Temple architecture

Yellow, blue, colors like Pompeii at the Temple of Cupra – Lifestyle

(ANSA) – ROME, AUGUST 17 – (by Silvia Lambertucci) Walls with large square spaces, where the yellow of the base contrasted with the intense red and black of the central band, the colors interspersed with delicate decorations of flowers and candelabra , niches for the statues and perhaps even the very high ceiling illuminated with a deep blue like an August sky.

Built at the dawn of the first century AD when Augustus reigned over Rome, the great Roman temple of Cupra near Ascoli Piceno was in the first phase of its life filled with color and imagery in the third Pompeian style, with the same colors and the same decoration which at the time was highlighted in the richest residences of Rome and Pompeii.

It is the discovery, unexpected and extraordinary, as the archaeologist from the University of Naples Marco Giglio tells ANSA in an exclusive, which came from the archaeological site of Marche, where a mission from the Università Orientale, in collaboration with the Superintendence and the City Council of Cupra Marittima, which manages the Archaeological Park, has undertaken a new campaign of excavations.

“The temples whose interior of the cell is decorated with paintings are extremely rare”, points out Giglio.

“Until now we only know of one in style III, that of the Bona Dea (Good Goddess) at Ostia, whose decorative style however seemed much simpler, as well as the cryptoporticus of the reliquary of ‘Urbis Salvia (at modern Urbisaglia, near Macerata)’.

The scientific director of the excavations, Fabrizio Pesando of the Orientale in Naples, goes on to explain, alongside Giglio, that in this corner of Marche, not far from the sea and a short distance from where the Etruscans of the 6th century century BC. sanctuary dedicated to trade, the Romans settled there around 100 BC. J.-C., with a “municipium” which was then raised to the rank of colony.

Inhabited by the families of the armies of Marc Antony and Octavian and their descendants, Cupra, which had taken its name from the deity of this temple (the historian Strabo says that Cupra was another name for Hera), was a small town flourishing in those decades, with a forum and the great sanctuary of which today unfortunately very little remains, but which the excavations carried out by the Neapolitan mission in recent weeks have made it possible to reconstruct to some extent. Or at least in its form and in the two phases of its life, point out Giglio and Pesando.

Because more or less 100 years after its foundation, around the first quarter of the 2nd century AD, the temple presented serious static problems that made a radical restoration essential, what the Romans called, in fact, an “a fundamentis”. project.

It was a “major and expensive undertaking”, say the archaeologists, carried out with the same advanced techniques that had been employed in Pompeii after the earthquake of 62 AD, the one that preceded the fury of Vesuvius by a few years.

It is for this reason that it is hypothesized that it was perhaps Hadrian himself who financed this work, Hadrian who was born in Spain, okay, but who descended from a family of ‘Atri, also in the region of Piceno, and who in 127 AD toured these regions, also stopping at Cupra.

It was on this occasion, archaeologists say today, that the temple lost its magnificent original colors. Indeed, having to reinforce the walls which contained the cell of the sanctuary, the wall coverings were also chiselled then probably covered with marble, as the fashion of the empire now imposed.

The marvelous sky blue, just like the yellows, greens and reds that had illuminated this sacred space, ended up in a thousand pieces on the ground, which the Roman builders, accustomed to recycling everything, then used as a base. for the new floor.

The restored temple became a Corinthian hexastyle, with the six columns of the facade which rose nine meters high, decorated with rich capitals. But was also embellished with a series of brick half-columns, which were placed on the side walls, and dazzling lion-headed drips, which were also unearthed by recent excavations.

It was a new marvel that Hadrian himself had designed, as an inscription found several years ago near Grottamare seems to confirm.

This came as construction work buzzed throughout the city and monumental architecture grew, including the two mighty brick arches that still flank the perimeter of the temple today.

And just in front of the sanctuary staircase, which is still preserved today, rose the base of a celebratory monument, possibly even a statue of the magnificent emperor.

It is a pity that in the following centuries – when this happened remains to be clarified – all this beauty was dismantled, the precious marbles and the imposing columns were reduced to lime to be reused in other buildings, and even the walls of the temple, at the end of the 19th century, were demolished to build a country house whose ruined remains dominate the old staircase of what was the Roman sanctuary.

“The park is debating whether to restore it or remove it,” says Giglio.

All the new finds, meanwhile, have been taken to restoration workshops where they will be cleaned and studied. Excavations will resume in the spring and this time, Giglio specifies, will cover both the two arches and the back of the temple, in order to shed light on the decorations of its second phase.

Nearly two thousand years after this trip by the Emperor Hadrian, the Roman Cupra is therefore gradually regaining its history and its colors. (ANSA).