"This church is the Sistine Chapel of the early Middle Ages," Maria Andaloro, an art historian involved in the project, told Reuters."
It collected the very best of figurative culture of the Christian world between Rome and Byzantium."Being buried by the earthquake saved the church from being altered in later centuries, particularly during the Counter-Reformation, said Prof Andaloro.
Among the most significant frescoes is a depiction of the Virgin Mary with child - one of the oldest known Christian icons in the world.After the ninth century earthquake it was moved to another church in Rome but it has now been returned to Santa Maria Antiqua.
“It is unique, not just among the hundreds of churches in Rome but also in the whole of Italy,” said Francesco Prosperetti, Rome’s superintendent of archaeology.“It represents a forgotten period in the history of the Forum because of the earthquake that buried it.
”The main frescoes, decorating the walls of the central nave and presbytery, were painted under Pope Martin I, who led the Church from 649 to 655 AD.Further frescoes were ordered to be painted by Pope John VII (705 to 707 AD), who had a great affection for the church – his father helped managed the imperial palaces and he had been raised on the Palatine Hill.Read more
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