Gordian Mausoleum and Early Christian Basilica

Via Prenestina. (Open Map)


Immersed in the greenness of the Parco dei Gordiani, that owes its name to the imperial family of the III century AD considered the owner of this area, together with the remains of the villa and its properties, we can see the ruins of the mausoleum and the early Christian basilica. We don’t know exactly when these buildings were built. 

The round mausoleum is organized in two levels: the upper part is surmounted by a cupola with a front portico, now collapsed; the lower part is composed by an annular passage and three rooms that develop under the portico and the flight of steps. The lower level was certainly used as a funeral room, as proved by the finding of big fragments of sarcophagi; of more difficult interpretation is the upper room that presents also frescos now almost completely destroyed. 

It dates back to the Diocletian age or after, given the presence of stamps of the period and after the comparison with similar complexes like Massenzio on the via Appia, Helena on the via Labicana and Constance on the via Nomentana, all built near early Christian churches like the one on the via Prenestina. 

The basilica was excavated in 1959-60, when its form and function became clear. Its plan is divided by pillars in one big nave and two aisles. The 1984 excavations revealed a series of graves dating back to the early Middle Ages, inside and outside the perimeter of the basilica. 

On the eastern part of the park, along the via Rovigno d'Istria, a small two-storey catacomb was found in 1953, excavated in the outcrop, extremely simple, with burial niches and a couple of arcosolia. At the moment is not possible to establish if the structure is pagan or Christian.