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Shining new light on the history of Rome

(Vatican Radio) A team of archaeologists, historians, engineers and experts in Christian antiquities on Thursday inaugurated an important new archaeological site in Rome.

The site is located inside the area that belongs to the Basilica of St. Paul’s outside the Walls and its adjoining Benedictine Monastery.

After a brief welcome speech by Cardinal James Harvey, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul, members of the Vatican Museums-backed team who have been collaborating with members of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology and of Rome’s La Sapienza University, illustrated the importance of the new archaeological site.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni… RealAudioMP3

Where Benedictine Monks had been growing their vegetables and tending to their vineyard for over 1000 years, a precious archaeological site has been brought to light.

Six years of hard work on the part of a team of archaeologists, engineers, historians and experts in restoration has revealed what had been a missing link in the history of the city of Rome.

In particular it shines the light on the time of Pope John VIII whose chief aim during his pontificate was to defend the Roman state and the authority of the Holy See at Rome from the Saracens.

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As Professor Lucrezia Spera of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology revealed, although there are many literary sources detailing events and costumes of the Early Middle Ages in the city of Rome, until now there were no consistent archaeological remains bearing witness to the period between the 8th and 9th century AD.

That’s why there is so much excitement surrounding the opening of the Archaeological Area in what used to be the pumpkin patch tended to by the Benedictine Monks of the Monastery of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.

Digs have revealed that what today is a complex made up of the Basilica, its quadriporticus, Bell Tower, Cloister and adjoining Monastery, was once a much larger settlement featuring a sanctuary for the poor, a well, a tower and housing for some 200 people.

While the meticulous work of archaeologists has revealed the lay of the ground and the kind of buildings that surrounded the ancient Basilica of St. Paul’s outside the Walls, over 15,000 ceramic fragments, sculptures and coins put a face on the people of the time and narrate their everyday lives as well as define the chronology of historical events.