A secret place

The Mithraeum of Marino, carved out of a water-collecting cistern in the second century AD, is one of the best-preserved Mithraic places of worship in the world. 

Discovered by chance during construction work in the early 1960s, it has always remained closed to the public due to infiltration and high humidity, the same microclimate that allowed the fresco to be perfectly preserved.

With the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio for the metropolitan area of Rome and the Province of Rieti.

A project coordinated and directed by Arch. Emanuela Todini in collaboration and with the technical coordination of the staff of the Marino Municipal Administration.

"The Mithraeum is by its intrinsic characteristics a place repelling. It is a completely hypogeal environment dug deep into the peperino rock, created to contain and store water and certainly not to house man.

The building constructed in the early 1960s that overlooks the entrance to the archaeological site was the last of the events that resulted, at least initially, in further closure to view and thus to frequentation. 

The challenge of the museum design, aimed at the redevelopment and enhancement of the site, was to make "welcoming" an environment that by its very nature is not. 

The design metaphor chosen for the installation was that suggested by the place, the immediate and engaging "presentation" of its many lives. Nothing is hidden from the view of the visitor, who from the background noises of the street is catapulted into an environment whose rarefied atmosphere finds fixed points in the restitution of a trace of the wine cisterns in common use in the 1960s; the walls themselves are there to remind us of the constructions of those years, they are made of poor but beautiful material, blocks of colored tufa compressed between brick recourses. The tubes that feed the ceiling lights are on full display. The ancient walls show bare and tell of the cistern they once were and the water they contained. Now the visitor is accompanied at his every step by lights that turn on as he passes and gradually reveal the wonder of the fresco."

The choice of an exposed electrical system thus becomes, in addition to a functional necessity, a tangible sign of transformation; a layering that adds to the other lives of which this place has been the scene.

Ad hoc lighting solutions were developed for this project, which included some Spot installed on platforms with motion-detecting sensors.