Monday, November 16, 2020


Altitude 450 m (1,480 feet). 18,000 inhabitants

Ancient Praeneste founded according to legend by Telegonus son of Ulysses or Caeculus son of Vulcan

According to Strabo it is of Greek origin

It was a flourishing city of the Latin League already in the seventh century BC as evidenced by the kits of the BARBERINI and BERNARDINI TOMBS at the Villa Giulia Museum and of the CASTELLANI TOMB at the Capitoline Museums

The city was on the side of Marius and Sulla dreadfully retaliated in the year 82 BC by killing all the adult males of Praeneste

Nearby villas were built for Augustus, Tiberius, Pliny the Younger and Simmacus

It was famous for the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia and for the oracle

Here was born Giovanni Pierluigi, known as "Palestrina" (1525/94), creator of polyphony

Piazza Regina Margherita

Corresponding to the ancient Forum of Praeneste

Incorporated in the former Episcopal Seminary there are structures of the so-called AULA ABSIDATA (apsed room) where the Nilotic mosaic was found

Duomo di S. Agapito

Cathedral of St. Agapius

It was built above the ruins of an old building maybe the TEMPLE OF JUPITER IMPERATOR

It was transformed into a church in the fifth century to contain the remains of St. Agapius from Praeneste beheaded only 15 years old, according to tradition, under Aurelian (271/275) in 274 AD

Renovations at the beginning of the twelfth century

It was rebuilt during the years 1452/1503

Restorations during the second half of the nineteenth century and in 1957 after the bombing of the Allied Forces

The choice was made to leave in view the façade of the ancient Roman building with traces of the sundial


Baptistery with "Tabernacle of the Saviour" 1565 by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta (1521/80)


"Triumph of the Cross over paganism" by Cesare Caroselli (1847/1927)

Decorations in the nave "Saints", "Bishops of Palestrina" and "Martyrdom of St. Agapius" by Silvio Galimberti (1869/1956)


"Immaculate Conception with Saints" 1899 by Domenico Bruschi (1840/1910)


“Death of St. Joseph” 1886 by Achille Guerra (1832/1903)


On the left "Beheading of St. Agapius" about 1612 by Carlo Saraceni (1579/1620)

"On the high altar until 1651, the picture is accompanied by an inscription, unfortunately with no date, indicating it is an 'ex voto' (a vow) by Curzio Castrucci (probably the man represented on the left) first noble of the city. The tradition of the martyrdom of the saint is scrupulously followed, especially for the mention in the hagiography of the two columns, which give depth here but also solidify the role of the executioner with his volitional expression, which is the part most influenced by Caravaggio in the painting. The background with ruins in the landscape should be noted, the Roman Campagna with ancient buildings in the distance and small figures dashed with one single brush stroke, a step further than the landscapes painted by Saraceni during the first decade of the seventeenth century" (Maria Giulia Aurigemma)

On the right "St. Agapius" by Andrea Camassei (1602/49)


Frescos of the nineteenth century including, above the altar, "The Martyrdom of St. Agapius" by Domenico Bruschi

Above the altars faced with inlaid marble at the sides of the presbytery there are ovals with "Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila" and "S. Ildefonso martyr" by Giovanni Odazzi (1663/1731)


Frescoes "Sacramental stories, Evangelists and Prophets" by Domenico Bruschi


"Crucifixion with Virgin Mary, St. Lawrence and donors Giulio Cesare Della Rovere and his mother Elena" by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta (1521/80)


"Our Lady of Sorrows" and "Stories of Jesus" 1890 by Domenico Bruschi

Behind the church it is visible the ancient BASILICA divided into four naves build in uncertain work technique (opus incertum)

St. Rosalia

1656/60 Francesco Contini (1599/1669) for Maffeo Barberini

"Four tombs of members of the Barberini family" 1704/35 by Bernardino Cametti (1669/1736) for the Cardinal Francesco Juniore Barberini


"St. Rosalia protects Palermo from the plague" by Francesco Reale

Here was kept until 1938 the so-called "Palestrina Pietà" maybe by Michelangelo Buonarroti now in the Museum of the Accademia in Florence

Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia

End of the second century BC, formerly believed to date to the period of Sulla (about 90/78 BC)

The findings, however, prove the existence of the cult as early as the fourth century BC

It was built probably due to associated groups of citizens, eager to assert themselves after becoming rich with the flow of money and manpower from the east thanks to wars and considerable commercial traffic

It was probably a class devoted to Roman imperialism, but excluded from political life: Praeneste was in fact the last outpost in Italy to be affected by the social war and by the war against Silla

There were SIX ARTIFICIAL TERRACES, built on the slopes of Mount Ginestro, connected by ramps and stairways for access

The back walls of the terraces are made with polygonal and uncertain work (opus incertum)

On the fourth terrace the oracular worship was located and the sacred well was (the locus religiose saeptus where the sortes of the goddess were discovered) and the statue of Fortuna nursing Jupiter and Juno as children, described by the ancient sources

Each of these elements was in fact framed by one of the exedras with porticos: the left one had a base at the center, maybe a votive offering, and the right one had a small tholos (round temple) covered with a cone above the deep well

The AUDITORIUM (cavea) was in turn topped by another double Corinthian semi-circular portico, closed at the back by a wall and above it the small circular temple stood, of which only the foundations remain. Here the statue of the goddess Fortuna used to be

National Archaeological Museum of Praeneste

Palace built by the Colonna family above structures of the upper hemicycle of the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia around the year 1050 when they settled in Palestrina

Destroyed in 1298, after a one year siege, by Boniface VIII Caetani (1294/1303) who gave the order to raze it to the ground

It was rebuilt and destroyed again in 1437 by Eugene IV Coldumer (1431/47) during the war against the Colonna family

1450/1500 rebuilt by Francesco Colonna

In 1630 the Colonna family sold Palestrina to Carlo Barberini, brother of Urban VIII Barberini (1623/44) and Taddeo Barberini rebuilt the palace in its present form

The bombing of the Allied Forces during the Second World War brought to light the ancient structures

Museum opened in 1956 and rearranged in 1998

Frescoes attributed to the school of Zuccari

First floor

Eight rooms with Roman statuary from the places of worship in the Praeneste area dating back from the second century BC to the third century AD


Sculptures for the worship of the goddess Fortuna

"Group of goddesses Fortuna on ferculum". A ferculum was a brier used during processions

"Colossal statue in gray marble" maybe Isis, but formerly identified as the goddess Fortuna Primigenia, of the end of the second century BC and considered a late-Hellenistic original

"Head of Fortuna"


More Hellenistic statuary

"Headless female statuette" (original Hellenistic) in Greek marble, dressed with chiton and himation

"Three female statues"

"Statue of Aphrodite"


Portraiture inspired by Hellenistic models of realism

"Statue with breastplate" first century AD

"Statue with pompous attire"

"Bases in marble" for eminent citizens of Praeneste


"Capitoline Triad" (Jupiter, Juno, Minerva) found in an abusive excavation by the police at Guidonia. Only example of the triad in excellent condition, with all three statues intact

"Statue of Mercury sitting"


Augustan period

"Grimani Relief", with female wild boar nursing baby wild boars

"Sarcophagus with the myth of Endymion"

Altars dedicated to the Divine Augustus, to Pax (peace) and to Securitas (safety)

"Portrait of Augustus"

"Portrait of Faustina the Elder"


Second century AD

"Relief with Parthian triumph of Trajan (98/117)"

"Satyr at rest (Anapauòmenos)" from the original of about 340 BC by Praxiteles (about 395/326 BC)

Portraits of women with complex hairstyles


Inscriptions, found in large quantities in Praeneste, all of the period second century BC/second century AD

"Dedications of collegia (guilds) of Praeneste to the gods"

"Funerary altar of one P. Aelius Curtianus" a doctor


Other religious cults (Hercules, Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Athena). Exotic cults of the second/third century AD

Sculptures "Mitra tauroctonous", "Cibeles" and "Serapis"

"Fragment of Dionysian sarcophagus "

Second floor

Objects from necropolis in Praeneste, like the Colombella Necropolis, the largest one


Kits of the oriental period (seventh century BC)

"Comb of ivory"

"Cist with Centauromachy and handle with drunken satyr and Dionysus"

"A cist was a cylindrical container, usually bronze, but also of other materials (silver, wood, leather, wicker), which in ancient times was used in the Dionysian mysteries, to hide sacred objects from the eyes of the profane, or, for everyday use, to hold objects of female toiletry" (Vocabolario Treccani)

"Cylindrical cist with body in wood and leather"

"Mirror with Bellerophon and Pegasus above the Chimera"

"Mirror with Helen and Menelaus"

"Coating in clay with Eros and horses"


Memorial stones and grave markers, fourth/second century BC from Colombella (some 300 had been found)

Busts of the fourth century BC


"Sarcophagus lid with ridged roof" 380/370 BC, the oldest example of a sarcophagus carved in the Lazio region

"Burial kit for a woman" fourth/third century BC with bronze cists decorated with various scenes


Temporary exhibitions and three beautiful "Mosaic floors" of the republican and imperial periods


Artifacts from the Temple of Hercules, found in the lower part of town, perhaps connected with the transhumance of herds towards the Abruzzo region from 500 until 100 BC

"Votive heads"

"Votive items" including body parts and genitalia

"Bronze statuette of young adult"


Unique pottery of local architecture: sloping sections of pediments (sime) 510/500 BC

End pieces of the last pitched tile (antefixes)

Decorations of pediments that here, in the fifth century BC, are higher than normal with a decorative element that represents the triumph of the aristocratic leader

"Frieze in clay with the killing of griffins"

"Antefix with the head of a bearded Silenus"

Third floor

A single room houses the large and important "Nilotic Mosaic" of the year 80 BC, from the floor of the apse that opened on the back of the hall facing the Forum of Praeneste

It is the largest existing Hellenistic mosaic, together with that of Alexander the Great in the Museum of Naples


Bases of donarii (containers for votive offerings) offered to the goddess Fortuna

"Statue of Hermes tying his sandal"

"Funerary relief with transvectio equitum", a parade of the young men (iuventus) of the Roman equestrian class (equites) that took place annually on 15 July

"Polychrome mosaic with female figure and bearded old man"

Bridges of the Aqueducts

On 31/32 km of Via Polense and Via di S. Vittorino


144 BC, restorations of early second century AD. Longer than 90 m (295 feet), almost 19 m (62 feet) high and about 12 m (39 feet) wide

The Aqua Marcia aqueduct here crosses the Fosso della Mola, a local stream


Ponte della Mola in Italian. 269 ​​BC, restoration during Hadrian’s reign (117/138). 136 m (446 feet) long

The Anio Vetus aqueduct here crosses the Fosso della Mola but a little further downstream than St. Peter’s Bridge


Ponte del Lupo in Italian.144 BC with restorations of Agrippa and Septimius Severus (193/211). About 80 m (262 feet) long and 27 m (88 feet) high, the most magnificent and picturesque one

The Aqua Marcia here crosses the Fosso Acqua Rossa


Ponte di S. Antonio in Italian. 38 AD with reinforced structure in bricks of the third or fourth century AD. About 125 m (410 feet) long and about 30 m (98 feet). On this bridge the Anio Novus aqueduct crosses the Fosso dell'Acqua Raminga

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