Domus of Sergius and Bacchus

The church dedicated to Santi Sergio e Bacco in Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, now the Ukrainian national church, is mentioned in the sources from the ninth century AD onwards. At the time of its construction, perhaps during the eighth century, some older walls were re-used, visible today in the crypt of the church.

The surviving rooms probably belonged to a wealthy residence, built in the late Republic or early Empire, and inhabited, with various renovations, until the end of the fourth century AD. The transformations of the district have raised the ground level by several metres, so that the floors of the domus are now about six metres below the floor of the church. Unfortunately, the few surviving structures do not allow us to draw conclusions about the characteristics of the first phase of this building. What is certain is that during the second half of the second century AD, the owners of the domus undertook radical restoration work, creating a large square room with a fine decoration on several registers: the lower zone was covered with coloured marble panels, whose arrangement is apparent only from the traces of the panels impressed on the preparatory layer of plaster. The upper part of the wall, from a height of about 2.5 m, was decorated with a large fresco in bright colours, especially red and ochre yellow. Judging from what we see on the small portion preserved today, the wall was divided into several panels separated by columns, creating an imaginary architecture within which we sense the presence of a draped female figure.

Behind this hall, the owners carved out a small trapezoidal room whose walls are lined with a row of tubuli, terracotta pipes to channel hot air in order to heat the room: this is probably what survives of a laconicum, a sauna, part of the small bath complex annexed to this elegant town house. At this time it was common for the wealthiest citizens to build small private baths for themselves and their friends, allowing them to relax and pamper themselves away from the promiscuity of the crowded public facilities frequented by ordinary people.