Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine

Remains of the Basilica of Maxentius

The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine (Basilica di Massenzio) was the last civic basilica constructed in Rome. It is located inside the Roman Forum and was built during the reign of Emperor Maxentius, who ruled from AD 306-312. The basilica served as both a meeting hall and a court of law. Built in the early 4th century, it was the largest building in the Forum at that time; however, only about a third of the original basilica still stands today.


The basilica was commissioned by Emperor Maxentius, who planned to use it as his official seat of government. Basilicas were common in Ancient Roman cities and were used for a variety of functions, such as markets, law courts, and public meeting places.

After Constantine (ruled from AD 306 to 337) defeated Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, he decided to keep the basilica. Construction started in 308 but was only finished under Constantine’s reign in 312. A stone statue of Constantine holding the labarum (the military standard of Constantine which combined Christian imagery with that of the Roman army) was erected in front of the basilica, and its inscription proclaimed that Constantine had freed Rome from the tyrant.

During Constantine’s time, the basilica acquired a more Christian association. It also became a model for later churches because it had fewer pagan associations than other Roman temples. It came to be known as the Basilica Nova (“New Basilica”) to distinguish it from the earlier, much smaller basilicas located nearby that previous emperors had constructed.


The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine was 80 meters long and 25 meters wide. It occupied an area of approximately 7,000 square meters. The basilica was white and was constructed using brick-faced concrete (opus testaceum), a commonly used material in Roman architecture, then covered with marble. This type of construction allowed the building to be both strong and fireproof. The basilica had a plain exterior, but the interior was lavishly decorated with marble, stucco, and mosaics. Even the floor and ceilings were covered in marble. The ceilings were vaulted and supported by arches constructed from concrete.

It had a central nave with a wide-open space supported by three groin vaults suspended 39 meters above the floor and was flanked by two aisles measuring 23 meters long and 17 meters wide. The basilica had a rectangular layout, with an apse at the far end of the nave. The nave of the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine was unique in that it was supported by arches instead of columns, which was a more common feature in Roman baths than basilicas. The sides of the basilica were surrounded by arcades that allowed people to walk around inside.

Part of the basilica is still standing today, but only the northern aisle remains intact. The central nave and most of the arcades are gone, leaving only three vaults. The exterior brickwork is also gone, exposing the concrete construction. Today, the basilica is a popular tourist destination, and its impressive architecture is a testament to the skill of the ancient Roman builders.