What is a Basilica?

Basilica derives from the Greek word βᾰσῐλῐκή (basilikḗ) which translates into meaning kingly or royal. This easily represents what a Basilica is as it is a highly significant church that has been chosen by the pope for greatness. Now it is known as an ancient Roman, early Christian, or even medieval churches, with a large majority found in the country Italy. The building carries special spiritual, historical, and architectural significance. It is the highest permanent title for a church and can never lose its basilica status.

Pompeii’s Basilica

Like the majority of cities within ancient Rome, Pompeii had its own Basilica. Situated in the southwest corner of the city’s forum, the building was estimated to be built towards the end of the second century B.C.

The purpose and style of Roman basilicas evolved from earlier Greek stoas, open-air markets where people went to trade and do business. The basilica was an ancient remain because early Christian basilicas retained the architectural features of the Roman buildings.

It was built in a long rectangular shape, measuring almost 70 metres long. The building is surrounded by a 12-by-four row of columns with an outer walkway. A two-story basilica with high windows providing the light on the outer walls.


Even before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, the Basilica was slowly crumbling. An earthquake prior to the eruption in 63 caused the roof to cave in. Instead of restoring the roof, the basilica continued to function as an open-air market and justice building. During the volcanic eruption in 79, the basilica was buried in a thick layer of volcanic ash and was not rediscovered for another hundred years. It took a total of six years to uncover it, from 1813 to 1819, with only small fragments remaining. Nowadays when seeing the sight in person, the interior columns are mere stumps, with the majority of the outer walls missing.

Check out our Private Pompeii Guided Tour today!