The Domus Ceciliae

April 11, 2008 / Art & Archaeology
ceciliadomus1Given the intimate feel of the place, Domus Ceciliae would best be translated as “Ceci’s house”. One of those custom knit doormats with her name woven into it sitting in front of her door would not be out of place. Trouble is, the front door is about 12 feet underground now, and Ceci has not lived here for about 2000 years.

Most of the ancient Roman houses or apartment buildings (this was first one then the other as Rome grew) that can be visited were preserved because they were turned into churches. And Ceci’s house is no different.

ceciliadomus2Enter Santa Cecilia in Trastevere and make a hard left through a door, hand two Euro to the nun reading her mystery paperback novel (she’ll reach out with her hand without even looking up), and descend the narrow spiral staircase. You are now in the atrium of Cecilia’s home, wondering whether it would be appropriate to politely call out “Excuse me, anyone home?”

ceciliadomus3Walk through the atrium into the house proper, pass the thermal bath area and the stock rooms for food, and onwards to the living area . . all the while noticing her great taste in elegant mosaics, frescoed ceilings, delicate and tasteful columns, and decorative marble urns and interior design elements. Of course, the large living room is the part that was turned into the early Christian church (photo 4), yet here too the sense that you have walked into someone’s private space is still palpable.

. . hard not to come away feeling you’ve paid a call on your close Roman friend Cecilia.



by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

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