Palestrina is a town not far from Rome, at the foot of Mount Ginestro. Here, the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia (or Fortune of the First Born) was built in the 2nd century BC: inspired by the monumental complexes in the eastern Aegean Islands, today it is considered one of the most relevant examples of Hellenistic architecture in Italy. In its day, it was a place of worship famous across the Roman world, where the faithful would come to consult the gods through what Cicero called “sortes” – where oracles’ answers were extracted by a young boy from a sacred well.
In the 12th century, Palazzo Colonna-Barberini was built at the Sanctuary. Rebuilt in its current design by Taddeo Barberini in 1640, in 1956 it became the National Archaeological Museum of Palestrina – which now houses important pieces such as the “Nile Mosaic”, which dates back to the 2nd or 1st century BC and was found in the Bishop’s Palace in the 16th century.
The Sanctuary’s imposing structure has terraces connected by staircases. The engineering and architectural complex was later a reference for other famous projects, such as the Vatican Belvedere by Bramante or the floor plan of Roman residences such as Villa d’Este.
Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia
Piazza della Cortina