Santa Maria in Grottapinta is a little secret which holds a bigger secret. The unassuming arcade can be approached from the direction of the Campo dei Fiori or the Corso Vittorio Emanuele – and from either end you feel you are taking your life into your hands, as you make your way past graffiti, past bicycles chained to time-scarred walls and into the darkness.
Once inside, look up – and the reason why you should make time to visit this special place becomes obvious. Painted cherubs swing their chubby limbs from the vaulted ceiling and walls – and at one end is a small altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary. A text on the wall explains the history of the small church – and its significance becomes obvious almost immediately.
This month marks the birthday of Julius Caesar, after whom the month of July was renamed following his assassination. He was conspired against for making moves towards having himself deified.
These days we are also seeing how making yourself into a god can lose you friends, as President Macron of France goes all Jupiter on us. Julius Caesar paid the ultimate price for narcissism, however.
Many think that he met his end in the Forum, but the truth is he was murdered as he was making his way to a meeting – a meeting which his third wife Calpurnia begged him not to attend because she had been awake all night with terrible nightmares. How prophetic those nightmares turned out to be.
He ignored her and set off after breakfast for a meeting to be held at the first public theatre built by Pompey.
The arcade of Santa Maria in Grottapinta used to be a corridor in this theatre -and it is in the theatre, beneath a statue of Pompey, where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in 44BC, in a plot to stop him assuming ultimate power as a living god.
The text on the wall explains the history of this little arcade, with its beautifully decorated walls and ceiling – a feature you would not expect from its dilapidated exterior.
And such is the modesty of its location, it is perhaps not the place you would expect one of the world’s most powerful rulers to have met his end in.
July 13 is the birthday of Julius Caesar – his legacy lives on in history, in the achievements of the Romans and also in me, for he is my many times great grandpa. And that is another reason why, for me, Santa Maria in Grottapinta is such a special place.
Join harassed housewife Bee and newly-divorced Alzheimer’s researcher Dr Neil McCarthy, as they try to escape marital woes with separate weekend mini breaks in the Eternal City from opposite ends of the country. What Rome has in store for them will change their lives forever.
Adult content, humour and themes which some might find upsetting.