Several remains of the Church of Santa Maria Antiqua were accidentally brought to light in 1702 and were covered shortly after. The few lines and the illustration F. Valesio devoted to such discovery in his "Diario di Roma" are believed to be the sole existing documented evidence to the incident. A very special eyewitness, though, the young “abate” and Cardinal-to-be Domenico Passionei, thoroughly described such discovery, writing an essay which he never published. An autograph 194-sheet manuscript by D. Passionei has recently been recovered from the archives of the Civic Library of Fossombrone (PU). The document bears the title “Selva per una dissertazione, che incomincia l’anno 1704 sopra una chiesa, che si scoprì in Campo Vaccino a lato di Santa Maria Liberatrice”and includes a series of Latin notes and texts, along with the watercolour reproduction of a number of paintings that decorated the church presbytery, some of which were no longer preserved in the early twentieth century, when Boni’s excavation was performed. Therefore, the relevance of such first-hand document is considerable, since it will significantly enhance our knowledge of the building while shedding new light on some little-known aspects of antiquarian culture in first half of the eighteenth century.
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