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The Most Holy Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Antiqua dates to the 5th century A.D. and is the principle church and seat of His Holiness and Eminence the Archfather. The Deaconry of Santa Maria Antiqua functions as the principle charitable office of the Pontifical Court. The physical 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.

In the early 8th century, the basilica was used by Pope John VII as the seat of the Bishop of Rome. In 847, however, the church building 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.

The church 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.

See the Twelve Churches of the Patriarchate.

Fresco of the Crucifixion in the Church of Santa Maria Antiqua
(Click for full-size image.)

Pope John VII
(Click for full-size image.)

Fresco of the Blessed Virgin
as Queen of Heaven in the
Church of Santa Maria Antiqua
(Click for full-size image.)



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