ROME • A sixth-century church boasting a rare collection of early Christian art is reopening to the public in Rome after a restoration that took more than 30 years.
Nestling at the foot of the hill where Rome's emperors once lived, Santa Maria Antiqua was buried under rubble by an earthquake in 847 and was uncovered only in 1900.
The interior's frescoes of saints and martyrs, queens, popes and emperors have now been restored at a cost of about €2.7 million (S$4.1 million), funded by the Italian state and the World Monuments Fund.
"This church is the Sistine Chapel of the early Middle Ages," said art historian Maria Andaloro, who is curating an exhibition that uses digital projections on the church's walls. "It collected the very best of figurative culture of the Christian world between Rome and Byzantium."
Among the treasures is a depiction of the Virgin Mary with child, one of the oldest known Christian icons in the world, which was moved to another church in Rome after the earthquake but has now been returned to Santa Maria Antiqua.