Blog

Santa Maria Antiqua the Focus of Three-Day Conference in Rome

When I first visited Santa Maria Antiqua in 2001, I could not have imagined that the culmination of the conservation program would be a stimulating three-day conference at the British School at Rome. I was fortunate to visit Santa Maria Antiqua with a certain regularity over the years.

On that first visit I learned that a baroque church had been demolished as part of the search and discovery of Santa Maria Antiqua, which seemed an extraordinary fact to me at the time. I learned many more interesting details over the years and at the conference.

Holding the conference at the British School turned out to be especially fitting as the first director wrote about the preparations to demolish the baroque church and commented on the early glimpses of Santa Maria Antiqua in the early days of the twentieth century. One of the conference sessions was held on site at Santa Maria Antiqua, providing a chance to visit the building at length, ask questions of the conservators, and listen to the spontaneous conversations that erupted as people looked carefully at the beautiful conservation program that has brought the building to life.

Long off view to the public, in future years, there will be limited access allowing people to enjoy this hidden treasure in the Roman Forum. More personally, it was gratifying to feel that I had played a small role in helping to bring this project to fruition, as when I was at the Kress Foundation, an initial grant had launched WMF’s involvement in the program and more recently working at WMF, I was one of many people at WMF championing the conservation activities. It might seem unfortunate to spend three days in Rome in a basement auditorium and then a cold morning in a large, unheated building. On the contrary, for a lover of Rome and its treasures, there was no place better to be in December!