Basilica of Maxentius

Rome, Italy

The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine (Basilica di Massenzio) is the largest ancient building in the Roman Forum. Construction began on the northern side of the forum under the emperor Maxentius in 308, and was completed in 312 by Constantine I after his defeat of Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. The building rose close to the Temple of Peace, at that time probably neglected, and the Temple of Venus and Rome, whose reconstruction was part of Maxentius' interventions.

The building consisted of a central nave covered by three groin vaults suspended 39 meters above the floor on four large piers, ending in an apse at the western end containing a colossal statue of Constantine (remnants of which are now in a courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Musei Capitolini).

The south and central sections were probably destroyed by the earthquake of 847. In 1349 the vault of the nave collapsed in another earthquake. The only one of the eight 20-meter-high columns, which survived the earthquake was brought by Pope Paul V to Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore in 1614. All that remains of the basilica today is the north aisle with its three concrete barrel vaults. The ceilings of the barrel vaults show advanced weight-saving structural skill with octagonal ceiling coffers.



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Founded: 308-312
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Italy

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User Reviews

Peter Lagomarsino (5 months ago)
This is one of the larger remaining coffered barrel vaults of the Basilica of Maxentius. The scale of this is amazing. It is a definite must see inside your Roman Forum tour. Having lived in Arizona and interviewed Paolo Soleri, the last living student of Frank Lloyd Wright, in my 1st book, this was definitely the piece that Soleri emulated in his ground cast Arco Santi grand arch which is in and of itself a site to see. So this structure has had a lasting impact on architects down through the ages. What strikes you most here is that these pieces being so large in scale only represent about a third of the original entire vaulted area. When you see the barrel vault of Saint Peter's, you get the idea of what this must have looked like in size. The plastered bricks of the Pantheon coffers, although those are trapezoidal, also give you an idea of what their original fit and finish might have been like. Many of these monuments having sat open to the elements for centuries show the resilience of ancient designs and their technology of construction. It is the happenstances of seismic activity that usually are their undoing. The pieces that remain have done so most recently by the addition of seismic reinforcement that allows them to move but stay in place as opposed to rigid forms that can't move and wind up cracking. Masonry has excellent compression resistance but fails easily with tension. This is the beauty of the modern day reinforced concrete that marries steel's tensile resistance and concrete's compressive strength. Still it amazes me that this much has survived all these centuries prior to this stabilization work.
Pong Lenis (5 months ago)
Very impressive structure, it’s quite massive from what remains of the ruins of this old basilica, it’s definitely worth checking out when taking a tour of the old Roman forum. It’s still in fairly good shape as it’s very well kept and maintained. I really enjoyed my time here and I would definitely recommend visiting this part of the forum.
Robert Chomicz (6 months ago)
Of the three basilicas that used to stand at the Forum, this one is the best preserved. The three arches of the side isle, survived wholly intact, albeit without their marble facing or decorations. Still, they allow us to imagine the size of the place, and it must have been enormous!
François-Olivier Guay (14 months ago)
Very impressive sight in your tour of the forum. Absolutely gigantic.
Tran Na (2 years ago)
A place worth visiting once in a lifetime. feels like going back 3000 years ago. very well maintained, do reasonable travel. Buy tickets online to save time.
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