1996 and 1998 World Monuments Watch
Aristocratic Romans who followed the doctrines of Neo-Pythagoreanism (a syncretistic philosophy/religion that sought to interpret the world in terms of harmonic arithmetical relationships) literally went underground to practice their beliefs. The subterranean basilica they built in the 1st century contains what may be the greatest extant interior stucco finishes in bas-relief of ancient Rome. With its three naves and central apse, the basilica's configuration prefigures that of later traditional Christian churches. Because of its position 20 meters beneath a major railroad line, many of the delicate plaster and stucco decorations have suffered from continual vibrations. Water permeates the site and an antiquated ventilation system (installed shortly after the basilica's discovery) has fostered bacterial growth on the polychromatic surfaces. Although initial restoration efforts have led to a better understanding of how to proceed with the project, the scale of work to be done has grown dramatically.
Since the Watch
Following Watch listing in 1996 and 1998, an environmental purification system was installed, and a limited conservation program for decorated surfaces took place with funding from the Italian state. Nevertheless, the problems caused by moisture have not been eliminated. The basilica today is closed to the public, and is only visited by special tours on limited occasions. January 2011