The ruins of a private theater belonging to the 1st century Roman Emperor Nero were unearthed just meters from the Vatican last July. The fifth Roman emperor, Nero ruled between 54 and 68 AD. An unpopular leader, he was known for his extravagances and personal debaucheries.
Experts agree in calling this dig an “exceptional” find. According to the article published by CNN Travel, Rome’s special superintendent Daniela Porro explained that this was the venue where Nero rehearsed poetry and music, a few meters from where St. Peter’s Basilica now stands. The ancient theater was mentioned in Roman texts written by Pliny the Elder, but its whereabouts had not previously been found.
The dig is part of a renovation project of the Palazzo della Rovere on the Via Della Conciliazione, which leads to St. Peter’s Square. The Palazzo, it has been found out now, was built on top of what once was Nero’s Theatre. The Palazzo is also home to the headquarters of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Part of the Renaissance-era building, once known as the Hotel Columbus, will now be a Four Seasons hotel, set to open in 2025 in time for Rome’s Jubilee year celebrations.
A jubilee, at least within the Catholic Church, is a significant celebration that commemorates either a milestone or an anniversary, typically occurring at intervals such as 25, 50, or 100 years. Rooted in the biblical concept of the jubilee year found in the Book of Leviticus, the Catholic jubilee carries deep theological significance and serves as a time of spiritual renewal, forgiveness, rest, and reconciliation.
Whereas some of the earliest artifacts found in the site bear witness to its use as a theater (the dig has found remnants of ancient Roman costumes), more recent artifacts have also been found in it. Among the 15th-century artifacts recovered during the excavation were glass goblets, cooking pots, coins, remnants of musical instruments, and various tools used to make rosary beads.
CNN’s article explains that “many of the smaller pieces will be taken to Roman museums for display and the ruins of the structure will be reburied once they have been cataloged.”