National Museums of Rome - Crypta Balbi


in short

The museum, opened to the public in 2000, is set out in two sections: Archaeology and history of an urban landscape Rome from antiquity to the medieval period and Rome from antiquity to the medieval period
Modello plastico ricostruttivo dell’isolato con le fasi dall’antichità al XX secolo
© Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma

National Museums of Rome - Crypta Balbi

in detail

The Crypta was a vast colonnaded courtyard, within the Campus Martius, annexed to the theatre erected by Lucius Cornelius Balbus in 13 B.C. On the eastern side of the portico lies the exedra. The portico was surrounded on the east side by a nucleus of insulae. These insulae are depicted on the marble Forma urbis and are included within the perimeter of the modern city block.

Urban archaeology
The excavations at the Crypta have revealed that life on the site continued after the ancient period. A series of transformations and reuses of the monument extended without interruption through the medieval and renaissance periods down to the present day.
In the late Antiquity period, following the end of the use of the theatre, and consequently of the crypta, during a brief period of abandonment, the area was used as a dump and burial place. Later, in the  early Medieval period, the site was occupied by two churches, with their respective monasteries: San Lorenzo in Pallacinis, that was installed on top of the insulae outside of the Crypta, on the north-east side of the modern city block, and Santa Maria domine Rose, in the centre of the porticoed area.
In the late Medieval period, behind the perimeter wall of the monument, a massive wall of tufa and travertine blocks surmounted by brickwork, still preserved to a considerable height, abutted the houses and palaces of noble families.  In the mid 16th century, the Conservatorio di Santa Caterina della Rosa, a religious institution to assist the needy young girls of the city, was built on the site of the Monastero di Santa Maria domine Rose.

Il Museo di Roma nel Medievo (The Museum of Rome in the Medieval Period)
A new exhibition site of the Museo Nazionale Romano, the first section of the Museo di Roma nel Medievo (Museum of Rome in the Medieval Period) opened to the public in 2000. It has been installed in the building already restored. Thus, the first portion of the project for the restoration and display of the entire city block has been concluded.
The museum is set out in two sections. The first section, Archaeology and history of an urban landscape, illustrates the transformations that this central sector of the urban landscape underwent from antiquity through the 20th century. The second section, Rome from antiquity to the medieval period, depicts the evolution of the city’s culture between the 5th and 9th centuries.
The museum display is organised as a thematic account on wall panels in which the archaeological material is illustrated and integrated with documents, reconstructive drawings of the rooms, relief models and virtual reconstructions on computerised supports.
Aspects of daily life and the productive activity that were undertaken in the area as both the architecture and urban landscape were transformed emerge in the account of the site: the free distribution of grain in the porticus Minucia in the imperial period, the activity of the limekilns already present in the 9th century, the manufacture of cloth and rope in the medieval period, the life of the spinsters of the Conservatorio in Counter-reformation Rome.

Rome from antiquity to the  medieval period
One of the most significant results of the new museum is the “visibility” acquired of late antique and medieval Rome. The most substantial nucleus of the exhibition is composed of complexes of material discovered in the course of the excavations in the Crypta, amongst which, most significantly, the late antique and medieval deposit in the exedra. The deposit of the 7th century of the exedra includes thousands of objects, especially pottery but also fragments of glass objects, coins, lead seals. In addition, hundreds of objects of metal, bone, ivory, precious stones as well as lead models for the realisation of terracotta matrixes for fusion in precious metals and work instruments belonging to a workshop that produced luxury goods for clothing and ornament were recovered. This discovery has made it possible to illuminate for the first time aspects of Rome as both producer and distributor, in the 7th century, of luxury manufactured goods with a diffusion in longobard Italy and in Germanic Europe. At the same time, it was demonstrated that Rome was the point of arrival of merchandise, goods and primary materials that reached the city from the overseas provinces of the Byzantine empire.
The material of the Crypta has been integrated with contemporary finds from the historical collections of Roman museums and from contexts recovered in the course of urban excavations in the last decades. The refined objects that enriched the luxury life of the senatorial families of the 4th and 5th centuries, of the Symmachi and the Valerii, whose houses were found on the Celian hill,  the new residential and productive settlements of the carolingian period discovered in the Fora, the marble and pictorial furnishings of the early medieval churches, all contribute to delineate the transformation of the ancient city into the early medieval city.

An area of ancient Rome
The excavations in the area to south-east of the exedra of the Crypta Balbi have brought to light several rooms within buildings dating to the Trajanic/Hadrianic period. A Mithraeum, established there at the beginning of the 3rd century. The buildings remained in use till beginning of the 7th century. The rooms are accessible to the public.
Cripta Balbi
7,00/3,00 EUR valido 3 giorni per 4 siti del M.N.R. (Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, Terme di Diocleziano) + 3,00 EUR supplemento mostre
The museum on google maps:


Visitor entrance

Cripta Balbi
Via delle Botteghe Oscure 31
00186 Rome
view on a map

Opening Times

09:00 - 19:45
09:00 - 19:45
09:00 - 19:45
09:00 - 19:45
09:00 - 19:45
09:00 - 19:45 - The exhibition portal for Europe