Along Via Nomentana, an ancient consular road in the northeast of Rome, you’ll find a monumental mausoleum that was used to house the tombs of the two daughters of the Emperor Constantine, Costanza and Elena. Their bodies were buried here in the 4th century. This circular monumental tomb is decorated by some of the oldest mosaics in the world. Most of the mosaics depict grape harvest scenes and for this, the mausoleum was identified as a temple to Dionysus for quite a long time. Two portraits inserted in the center of the grape harvest scenes represent Costanza and her husband, Hannibalianus.
The mausoleum was later used as a baptistery and then, starting in the year 1254, as a church. It maintains its paleo-Christian structure and actually still displays the architectural influence of pagan temples. The circular interior is divided by twelve columns and the ambulatory converges towards the niche that once contained Costanza’s original sarcophagus in porphyry. The sarcophagus on display today is a copy, while the original is housed in the Vatican Museums.
Address: Via Nomentana, 00198 Roma, Italy