If it’s an early Sunday morning in November, I’m bound to be scouring the outskirts of Rome searching for some park I’ve never heard about before so my youngest son can participate in a cross-country race.
This has been our habit over the last six years, and I must say I have discovered an amazing amount of obscure Roman parks boasting impressive monuments in this way.
Even after years of living here, Rome never ceases to amaze me.
One Sunday morning earlier this month I was bound for the Villa de Sanctis park off the less-than-picturesque Via Casalina. Jut at the entrance of the park looms the Ancient Roman-era Mausoleum of Elena.
The mausoleum was originally intended for Emperor Constantine (most famous for making Christianity the official religion of Ancient Rome), who had it built between 326-330 A.D. It was to have been his mausoleum.
However, the Emperor’s mother, Elena, died in 328, and therefore, the structure being built was instead used to bury Constantine’s mother. The splendid sarcophagus in which Elena was buried can be found in the Vatican Museum.
Elena’s Mausolem is considered one of the most important architectural complexes of Paleochristian Rome in the IVth century. The cylinder shape of the structure has a diameter of over 27 meters and an interior of over 20 meters. The original structure would have been more than 25 meters high, but what remains today reaches about 18 meters.
Over subsequent centuries, buildings had been added to the mausoleum, including a medieval rainwater harvesting cistern. A restoration project between 1993-2000 restored the mausoleum to its original structure.
What an impressive “discovery” during the early morning cross-country competition.
Although I was very happy to see my little athlete do so well in his race, I was equally impressed to stumble upon this impressive Ancient Roman monument to Emperor Constantine’s mother.
Yet another reason to love Rome.