⚉ A LITTLE SACELLUM FOR PRIVATE WORSHIP ⚉
An ancient Medieval legend, supported by Corrado Ricci's researches, has made us believe for a long time that this little building was empress Galla Placidia's tomb. As a matter of fact, modern historic critics and a careful exam of sources, let us suppose that emperor Theodosius 1st the Great's daughter died in Rome on November 27th 450. Hence Galla Placidia has been probably buried in the rotunda of Santa Petronilla, near the original Basilica of St Peter in Vatican; this building was therefore adapted as a mausoleum of the Theodosian family.
Not any documents show the Mausoleum was built on behalf of Galla Placidia but it is probable as it was initially put onto the south-east extremity of the portico of the church of Santa Croce and that church was commissioned by the empress herself.
The marble pine cone on the roof of the Mausoleum and many funeral symbols in the mosaics inside, let us believe the former purpose of the building should be funeral, but soon the mausoleum was used as a private chapel consecrated to St Laurence Martyr. The deacon going towards martyrdom is depicted in the lunette in front of the entrance door..
According to some authors the sacellum was supposed to be a martyrium that is a sacred place intended to keep relics of saints worshipped by the Imperial family.
⚉ ARCHITECTURAL FRAMEWORK ⚉
Big and thick bricks were used to build this little mausoleum and its plan is of a Latin cross. From the intersection of the four limbs a square tower arises; it hides the semisferic dome inside the building.
Since the original plan of the building is 1 metre 50 below the actual plan of site, it now appears without any slenderness and low.
Except the façade, all the external walls have pilaster strips originally standing on a brick wall now buried.
The pilasters create blind arches on the top which give rythm and dinamism to the whole structure.
14 little windows give light to the sacellum. In 1908 Vittorio Emanuele 3rd king of Italy gave as a present an alabaster glass for each window.
The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia was isolated from the church of Santa Croce in 1602, when the road via Galla Placidia became praticable and the portico destroyed.