Maxentius Basilica, Rome
The Maxentius Basilica, located in Rome, Italy, is one of the most fascinating pieces of Romanarchitecture. The Basilica, which is also sometimes referred to as the Basilica Nova or “New Basilica,”was erected in 312 AD.
The building, as one can easily tell from looking at the ruins alone, took quite afew years to construct. Construction actually started in 308 AD. The Basilica is part of the Roman Forum,a rectangular plaza that, to this day, features the remains of ancient Roman government buildings.
At the time of its construction the basilica was the biggest building in the entire Forum.As mentioned, the Basilica is sometimes referred to as the “New Basilica,” but it has yet another namethat it sometimes goes by: the Basilica of Constantine. The reason for this name is because, whileMaxentius, a one-time Roman emperor, initiated construction of the building, it was actually EmperorConstantine who completed it. And despite being referred to as a “basilica,” neither emperor hadreligious reasons for constructing it. In fact, the basilica was the final non-Christian basilica to be placedin the Roman Forum.
The basilica was used for commercial purposes and to house administrativeBack when the Basilica was built, the term “basilica” actually just meant a building with a rectangularspace, an open center space, and which usually (but not always) featured a raised apse.
It was only laterthat the term “basilica” began to be used in conjunction with churches, and the change in nomenclaturecame about because early basilicas, such as the Maxentius Basilica, were the models upon which ancientRoman churches were built. The decision to model new churches on the common basilica design cameabout because leaders wanted a church that was aesthetically separated from Rome’s pagan roots.
Not only is the Basilica of Maxentius impressive because it would help to inspire later Roman architects,but it is also unique in that it originally featured two different types of arches: groined arches andbarrel arches. The actual rectangular main piece of the building was a large 100x65m, and the basilicaalso boasted eight Corinthian columns as a supportive measure, beautiful marble flooring, and a roofmade of gilded bronze.
The roof, it should be noted, was folded and thus increased stability, thoughmost roofs of the time were flat. Most researchers believe that the south and central parts of thebasilica, as well as part of the nave, met their demises as a result of earthquakes in 847 AD and 1349AD, respectively. Yet another interesting notation about the Basilica is that it contained features ofstandard Roman baths and basilicas and that it was constructed, at least in part, using ideas obtainedfrom the Baths of Diocletian.
In other words, the Basilica was one of the early examples of a mixing andborrowing of various architectural styles.Unfortunately, not much of this once-amazing structure is still standing today. Though the remainingpieces may seem small, architecture lovers and historians from around the world are grateful for whatis left of the basilica: the north aisle and three of the barrel vaults. Though most of the Basilica is, sadly,forever lost, the impact it had on Roman architecture as a whole never will be.