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THE CRYPTOPORTICUS: 50 B.C. to 14 A.D.

The Cryptoporticus, a structure formed by two galleries with archways and colonnade, was erected in the Roman period of VI Regio Augustea, at the border between the Suburra area and the Imperial Forum. The Suburra Valley was the most populated quarter of ancient Rome, and was known to be a run-down area due to poorly constructed small wooden houses. Princes Augustus built huge walls of stone blocks to isolate his Forum from the frequent fires which periodically destroyed the quarter.

The Cryptoporticus was rediscovered and excavated in 1887. Since then, no comprehensive studies have taken place on the monument, and is still considered a treasure of ancient Rome.

The Stages of The CRYPTOPORTICUS And The Result Of The EXCAVATIONS

The Cryptoporticus is visible today on the ground floor of four contiguous buildings, and it is formed by two galleries covered by barrel vaults and separated by a colonnade. The most external gallery, formed by ar chways, originally gave onto an ancient road discovered in 1878 on the corner between Ibernasi Road and Baccina Road.

The original monument was built between 50 B.C. and the 14 A.D. Within the property of “The Inn at the Roman Forum”, in fact, the upper galleries are also preserved. The arcade was not on a single floor but was developed on at least three floors, possibly even four, reaching the height of the actual garden on the fourth floor.

The most internal gallery, on the contrary, had been built within the Viminale hill. The back wall, the columns, and the vault were decorated with frescos and stuccoes of which some remains are left, and can be seen on the beautiful architrave above the columns with the stucco decoration. The decorations used for the frescos needed a bright base layer in order to reflect the light better. Ruins of the vaults’ painting remain in the preserved area under the Dominican Convitto, early 17th century building (20 Ibernasi Road), and show some panels made with large red stripes on a white base, filled with little flower motifs.

Reconstructive sketch of the first two floors of the Cryptoporticus.

The monumental façade was not standing vertically towards the road, but originally faced diagonally. The area visible on the second floor is partly leaning on the back wall of the cryptoporticus’ ground floor. Therefore the structure followed the geography of the hill and thus allowed easy passage from the street level to the top of the hill by internal stairs. The imposing door made of stone blocks standing at the back of the internal gallery gave access to a staircase which today has disappeared. The area of the excavation stands beyond the stone door on the right; probably opened in the Medieval period, excavated inside the natural bank of the hill. This passage was used to connect the surrounding rooms to a well (visible on the left-hand side as one enters the room).

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