The Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia Italy

Aquileia one of the largest and wealthiest cities of the Early Roman Empire, was destroyed by Attila in the mid-5th century. Most of it still lies unexcavated beneath the fields, and as such it constitutes the greatest archaeological reserve of its kind. The patriarchal basilica, an outstanding building with an exceptional mosaic pavement, played a key role in the evangelization of a large region of central Europe. Aquileia was one of the largest and most wealthy cities of the Early Roman Empire. By virtue of the fact that most of ancient Aquileia survives intact and unexcavated, it is the most complete example of an Early Roman city in the Mediterranean world. The Patriarchal Basilica Complex in Aquileia played a decisive role in the spread of Christianity into central Europe in the early middle Ages.

The Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia Italy
Continent: Europe
Country: Italy
Category: Cultural
Criterion: (III)(IV) (VI)
Date of Inscription: 1998

Aquileia was a major trading centre

Aquileia was founded by the Romans as a Latin colony in 181 BC in the north-eastern corner of the plain of the Po as an outpost against Gallic and Istrian barbarians. It quickly became a major trading centre, linking central Europe with the Mediterranean. By 90 BC it had been elevated to the status of municipium and its citizens were accorded full rights of Roman citizenship. Its wealth resulted in the town being endowed with many magnificent public buildings, and the private residences of its rich merchants were opulently decorated.

The Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia

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Spiritual significance

During the 4th century imperial residences were built in Aquileia, and it was the seat of the Imperial Mint between AD 284 and AD 425. Of particular importance was the construction in the second decade of the 4th century of a basilica, following the sanctioning of public worship by the Edict of Milan in 313. All this was to come to a violent end in 452, when Aquileia was sacked by the Huns led by Attila. Its mercantile role was assumed later by Venice. However, Aquileia retained its spiritual significance, becoming the seat of a patriarchate which survived until 1751, and played a key role in the evangelization of this region.

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