Sacellum of the Augustali in Miseno, ancient Roman sanctuary

Miseno, 80070, Bacoli

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Archaeological Site

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Suitable for children

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Supports in English or French

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About this activity

The recent history of the Phlegraean Fields has a large number of Roman monuments discovered by chance during construction works. In some cases, such as for example the Anfiteatro Minore in Pozzuoli, this has unfortunately meant the damage or loss of a large part of the archaeological site. Fortunately, however, it did not always go this way: in most cases we have been lucky enough to rediscover exceptional treasures that still today allow us to peek into the prestigious Roman past of this area, so rich in historical evidence. This is the case of the Sacellum of the Augustali (known in Italian as the Sacello degli Augustali) in Miseno, an hamlet that is located in the municipality of Bacoli and that is less than an hour from the centre of Naples. This extraordinary archaeological site has stood the test of time and the geological harshness of the area: in fact, neither seismic phenomena nor bradyseism have managed to scratch the charm of this ancient Roman temple that still offers itself to our sight in all its solemnity.

History of the Sacellum of the Augustali

The Sacellum of the Augustali (also known as College of the Augustali) was built around the 1st century AD, in the middle of the Julio-Claudian era. It was a sanctuary dedicated to the cult of the Emperors and it was managed by the Sacerdotes Augustales, the priests of Augustus. In the mid-2nd century AD some changes were made to the building, that were commissioned by Cassia Victoria in honour of her husband Lucius Lecanius Primitivus, a priest of Augustus. On this occasion the temple was enriched with marble coverings and elaborate reliefs, a tangible sign of the economic power of the patrons.

Unfortunately, the College of the Augustali suffered heavy damage at the end of the 2nd century AD, probably due to the seismic phenomena that have always been present in the Phlegraean Fields area. The sanctuary saw the light again only in 1968, when the owner of a land in Miseno began the construction works of two private villas. The archaeological excavations that followed have been made difficult because of the flooding caused by bradyseism, and they continued until 1972. The function of the newly discovered building was understood thanks to the finding of a Latin inscription that read: Templum augusti quod est augustalium (“The temple of Augustus which belongs to the priests of Augustus”).

Why you should visit the College of the priests of Augustus

The Sacellum of the Augustali is literally nestled in the surrounding environment: the temple was in fact built by digging directly into the rock, adding only the internal masonry walls. The sanctuary is made even more suggestive thanks to the phenomenon of bradyseism, which periodically floods part of the rooms giving the viewer the impression that the temple floats on the water. The Sacellum of the Augustali is composed of three rooms; the actual sacellum is the central area, where the altar is located: this is because in the Roman world the term sacellum meant precisely the fenced and uncovered area that was around the altar (usually dedicated to minor divinities). The sacellum is accessed through a marble staircase leading to a vestibule with a mosaic pavement; here were the decorated pediment and the above-mentioned Latin inscription. The room on the right of the chapel was embellished with stucco and paintings, while the room on the left housed the equestrian statue of emperor Nerva.

An extra curiosity about the Sacellum of the Augustali

The discovery of the College of the priests of Augustus in 1968 brought to light statues of emperors (Titus, Vespasian and Nerva) and deities (Apollo, Venus, Asclepius) which are now exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of the Phlegraean Fields, housed in the Aragonese Castle of Baia. This splendid fortress, located on a promontory that overlooks the crystalline sea of ​​the Gulf of Pozzuoli, was chosen to host the thematic exhibition of the finds discovered in the archaeological sites of the Phlegraean Fields. For this reason, an entire room has been set up dedicated to the Sacello degli Augustali, containing the aforementioned statues and the pediment found in the sanctuary. So, if the Sacellum of the Augustali has fascinated you, why not expand your tour and complete your itinerary with a visit to the Archaeological Museum of the Phlegraean Fields?

Tips for the visit

Getting to

  • To reach the Point of Interest, follow the indications or push the button 'Get directions.'

Activity's Location

Miseno, 80070, Bacoli