Diaconal Church of Santa Maria Antiqua dates to the 5th century A.D.
and is part of the patrimony of the Patriarch of Saint Stephen. It
functions as the principle charitable office of the Patriarchal
Household. The church itself is located in the Roman Forum at the
foot of the Palatine Hill. It is the oldest Christian monument in the
Forum and contains the earliest known Roman depiction of the Blessed
Virgin as Queen.
early 8th century, it was used by Pope John VII as the seat of the
Bishop of Rome. In 847, however, the church was partially destroyed
by an earthquake. A new church, Santa Maria Nova, was built on part
of the ruins of the temple of Venus and Roma. During the Norman Sack
of Rome in 1084, Santa Maria Antiqua suffered further destruction. In
1617, the church of Santa Maria Liberatrice was built on its ruins.
It was not until that church was demolished in 1900 that the ruins of
Santa Maria Antiqua were again brought to light.
is a fine representation of Byzantine Roman architecture. Its walls
are covered with one of the most important collections of
pre-iconoclastic Roman and Byzantine frescoes in the world.