Albano Laziale

Sanctuary of St. Maria della Rotonda

The Santuario di Santa Maria della Rotonda (The Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Rotonda) is built on an ancient nymphaeum of the Villa di Domiziano and is an interesting architectural precedent of the more famous Pantheon in Rome.

The Church was consecrated in 1060, although evidence shows it was used as a place of worship since the 9th century: according to tradition, in the year 768 some Greek nuns, escaping the persecution of iconoclasts, brought the holy image of the Madonna to the church where it is still venerated with devotion today. The Madonna is celebrated on the first Sunday of August every year.The building has a square shaped plan outside and a circular one inside, made irregular by four large corner niches containing the same number of fountains and covered by a dome. The dome has a central opening and supplied light to the central basin where rainwater was collected. The Romanic bell tower was built in 1316.The sanctuary underwent a series of transformations, mainly in the 17th and 19th centuries, which were recovered in 1938 bringing the sanctuary back to its original ancient splendour. During the work interesting ruins were discovered such as an altar of grey peperino rock and other findings from the Severian age, which are conserved in the church sacristy.The ancient Roman nymphaeum where the church is built was probably reused as thermal baths for the officers of the Second Legion Parthica during the reign of Septimius Severus; traces of the transformation are still visible in the decorative mosaic floors illustrating sea monsters.The interior of the church is very suggestive with it beautiful ancient icon of the Madonna con Bambino (Madonna with Child) in Byzantine style placed over the central altar, repainted in the 15th century; other frescos such as the Legend of the True Cross from the 14th century and the representation of St. Anna, St. John and St. Ambrose painted by Cavallini. The church altars were made from fragments of 3rd century AD roman marble entablatures from the Severian age camp.