Following an extensive restoration, Rome’s Barberini Tomb is officially open to the public for the first time in its history. The two-story monument dates back to the second century BC and can be found along what remains of Via Latina, once a major road in Ancient Rome. According to archaeologists, the tomb — also known as the Corneli tomb — is the only one of its kind still intact thanks to its frequent use as a shelter for farmers and shepherds up until the 1800s.
On a guided tour, visitors will be able to admire up close what experts consider an invaluable example of ancient Roman funerary architecture and decoration. The building’s brick facade features gold, red, and purple decorations, while its interior boasts frescoes of ‘erotes,’ winged gods associated with love and passion in Greek mythology, animals, flora, and spiral motifs.
It took two years to bring the tomb back to life in a painstaking process that included securing the building, reconstructing both the collapsed ground floor and stairway to the upper floor, and installing electricity. The restoration project, made possible by a €250,000 investment, is still ongoing: the tomb’s hypogeum underground level (which originally held the funeral chamber) has recently had its walls and ceilings stabilized. Repairs of the intricate mosaic floor are underway, while a large-scale restoration of the nearby Basilica di Santo Stefano Promartire is also being considered.
The Barberini tomb owes its name to the eponymous Italian noble family who once owned the land where the tomb resides. A sarcophagus depicting scenes inspired by the Greek myth of Protesilaus and Laodamia found within the tomb was moved to the Vatican Museums in the 1700s.
By Alexandra Bruzzese