Villa Romana del Casale
What has always amazed visitors to the Villa del Casale, from the earliest excavations in the 19th century to the most recent restoration work, are “the superb remains of grandiose mosaics, the polychrome floors of the sumptuous villa of the late imperial age” (G.V. Gentili).
It is precisely the impressive mosaic complex that has led to the Villa’s inclusion in the list of UNESCO sites and made it one of the most important examples of the “Villa” architectural genre, which combines, on the one hand, prestigious residential features and, on the other, elements functional to productive activities, in relation to its rural location: oil cultivation, viticulture, cereal growing, livestock husbandry.
This Villa is a monumental complex of great historical and artistic importance, dating back to the late imperial Roman period. It presents distinctive residential and ceremonial characteristics, due both to the complexity of the architectural layout and the richness of the decorative elements that were typical of many large Roman villas built in different parts of the empire.
Especially from the 4th century onwards, the most beautiful late-antique villas in Sicily, such as those at Patti, Tellaro and, of course, Piazza Armerina, were rebuilt on pre-existing rustic villas with increasingly monumental aspects: they had complex and articulated layouts, had thermal baths, triclinia, basilicas, apsidal rooms and private flats, and were enriched with extraordinary decorative features, porticoes, fountains, statues, internal gardens and mosaics.
During the long centuries of its life, the Villa was despoiled of most of its artistic decorations, but the spectacular preservation of the floor mosaics exists, despite the massive flooding around 1000 AD. We are still surprised today by the richness of the polychromy, the realistic depiction, the freshness of the representations and the variety of subjects.
But it is even more surprising to think that this result was achieved by the skill and ability of specialised artistic workers who, according to the needs of the client, were always composing new scenes and representations.
The ascertained presence of African mosaic craftsmen associated with the centres of Carthage, Hippona, Caesarea, make the Villa del Casale one of the most important documents of African mosaic art of the late antique period and, at the same time, an example of the ability of Roman culture to convey, on the strength of its state governance and military and economic organisation, those concepts, values and forms shared throughout the Mediterranean.
UNESCO World Heritage List
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