After the fire of 64 CE, which destroyed the greater part of the centre of Rome, Emperor Nero had a new residence built; it had walls sheathed by fine varieties of marble and vaults decorated with gold and precious stones, so to earn the name of Domus Aurea (Golden House). It was designed by the architects Severus and Celer and decorated by the painter Fabullus. The enormous complex included boundless vineyards, pastures and woods, an artificial lake, treasures looted from the cities of the Orient, and precious ornaments, such as a statue of the Emperor in the robes of the Sun God. At the death of Nero, his successors tried to bury every trace of the Palace. The luxurious halls were despoiled of the sheathing as well as of the sculptures and were filled with earth up to the the vaults; upon them the large Baths of Titus and Baths of Trajan were built and in the underlying valley the Colosseum was erected.
The lavish fresco and stucco decorations of the Domus Aurea remained hidden until the Renaissance. Then, some artists passionate about antiquities, such as Pintoricchio, Ghirlandaio, Raphael, Giovanni da Udine and Giulio Romano, abseiled down into what they thought were caves and began to copy the ornamental motifs of the vaults; hence the decorations were called grotesques (from the Italian word grottesca, grotta being the Italian for cave). With the rediscovery there began to be problems of preservation of the paintings and the stuccoes, which quickly discoloured because of humidity and ended up being forgotten. Only after the recovery of the frescoes of Pompeii did scholars again turn their attention to the Roman grotesques, and in 1772 the excavations within the Domus Aurea were resumed.
The first “Conservation Plan for the Monument” (Preliminary project report and definitive project), developed from an idea by A. Vodret, was drawn up by the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma in March 2011 and written by F. Filippi, A. Vodret, I. Sciortino, E. Segala and M. Pesce. It was then presented to the Technical Committees for Archaeological, Architectural and Landscape Heritage of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBAC). Subsequently, those parts of the project concerning the consolidation of structures and decorations, and the tests for the proposed new arrangement of the waterproof roof were launched.
The constituent parts of the monument as it has been preserved for us by history in all its transformations ensure its cultural importance and enhance its appeal. However, they also create very specific and extremely complex c onservation problems: we are dealing with a delicate and precarious architectural complex, an underground monument overlain by a park consisting of a 2-3 metre thick layer of earth weighing on its vaults and hosting trees whose roots penetrate into the ancient brickwork; the relationship between different construction phases – Neronian and Trajanic – further complicates these conservation problems whilst the unusually large size of the complex multiplies them and sometimes makes it impossible to achieve any of our objectives.
The archaeologists, architects, engineers, conservators, physicists, chemists, biologists and botanists who have been studying and working inside the Domus Aurea for many years all agree that to successfully reduce climate instability, the principal cause of risk to the monument’s conservation, beyond the plan to secure and consolidate the structures and painting cycles, we need to tackle holistically three aspects which the Soprintendenza has adopted as the fundamental parameters for its own General Intervention Plan.
The aim of the project is to conserve the Domus Aurea in its peculiarity as an underground monument, through an integrated intervention – philological, archaeological and functional – that includes recovering the complex “above and below” and rehabilitating the terrace of Trajan’s Baths within the context of the park. We intend to gradually create a new landscape that enhances the visual and physical perception of the ancient monuments, recreating the planovolumetric relationships between them and thus ensuring their spatial and cultural reconnection with the Colosseum Valley and the Central Area of the Palatine and the Imperial Forums.
Starting from February 4th, 2017 Domus Aurea’s archaeological restoration site has reopened enhanced by a new and innovative multimedia experience aimed to improve the scientific value of the site. As implementation of the offer usually provided during the previous years, a new specific site project has been realized focusing on new technologies as immersive virtual reality and video narration. These new elements are aimed to increase the fruition of the visitors through the use of multimedia installations provided with the latest technologies as Video Mapping and Virtual Reality. These new technologies will be combined with the guided tour of the Domus Aurea’s site through a 12-steps itinerary, enhanced by: High definition projections about Domus Aurea’s history will be presented at the beginning of the itinerary, in the main access aisle; High definition installation in augmented reality in the “Golden Vault Room”. The final result will be a true time travel, a sort of cognitive and emotional short circuit, something really innovative in the new technologies applied to the cultural heritage.
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The goal of this website is to focus on the amazing Domus Aurea archeological site, giving the traveler all the information needed to better understand its value and the practical advice to visit it.