By Heather Walker
ROME —The Lay Centre scholars gathered for their annual day trip, held at the end of each academic year. A guided cultural visit and a typical Roman meal in a local restaurant are always included in the outing.
The sun was shining for this year’s day trip, May 8, to the archaeological site of Ostia Antica, 27 km south of Rome. Our expert guide for the morning, Dr. Christiaan Santini, led the way.
Built in the first century B.C. near the mouth of the Tiber River and leading to the Tyrrhenian Sea, Ostia Antica was important for ancient Rome. In addition to its nearby precious salt marshes, it became an important river port providing a strategic military function as a naval base and acquired a commercial function to supply Rome with food stuffs, in particular wheat.
Santini explained the site’s history and directed us through the sprawling streets flanked by ruins of what was, in the second century, home to approximately 50,000 inhabitants and a hive of activity and prosperity.
COVID-19 restrictions on the number of people entering the site meant we had the place mostly to ourselves, so we could also explore the smaller paths and lesser-known areas.
Santini highlighted the site’s Christian history. We visited the ruins of the Oratory of St. Quiriacus and, on leaving the archaeological site, there was time to stop at the Renaissance church of St. Aurea, which housed St. Monica’s tomb until the 14th century, when it was transferred to the Basilica of St. Augustine in Rome.
Everyone then headed off to a local restaurant, just a few hundred metres from the archaeological site, for a delicious fish-based lunch.
Some scholars decided to head towards the beach after lunch, making the most of the beautiful weather and enjoying a few hours by the sea.
Photos courtesy visiting scholar Ori Kinberg
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