Church of Santa Maria Foris Portas
The oldest building
The church has a central apse that contains an important group of Early Medieval paintings, and two side apses. The latter were demolished in the past, but were rebuilt after the discovery of the frescoes in 1944.
There are also numerous tombs, some quite substantial (one featured the large slab with a cross kept in the Antiquarium portico), which have been found both inside and outside the church.
Central apse frescoes
The lower part of the wall was decorated with a painted curtain (velarium) and birds; the narrative cycle, arranged in two registers, begins at the top left with the Angel’s Annunciation to Mary and Mary’s Visit to Elizabeth.
After a large lacuna, in which there was probably a circular image (clypeus), the narration continues with the apocryphal episode of the ordeal of the bitter water, which Mary is forced to drink to prove her virginity. At the centre of the apse, a clypeus with Christ pantocrator (“Ruler of all”) may be seen. The narrative continues with the appearance of an angel to Joseph who reassures him of Mary’s divine motherhood.
The next episode, ire. the adoration of the magi, is on the adjacent wall, while the last of the preserved episodes, the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, is again on the curved wall, after the window. On the inner wall of the arch that separates the apse from the nave is depicted, in the centre, the Etoimasia (Greek for “preparation”), which consists of a throne ready to welcome Christ when he returns. Two angels fly towards the throne, on which rest a crown and a cross.
The date of the church and the frescoes is still much debated: today the church is usually dated to the 7th or 8th century and the frescoes to the 7th/8th – early 10th century.
Info and contacts
Wednesday 09.00 – 13.30
Thursday 13.30 – 17.30
Friday 13.30 – 17.30
Saturday 13.30 – 17.30
Sunday 09.30 – 17.30