Roman Baths of Diocletian
Tourist Guide to the Ancient Diocletian Baths
The Baths of Diocletian are the grandest of the Roman public baths and a favorite ancient Roman attraction to see on a Rome Italy vacation.
Imagine an immense area of 32 acres where 3000 people could bath in hot, cold or tepid baths.
Surrounding the ancient Dicloetian Baths were shopping arcades, gardens, gymnasia and sports grounds, libraries, art galleries and walking paths.
The building of the baths for Roman Emperor Diacletian began in 298AD and was completed in 306AD. They were built by 10,204 Christian slaves who were then executed and buried at Trefontane.
The Diocletian Baths were in use until 537AD when the Goths destroyed Rome's aqueducts. Pope Sixtus V evidentally blew up 95,000 cubic metres of the wall surrounding the baths. The only buildings left in the Baths of Diocletian area are the Basilica Santa Maria Degli Angeli which was the main hall of the baths, the Museo Nazionale and the Octagonal Hall or Aula Ottagona.
Map of Ancient Diocletian Baths
large area that the baths once covered
Basilica Santa Maria Degli Angeli
The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels was designed by Michelangelo in 1561. Just inside the door would have been the tepidarium or cooling off area where people went after the hot steam baths or calidarium located where the Piazza Repubblica is now.
The central bath was where the church's transept is now. Originally this was the nave or main aisle of the church, but in 1749 the church's axis was turned. There are 16 huge columns....the 8 granite columns in the transept are the originals and the other eight are stucco imitations.
As you enter Church of S Maria Degli there is a famous statue by Houdonn of St. Brun from 1766.
In the right transept is La Meridiana from 1702 or Rome's meridian line. At noon (adjust for daylight saving time) the sun casts a beam on this line. It is also a calendar....as the sunbean moved on the rod many key dates in the Christian calendar were marked and predicted. La Meridiana was the "timekeeper" for the city until 1846.
Some of the paintings in this church are originals from St. Peter's where they were replaced by mosaics. Notice the venerated Madonna above the high altar.
To the left of the main altar are some copies of Michelangelo's drawings and some of the church's architectural history.
Museo Nazionale Romano Terme di Diocleziano
The National Museum of Rome has one of the world's most important archaeological collections. It has four locations ....Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi and Terme di Diocleziano or the Diocletian Thermals Baths.
You will find everything from ancient coffins, sculpture, terracotta, and mosaics to a cloister and shaded gardens with Roman tombstones at this Baths of Diocletian location.
Directly straight ahead after the entrance is a collection of Christian stone coffins or sarcophagi from the 4th century. On these coffins, you will recognize the raising of Lazarus, wedding of Canna miracle, multiplication of loaves, curing of the blind man and more.
Check out the exhibition of Roman terracotta and the 2nd century mummified body of an 8 year old girl. The museum also has a large mosaic depicting the Diocletian Baths, the Saracophagus of the Philosophers and a pagan altar from Ostia dated from 124AD.
The Great Cloister of the Charterhouse attributed to Michelangelo has 100 arches where each monk had a little house, garden, and chapel of his own. In the middle is a fountain and pool with huge antique heads of animals.
Make sure and include the ancient Baths of Diocletian when sightseeing in Rome. Their convenient location is directly across from Termini Station in Rome.
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