Text and pictures by Maria Teresa Tozzi
The Church dedicated to St. Aurea is another symbol of the modern Ostia Antica village.
There are few information about St. Aurea. Thanks to the Acts of Martyrs we know that she came from a noble family and she was killed under Claudius the Gothic during the 3rd century. Her body was thrown into the sea and it was taken to shore by the waves. It was buried in an area called “foras muros portae Ostia”, used as a cemetery from the Imperial period onwards.
The Church was built on an early Christian structure, but with an opposite orientation. During the Middle Ages it was restored several times and it was constructed again under Cardinal Giuliano Della Rovere, who chose the architect Baccio Pontelli, in 1483.
On the façade, red brick contrast to white travertine pilasters, decorated with weapons trophies, which remind of classic iconography. The coat of arms of Cardinal Della Rovere is on the pediment, and below there is a rose window with eight segments flanked by two double lancet windows.
Inside, the shape is very simple: an aisle with a quadrangular apse, where there is the painting of St. Aurea’s martyrdom attributed to Andrea Sacchi.
It is possible to see a small marble column on the left of the altar. It is dated to the 5th century and it has the inscription “S.AUR” on its shaft. This is very interesting because it might be an evidence for an ancient Church dedicated to St. Aurea in this area.
Other ruins are preserved in the chapel on the right dedicated to St. Monica: the inscription “Chrise hic dormit”, related to St. Aurea, because she is named “Chrise” in ancient sources; and a gravestone about St. Monica (St. Augustine’s mother), who died in Ostia and was buried there.
On the left back side there is the bell tower built under cardinal Carafa in the 16th century, but rebuilt after an earthquake in the 18th century.