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The Basilica of Maxentius

In this fully immersive application that supports free roaming, the Rome Reborn team is proud to host Beth Harris and Steven Zucker of Smarthistory (www.smarthistory.org), who present the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine (also known as the Basilica Nova). This was the last monumental civic building erected in pre-Christian Rome. With a main entrance off the Via Sacra, it was constructed during the reign of Maxentius as part of a project that included rebuilding the nearby Temple of Venus and Rome. The vast hall (96 meters long and 65 meters wide) is covered by three cross vaults 35 meters high. The walls and floors were covered with marble. Off the nave are two side aisles covered by barrel vaults. The central aisle on the north has an apse, as does the west end of the nave. Here the remains of the colossal statue of Constantine (estimated to have reached a height of ca. 15 meters) were found in the fifteenth century. The head, hands and feet can be seen today in the courtyard of the Conservators Palace (part of the Capitoline Museums). It is thought that Maxentius planned to use the building as an imperial audience hall, but the plan came to naught with his defeat and death in AD 312 at the hands of Constantine, who finished the building. The Senate dedicated it to the new emperor and honored him with the colossal statue in the west apse. We do not know how the building was used under Constantine and later emperors. As a building type, the basilica is a multi-purpose hall often used for law courts and sometimes housing shops and government offices. The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine did not have shops and offices; we do not hear of courts meeting here.

Today, the building, like the colossal portrait of Constantine, survives only in a very damaged condition. The Rome Reborn team’s digital restoration allows you to re-experience the splendor of the monument as it appeared when new in the fourth century AD. In this app you will learn about the colossal statue of the emperor. You will be able to appreciate the history of the building and understand its architectural design. You can also go up into the air to see the basilica’s context in the ancient city or choose Time Warp to see how the ruins appear today.

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