several rooms from different periods were found (between the Ist century B.C. and the IVth century A.D.). but the main attraction was the remains of a rural calender painted in fresco on the walls.

Also found were the remains of thermal baths, decorated in marble and old Roman graffiti.

But what was the house used for? Why was the Basilica was built on top of these ruins? And where is that butcher’s market next to the Basilica? Many questions that wait for an answer…

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Your Carpediem guide in Rome
Sandra Haarmann