Visiting Tivoli is a fantastic cultural experience. In addition to the ancient imperial villas such as Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa, there are also the beautiful temples dedicated to Hercules Victor, Vesta and the Sibyl. Hence visitors can relive Roman history when they come to this part of the countryside near Rome.
The Temples of Tivoli
The Temple of Hercules Victor is the most important of the sacred complexes of Roman architecture. The feeling that one experiences just by looking at it is one of grandeur and majesty, since it is the fulcrum of the Sanctuary dedicated to this Roman god.
The Sanctuary is composed of the Temple, a large open square and a theater, where pagans once danced and sang to celebrate and to thank the warrior god. One wonders what Hercules represented for the city of Tivoli, since they dedicated such an enormous temple to him in 120 BC. Besides being the warrior god (who won in battle against the Volsci and the Equi) he was presumably the protector of traders and shepherds with their flocks. The location of the Sanctuary was therefore not chosen randomly, since it is located on a stretch of the ancient Via Tiburtina. The temple itself consists of 20 Corinthian columns, resting on a low podium with marble steps. Later the temple became the church of Santa Maria del Sole, in fact inside there is a small fresco of the Madonna and Child.
The Temples of Vesta and the Sibyl make up one of the most evocative and magical areas in Tivoli, the site is surprisingly and delightfully unexpected. These temples can be admired both from the Gregorian bridge as well as from the banks of the Aniene river. The route is not very easy but, to be fair, it is especially evocative, in fact the temples are located close to the ancient medieval village of Tivoli, with its characteristic medieval houses, where when crossing the narrow streets you can breathe in all the Roman history. It is an incredible treasure at the gates of the city.
The Temple of Vesta has a round floor plan and only 10 of the 18 original columns are still with us. The temple is not complete due to the fact that it has undergone several reconstructions: the various destructions occurred because of the ongoing fires that broke out inside. Despite the fires and being abandoned over time, the part that remains gives us a good idea of its historic Roman splender. Dedicated to the goddess of the hearth, Vesta, the temple represented the public domestic hearth and was therefore frequently used as a structure of aggregation. The fire inside was kept alive, constantly, by the priestesses called Vestals.
It is not clear to whom the Temple of the Sibyl was dedicated, it is presumed that it is dedicated to the Tenth Sibilla Albunea, but there is nothing certain about it. The temple has a rectangular shape and was built later to the Temple of Vesta. It was built with a very striking and evocative effect to extend the design of the acropolis. In the Middle Ages this temple became a church: more precisely, the church of San Giorgio and was destined not only for liturgical celebrations, but also for the distribution of alms and assistance to the poorest. Inside, in fact, beyond the columns, the rectangular work of travertine and the 12 columns, there are fragments of frescoes of the Savior.
The Temple of Hercules Victor, the Temple of Vesta and the Temple of the Sibyl, can be visited for free and we especially recommend going at night!