• S. Pietro di Villamagna
  • Villamagna
  • Villa Magna


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    • 100 AD - 1400 AD
    • 1800 AD - 1900 AD
    • 0 AD - 100 AD


      • In June and early July a campaign of excavation and geophysical survey was carried out at the site of Villa Magna. In spite of the fact that the villa is mentioned in two letters from _Marcus Aurelius_ to his tutor, Fronto (iv.5), and on a well-known inscription recording the paving of a road from Anagni to the villa (CIL X, 5909, A.D. 207), the site had never been the subject of scientific investigation. Over the northern sector of the villa was built the monastery of S. Pietro di Villamagna, mentioned in documents from the tenth century onwards. Of this, a Romanesque church and a line of 15th century fortifications are still visible. The magnetometry covered around 9 ha. Its spectacular results, still in the process of elaboration show the plan of the northern half of the villa. Excavation took place in front of the church and in the courtyard of the nineteenth-century casale, built on extensive vaulted substructures. An extensive cemetery occupied a yard at the entrance to the church, subsequently sealed by the fortification of the borgo around 1400. Inside the church, excavation in the northwest chapel revealed a group of tombs dating perhaps to the sixteenth century, cutting a series of pavements beneath. A Cosmatesque pavement was also revealed during the cleaning of a small clandestine excavation in the presbytery. In the courtyard of the casale, 300 meters to the South, the general plan of the productive sector of the villa was revealed. All floors were paved in marble, including that of the sumptuous _cella vinaria_ paved in _opus spicatum_ with tiles of Numidian marble, and panelled with marble and serpentine. Dolia emerging from this pavement leave no doubt that, in spite of its decoration, the room was used for the pressing and storage of wine.
      • At the Casale our 2006 interpretation of the northeastern room as a _cella vinaria_ for the production and storage of wine during fermentation was confirmed by the investigation of all of the available area of the room. Excavations revealed a series of _dolia_ within the cella. Although both the _opus spicatum_ floor and the _dolia_ themselves were almost totally robbed out, the cuts in the clay layer below them showed the positions of 28 of these containers, laid out in four parallel lines. To the south of the _cella vinaria_ lies a second room, II, defined by a wall which runs in a semi-circle around the south side. Beyond it, a second, parallel wall creates an ambulatory, room III. The interpretation of room II as a _coenatio_ derives not only from comparison with similar structures in luxury villas but also from the celebrated letters written by _Marcus Aurelius_ to Fronto, in which he mentions his dinner in the _torcular_ (Fronto, 4, 6). To the west lies a wide stair which consituted the entrance to the building. It was composed of a sequence of landings paved in a simple white mosaic separated by flights of three stairs completely revetted in luna marble. The walls were veneered in the same marble, separated by strips of pavonazetto. Later occupation is indicated by almost 200 postholes and pits: those that can be dated are XIIth century. This material allows us to suggest that the village represented by the postholes was one of the _casalia_ mentioned on the contemporary documents from the monastery of S. Pietro di Villamagna. Excavations in the area of the church revealed a bell tower, a bell-casting pit, over 200 burials and structures relating to the monastery itself. To the east of the church, a new site, D, revealed a well-paved Roman road running east-west, along which was built a building with a grid plan, destroyed by fire at some point in the late empire. Both the road and the ruins of the building were cut by a ditch running north-south across the trench. To its west piled rubble may indicate the creation of a palisade. The ditch is dated by pottery and coins to roughly the middle of the fifth century.
      • Excavation continued in the three sites opened in previous years: the casale, the Church and Monastery, and Site D. At the casale, where last year the _Cella/Coenatio_ complex in which the emperor and his guests dined, we completed the excavation of the modern courtyard, revealing an open court with a quadripartite basin lined in _opus signinum_, whose function is not yet evident. The lime kiln which occupied an apsidal room was removed, and the fills excavated to the level of the foundation offset: clearly any floor had been removed at the time of the creation of the kiln. To the south of the casale a trench was opened to reveal the continuation of the imperial stair: the removal of topsoil and layers relating to the 19th- century garden revealed a series of postholes apparently dating to the 9th /10th century [was it so clear? Or was there just bits of early medieval material mixed in with stuff. I didn’t think that there was a definable context associated with early medieval occupation. Trenches within and north of the modern granary revealed further details of the plan of the complex. At site D the 2006 trench was expanded to 25 x 25 m., showing much of the plan of what is certainly a barracks building flanking the paved road, with two lines of rooms measuring 10 x 12 RF, facing each other across a narrow alley, down which runs a drain. The rooms were paved in beaten earth and generally contained a hearth and traces of a single _dolium_. Whether the building was occupied by soldiers or workers is not yet clear. At the monastery work continued in the cemetery to the west of the church, with over 200 tombs now excavated. The presence of an early narthex in front of the church was confirmed, and traces of its paving revealed. To the north of the church two phases of the 14ththe century lime kiln were removed: this lay to the west of the original wall of the monastery, and may date to the late middle ages. Inside the wall the cloister partially excavated in 2007 proved to be 17.5 wide, with corridors on the three sides now visible and a well towards the center that leads down to a cistern. Numerous phases of post-monastic use of the cloister were revealed, including what appears to have been the stockpiling of veneers marble pavements, veneers and cornices of the Roman period.
      • In the winery, excavation aimed at determining the limits of the building. To the south of the winery the search for the entrance to the imperial stair – designed to allow the emperor’s litter to be carried up to the press room – revealed a long corridor connected to a bath suite with, so far, a small peristyle court leading to a round _laconicum_. The corridor was as elegantly decorated as the stair, with veneers in Portasanta and Numidian marble and moldings in Luni marble. On the other three sides of the building vaulted substructures were explored, probably intended to hold the _dolia_ in which the wine was fermented. While it had long been known that the site was reoccupied by the medieval village of Villamagna, new this year is the discovery, based on abundant Forum Ware, that this dates to the ninth century. A small oven was found in one of the subterranean vaults, while a series of huts, first sunken-floored and then timber-built, occupied the area of the peristyle from the ninth through the twelfth centuries. Excavation at the site of the barracks was completed, two blocks of rooms opening onto a small alley with a central drain. Along with the _dolia_, hearths and querns discovered last year, a number of infants buried under the floors can be taken as proof of the occupation of the space by family units; in two cases these were multiple burials separated by tiles. X-rays of the bone mass suggested that the infants were notably undernourished. The building collapsed around the time of Constantine. A reoccupation towards the end of the fourth century came to a close by the middle of the fifth. At the monastery, excavation of the cemetery brought the total of burials to over 400: anthropological work on these has begun in earnest, with a team of four and the participation of Janet Monge of the University Museum as consultant. Under the cemetery and the remains of the monastic garden is emerging a large paved courtyard dating to the beginning of the villa. The church was constructed directly on top of this, probably in the sixth century, over the foundations of a Roman building. Also fronting onto the piazza is what we interpret as a façade of the imperial residence, whose extension to the north is covered by the monastic buildings. Here again, reoccupation appears to date to the ninth century A.D., although its exact form will be established in the final excavation next year. The form of the thirteenth-century cloister has now been firmly established: built over a cistern with funnel-shaped inlets into its cross-vaulted roof, it combines a cloister courtyard with a substantial _impluvium_.
      • The full season, though, covered June and July, and aimed at the completion of all the catalogues. At Site B, where the church and monastery of S. Pietro di Villamagna has been excavated by Caroline Goodson, the Roman and Late Roman hases were revealed beneath the cemetery and monastic deposits. The earliest deposit is a paving of white paving stones covering almost the whole area of the excavation. This was clearly a courtyard in front of one of the buildings on the estate, whose facade is visible in the section of the trench. Into this paved area in the third century was constructed a brick building with the same plan as the later church. Too early to be identified as a church, it may be a ceremonial structure, or a temple dedicated to the imperial cult. However, a series of burials, including two flanking the door, suggest that during the fifth century it was transformed into a church. In the sixth century the building was removed to foundation level, and a new church built on the same plan, although with three doors in the front facade rather than a single central one. Within the portico surrounding the great court a cella vinaria was established with at least eight large dolia whose pits are visible in two rows: pottery and coins allow us to attribute both events to the second half of the sixth century, probably under the Byzantine emperor Justinian. South of the winery the excavation of the dense sequence of huts that covered atrium the bath building was completed. Although little was left of the decoration, the collapsed marble from the monumental corridor of the baths excavated last year was reconstructed by Dirk Booms to give a complete reconstruction of the wall veneers. The water supply of the villa was also investigated, both in a small cistern that served as a castellum divisoriu and at a monumental fountain between the slave barracks and the villa. Finally, an amphitheatre, clearly visible on a RAF air photograph was investigated by magnetometry, with ambiguous results. The over 500 individuals from the cemetery have now been catalogued, aged, sexed and measured: they are stored in Anagni for future research, the preliminary catalogues of the architectural fragments, sculpture, pottery and other finds are also complete. We hope to complete the publication of the site within the next year.


      • Elizabeth Fentress, Sandra Gatti, Caroline Goodson, Sophie Hay, Ann Kuttner, Marco Maiuro. 2006. Excavations at Villa Magna 2006. FOLD&R Italy: 68.
      • Elizabeth Fentress, Corisande Fenwick, Caroline Goodson, Ann Kuttner, Marco Maiuro. 2007. Excavations at Villa Magna 2007. FOLD&R Italy: 96.
      • Dirk Booms, Francesca Candilio, Andrea Di Miceli, Corisande Fenwick, Elizabeth Fentress, Caroline Goodson, Megan McNamee , Serena Privitera, Ryan Ricciardi. 2008. Excavations at Villa Magna 2008. FOLD&R Italy: 126.
      • Elizabeth Fentress, Caroline Goodson, Marco Maiuro. 2009. Excavations at Villa Magna 2009. FOLD&R Italy: 169.
      • Marco Maiuro, Elizabeth Fentress, Caroline Goodson. 2010. Excavations at Villa Magna 2010. FOLD&R Italy: 207.


      • E. Fentress, S. Gatti, C. Goodson, S. Hay, A. Kuttner, M. Maiuro, 2006, Excavations at Villa Magna 2006, in www.fastionline.org/docs/FOLDER-it-2006-68.pdf.
      • E. Fentress, C. Fenwick, C. Goodson, A. Kuttner, M. Maiuro, 2007, Excavations at Villa Magna 2007, in www.fastionline.org/docs/FOLDER-it-2007-96.pdf.