Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia in Palestrina (RM)

A great sanctuary sited on the hills near Rome and dedicated to the goddess Fortuna

The sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia is an ancient Roman, extra-urban religious complex founded in Praeneste (now Palestrina), some 35 kilometers southeast of Rome. It was built in the last years of the second century BCE.

The sanctuary was built on a hillside overlooking the town of Praeneste, and it is one of the most impressive examples of Roman religious architecture from the Republican period. The sanctuary occupies a series of six vast terraces, which, resting on large masonry substructures and connected with each other by staircases, rise one above the other on the hill in the form of the front side of a ziggurat, crowned on the highest terrace by a cave surmounted by the semicircular porch of the temple of Fortune.

The temple within the sanctuary was dedicated to the goddess Fortuna Primigenia (Fortune of the First Born), at the same time mother and daughter of Jupiter. Fortuna Primigenia is a goddess of fortune and fertility, and she was believed to have been born at the site. According to legend, the goddess was born from the rock on which the temple was built, and she was worshipped as a protector of mothers and infants. The sanctuary was one of the most important pilgrimage sites in ancient Rome, and it attracted thousands of devotees each year who came to offer prayers and sacrifices to the goddess. The cult of the goddess was associated with the oracle which occurred through the extraction of the sortes.

The Temple of Fortuna Primigenia itself was located at the top of the hill. The temple was built on a massive platform that was supported by a series of arches and vaults. The platform was decorated with statues and reliefs that depicted scenes from the life of the goddess, as well as images of other deities and mythical creatures. Between the 12th and 17th centuries CE the families Colonna and Barberiniy built, on the ruins of the sanctuary, a palace that today host a museum where are displaced many objects found during the excavations in the area of the ancient sanctuary.

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Piazza della Cortina, Palestrina (RM), Italy
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