Following an extensive restoration and research program, the Colosseum Archaeological Park has fully reopened to the public the Roman Forum’s house of the priestesses dedicated to the very ancient cult of the goddess Vesta and tasked with keeping alive the sacred flame, a symbol of Rome’s eternity. Chosen from a very young age among the patrician families of the city, the vestals enjoyed countless privileges but had to serve for 30 years, preserving their virginity. Vestals who had broken their vows were buried alive in the so-called “Campus Sceleratus”.
The new visit itinerary further expands the cultural offer of the Colosseum Archaeological Park and allows visitors to explore the south-eastern sector of the Atrium Vestae. Here then are the reserved apartments of the priestesses, today space for a widespread museum with some of the sculptures found in the Roman Forum at the end of the 19th century, such as portraits, a statue probably depicting the second king of Rome Numa Pompilius, who is credited with establishing both the cult and the only female priesthood in Rome, and a statue of the Vestal Virgin.
The restored ambiances include the room of the millstone in lava stone, where – according to tradition –the priestesses of Vesta made the mola salsa, the sacred focaccia offered to the divinity on the occasion of the main festivities and, according to some, distributed in small pieces to believers. According to others, however, it was used to sprinkle animals destined for sacrifice, hence the verb “to immolate”.