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Centuries of history
The Domus Sessoriana holds centuries of history. It takes its name from the Palazzo Sessoriano which has been from the third century the residence of the last emperors, from Septimius Severus to Constantine and his mother Helena. During the middle of the third century A.D., the danger of barbarian invasions necessitated the strengthening of defenses around Rome. The Emperor Aurelian ordered, thus, the construction of a new fortified wall that was built between 271 and 275 AD. The section of the Aurelian Walls that encompasses the area of Santa Croce is one of the best preserved sections of the entire walls of Rome.
In the area south-east of the Basilica have been brought to light the remains of the Circus Varianus, built after the will of Emperor Heliogabalus (218-222). Adjacent to the Basilica and the Monastery are the remains of the Amphitheatre Castrense which stood on the highest point in the area and was included by Aureliano (270-275) in the defensive enclosure of the Eternal City. Its name comes from Castrum which, in late antique epoch, assumed also the meaning of imperial residence. It was used as the court performances and military exercises. The remains of the Amphitheatre, clearly visible from the roof garden of the Domus Sessoriana, have followed the events of the Monastery which used its materials for the construction of new buildings in the half of the 18th century.
The recovery of a monastery
In the fourth century. the complex was inhabited by Flavia Julia Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine I, who renovated the so-called Terme Eleniane, of which were found some rooms belonging to the tank that fed. Elena then decided to draw from a rectangular room, the first church from which derives the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, where preserving the Relics of Christ she miraculously found on the Calvary. The structure is built from a monastery, built in the tenth century, after the wish of Pope Benedict VI and assigned for centuries to various monastic orders (Benedictines, Carthusians, Cistercians) until 2009.
The restoration, rehabilitation and restructuring necessary to promote and ensure the optimal use of the Domus Sessoriana was performed with the aim of ensuring the proper use of the monumental complex in the respect and enhancement of its heritage. The eighteenth century interiors of the Monastery visible today, preserved and restored in their original colors, were the reference point for all interventions in the building. The whitewashed, the terracotta floors, the restoration of the stucco frames of that time, the use of stone and special installation techniques, the use of lighting devices, everything has been made in full compliance with the formal aesthetic genius loci and its cultural stratification..
All works have been performed under the direction of the High Security officials of the Superintendent of The Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism.