The great basilica of the Villa romana del Casale is the central space in the villa. It is situated at the E. of the main axis defined by the peristyle and the Corridor of the Great Hunt and the Great Basilica.
The basilica is 29,8×18.3m, so it is a classic basilica centenaria, i.e., it is a hundred roman feet long. The entrance to the basilica is by four steps from the Corridor of the Great Hunt. It was flanked by two granite columns of which parts are still in place. Fragments of the entablature has also been found.
The main rectangular part of the basilica was paved with a fine marble inlay of circles within squares, in a technique called opus sectile, but the floor is badly damaged. Only fragments remain. The wall was covered with marble slabs or maybe mosaics higher up the wall as tesserae of glass paste has been found. Now only the plaster used to hold the marble in place remains.
At the end of the basilica is a large apse, slightly narrower than the main room. The opening of the apse was flanked by two columns of which only the bases remain. In the centre of the apse some brickwork indicate where a throne has probably stood, but nothing remains on such a throne. The floor in the apse is the same opus sectile as in the main room, but just in front of the throne is a square carpet of very delicate marble inlay. The floor is somewhat better preserved in the apse and a few fragments of the marble slabs on the wall are still in place.
Above the throne is a small niche in the wall. This niche has probably contained a statue, maybe of the young Hercules, as the head of such a statue has been found during the excavations.
Little is known about the roof and ceiling, but it was probably a tile roof supported by wooden rafts. The outer wall of the basilica was reinforced after the villa was build, maybe as a consequence of an earthquake that hit the region in 365 CE, i.e., around fifty years after the villa was constructed.
The great basilica appears today very deteriorated, but when the villa was build the basilica was the central public room and, as such, it has certainly been one of the most beautiful in the villa. The basilica is the last of a series of progressively more prestigious spaces, starting from the atrium, through the peristyle, across the corridor of the great hunt to the basilica. Each space is placed physically higher than the previous so the basilica is literally the apex of the villa.
Photo gallery for "Great Basilica"
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