Back to menu


From the eleventh to the fourteenth century Ostian marble was reused in the cathedrals of Pisa, Florence, Amalfi and Orvieto. The search for marble was easy, because Ostia was not entirely buried. Richard Coeur de Lion landed at the mouth of the Tiber and saw "immense ruins of ancient walls" (August 26, 1190): Intravit Tyberim, ad cuius introitum est turris pulcerrima sed solitaria [Tor Boacciana]. Sunt et ibi ruinae maxime murorum antiquorum... Vicesima sexta die Augusti transivit rex per quoddam nemus quod dicitur Selvedeme [probably a corruption of 'Selva d'Enea'] in quo est via marmorea ad modum pavimenti facta; et durat per medium nemus quater viginti miliaria [Via Severiana] (Monum. Germ. Hist. Scriptorum, t. XXVII, pp. 114-115). As late as 1162 AD the faithful went to the chapel of Cyriacus near the theatre, the ecclesia Sancti Ciriaci extra villam. They came from Gregoriopolis, modern Ostia Antica, and followed the old Via Ostiensis and Decumanus Maximus, now flanked by collapsed and partly overgrown buildings.

In the fifteenth century Ostia was in ruins, but not entirely buried. In the Commentarii of pope Pius II (1458-1464) we read: Fuisse olim magnam (Ostiam) ruinae probant, quae multum agri occupant... Visuntur dirutae porticus et columnae iacentes et statuarum fragmenta: extant et veteris templi parietes marmore spoliati, qui nobile quondam fuisse opus ostendunt. Cernitur et pars aquaeductus.... Under this pope Ostian marble was used in St. Peter's. In 1483 the present castle of Gregoriopolis ("Rocca") was built by cardinal Giuliano della Rovere. It had to protect Rome from incursions by raiders. Also in the fifteenth century a building used in the production of salt, the Casone del Sale, was built on the spot now occupied by the museum: domus ad usum salarie in civitate Hostiensi. The salt pans were used as late as the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1557 there was a major inundation. The meandering Tiber changed its course. The branch of the Tiber along the castle was cut off, so that the fortress became useless. The old branch is now filled with earth and known as Fiume Morto ("Dead River"). The inundation of 1557 also destroyed a large stretch of the ancient Tiber quays.

The Rocca of Giuliano della Rovere. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The church of S. Aurea. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

'View of the Salt Pans near Ostia'. A painting by Andrea Locatelli (1695-1741).

Modern salt pans near Guérande, France. Photograph: Jolande Videler.

The interior of the Casone del Sale. The building was apparently built in the 15th century,
but looks suspiciously like a Roman bakery, such as the Caseggiato dei Molini.
From Calza 1935, fig. 4.