House of Vestals (Vestal Virgins) and Temple of Vesta

"House of Vestals (Vestal Virgins) and Temple of Vesta" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Wednesday 29th June 2011

House of Vestals (Vestal Virgins) and Temple of Vesta

The beautiful large rectangular House of Vestals or Vestal Virgins (Casa delle Vestali/ Atrium Vestae) of virgin guards of the sacred fire, four or six privileged and venerated priestess, who were chosen by the head of the State between the six and ten years old girls from the patrician families, who served for 30 years keeping the vow of chastity, of which ten years she was learning her duties, ten performing them, and ten teaching the new-comers, was located close to the circular Round Temple of Vesta (Tempio Rotondo di Vesta). The original rooms, created during the Republic, stood in the Roman Forum/ Forum Romanum (Foro Romano) together with the most ancient monuments, like the Templum of Vesta and the Regia.

House of Vestals or Vestal Virgins (Casa delle Vestali/ Atrium Vestae) in the Roman Forum/ Forum Romanum (Foro Romano)
The House of the Vestal Virgins (Atrium Vestae), was the residence of the Vestal Virgins, the high priestesses of the cult of Vesta. The cult of Vesta is very ancient, and the Vestal Virgins had their residence in the same location from the 6th century BCE to the end of the 4th century CE. It is located on the Roman Forum/ Forum Romanum (Foro Romano), just behind the Temple of Vesta, south from the Via Sacra, in front of the Templum of Antoninus and Faustina, between the Regia and the Palatine Hill.

It had 20 Corinthian columns, and was founded nearly at the same time with Rome. It was destined to conserve the sacred fire, a symbol of perpetuity of the State. The work of vestals was to keep fire always alight. The house of the vestals was built in Republican times, but was rebuilt after the Nero's fire of Rome in 64 A.D.. After 30 years of service a vestal could return to the world and get married. But if she broke her vow of castity while being a priestess, she was immured alive and the man was publicly flogged to death.

The Round Temple of Vesta (Tempio Rotondo di Vesta) vaguely resembled a hut: was reconstructed and restored several times after numerous fires, the last took place in 191 A.D. and was reconstructed by Julia Domna, wife of Settimius Severus. The temple was closed in 394 by Christian emperor Theodosius, as the sign of the power of the new religion. The present aspect of the temple was recomposed in 1930. It had a circular plant and was covered by a roof with a hole on the top to let out the smoke of the sacred fire. It was encircled by twenty columns, three of which remain today. Here were kept the sacred objects bound with the fortunes of Rome, which by tradition Aeneas had brought from Troy.

At the eastern end of the court there is a wide, vaulted room, flanked by 3 smaller rooms at each side, probably related with the cult activities.

The S. side of the complex consisted of utility rooms, such as a kitchen, a mill, an oven. These were probably used for the preparation of bread and cakes for various rituals performed by the vestals. The vestals are thought to have had their private rooms on the first floor.

Archaeologists assume second and third floors existed because of the stairs found on the southern side. The rooms on the nothern side are highly damaged and it's not possible to hypotize any use with certainty.

Address:
House of Vestals (Vestal Virgins) and Temple of Vesta
Via dei Fori Imperiali (Via in Miranda, 15)
Piazza Santa Maria Nova 53 and Largo della Salara Vecchia 5/6
00186, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Rione Campitelli (Foro Romano- Campidoglio-P.Venezia) (Roma centro)/ Rione Celio (Terme di Caracalla) (Roma centro)
House of Vestals (Vestal Virgins) and Temple of Vesta is Shown By "Map K Zone" As "20"
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