discovering

Brescia

The Roman forum in Brescia was the main square in the centre of the town of Brixia, as far back as the 1st century BC. This monumental archaeological complex includes major public buildings of the Roman Age in northern Italy, therefore it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, as part of the serial sites “Longobards in Italy, the places of power”.

On a site already occupied in the Bronze and Iron Age, Brescia was founded at the beginning of the 4th century BC as the capital of the Cenomani Gauls, who gave it its ancient name, Brixia, which means “the high ground”, in reference to the Cidneo hill that dominates the city. Defeated in 197 BC, the Cenomani became allies of the Romans, but they kept part of their autonomy and traditions. Municipality by Latin law in 89 B.C., the city was integrated into the Roman territory in 49 BC. In 27 BC, the Civic Colony Augusta Brixia was included in the Regio X augustea, Venetia et Histria, thus becoming an important religious and commercial centre. Ransacked by Attila in 452, the city was conquered by the Byzantines in 561, and a few years later by the Lombards, a people of Germanic origin who invaded Byzantine Italy in 568. Under their rule, and until 774, Brescia experienced a long period of prosperity.

history

BRESCIA
the past

The Forum of Brixia, at the corner of the cardo and decumanus maximi, occupied the present place of the Piazza del Foro and the buildings surrounding it, about 4.50 m below the present ground level. The forum, 120 m long and 40 m wide, was dominated by the grandiose Capitolium dedicated to the cult of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, to whom three different cellae were dedicated, preceded by a pronaos. Built on the site of an earlier sanctuary, whose splendid wall paintings are preserved, it was built in the year 73 by Emperor Vespasian, as the inscription on its pediment indicates, to celebrate his victory over his rival Vitellius. Connected to the square by two or three flights of stairs, embellished by fountains, it still preserves traces of its marble flooring, with polychrome geometric decoration. The bronze winged Victory found during the excavations, and which is today the symbol of the city, was maybe part of its decoration. The temple was destroyed by fire during the barbarian invasions in the 4th-5th centuries ,and never rebuilt again. On the southern side of the forum, opposite the temple, the basilica of the Augustan age, where justice was administered, and where commercial affairs were dealt with, was rebuilt in the Flavian age in imposing forms (19 x 47 m), and connected to the Capitolium by two majestic porticoes, which hosted trading activity. To the north-east of the forum, the theatre built on the hillside during the 1st century was restored by Septimius Severus; it could hold up to 15,000 spectators. To the west, a large thermal baths built in the Flavian age, on the ruins of a previous domus, remained in use until the late antique period. To the east of the forum area, in 753, Desiderio, the Lombard Duke of Brescia, founded the prestigious Benedictine women’s monastery of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia.

 

The basilica

Capitolium of Brixia

Capitolium of Brixia

Capitolium of Brixia, today

Capitolium of Brixia

The porticoes of the Forum

Capitolium of Brixia, Basiletti, 1826

Capitolium of Brixia, 1830

Capitolium of Brixia, Basiletti, 1826

REDISCOVERY AND RESTORATION

BRESCIA
a new life

The Capitolium was rediscovered in 1823 by the University of Science, Literature and Arts of Brescia, beginning with the excavation of a small public garden, where a Corinthian column of white marble stood, and the demolition of council houses. The ambitious project then conceived to bring it to light, with the destruction of other buildings, was limited to important restoration work carried out from 1935 to 1939, completing the original missing parts, made of white marble, with additions made of bricks. Only the lower tiersin the theatre have been preserved. The rediscovery of the republican sanctuary, located under the Capitolium pronaos, dates back only to 1956. Brescia has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011 with a number of other sites marked by the Lombard presence in Italy, grouped under the heading The Lombards in Italy. The places of power 568-774 A.D., which includes seven groups of monuments – fortresses, churches, monasteries – scattered from north to south of Italy. The inscription on the List, which concerns more specifically the area of the forum and the monastic complex of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia, for a total extension of 14 hectares, was decided on the basis of the interest of the cultural synthesis carried out by the Lombards, between the 6th and 8th centuries, of Roman heritage, Christian spirituality, Byzantine influences and values typical of the Germanic world, thus anticipating the Carolingian flourishing; for the original cultural message conveyed by the places of power conceived by the Lombard elites; for their influential role in the spiritual and cultural development of the European Christian world in the Middle Ages, with the development of the monastic movement and the spread of the cult of St. Michael. The Lombards have ensured the transmission from antiquity to our world of numerous technical, architectural, scientific, historical and legal knowledge.

 

UNESCO HERITAGE LISTING CRITERIA

Longobards in Italy: the places of power (568-774 d.C.)

Selection criteria

Criterion (ii): The Lombard monuments are an exemplary testimony to the cultural and artistic synthesis that occurred in Italy in the 6th to the 8th centuries, between the Roman heritage, Christian spirituality, Byzantine influence and the values derived from the Germanic world. They paved the way for and heralded the flowering of Carolingian culture and artistry.

Criterion (iii): The Lombard places of the power express remarkable new artistic and monumental forms, testifying to a Lombard culture characteristic of the European High Middle Ages. It takes the form of a clearly identifiable and unique cultural ensemble, the many languages and objectives of which express the power of the Lombard elite.

Criterion (vi): The place of the Lombards and their heritage in the spiritual and cultural structures of medieval European Christianity is very important. They considerably reinforced the monastic movement and contributed to the establishment of a forerunner venue for the great pilgrimages, in Monte Sant’Angelo, with the spread of the worship of St Michael. They also played an important role in the transmission of literary, technical, architectural, scientific, historical and legal works from Antiquity to the nascent European world.

 

 

An initiative promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation - Directorate General for nationwide Cultural and Economic Promotion and Innovation

 

The site was created in collaboration with the Italian National Commission for UNESCO

Director: Alessandro Furlan
Curator: Prof. Vincent Jolivet
Virtual 3D: Pietro Galifi; Stefano Moretti
Post Production: Luigi Giannattasio
Scientific data collection: Maria Grazia Nini

 

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