The Baths of the Theodoric's villa in Galeata (Forlž-Cesena)

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The splendid Romanesque parish church of the Abbey of S. Ellero stands on a panoramic promontory above Galeata.
The cultural and historical importance of this abbey stems from the power it exerted for a number of centuries (notably from 1000 to the late 13th cent). The simple construction dates from shortly after the fall of the Western Roman Empire (5th cent and was founded by the hermit Hilaržus, better known as Ellero.
He lived as a recluse for years, during which he built the church. Than he began to gather disciples and founded one of the first monastic communities, whose virtues were a/so recognized by the Byzantine Emperor Theodoric.
The link between the Emperor and the Saint is confirmed in Vita Hilari, a hagiographic source that strengthens the legend of the meeting of S. Ellero and Theodoric, with the Saint being forbidden to found a cenoby. The Saint refused and Theodoric promptly mounted his horse to punish hi m, but at the sight of the Saint the animal knelt before him.
Ellero died on May 15th 558 at the age of 82. The church has largely retained its original structure, although has undergone changes due to a series of earth tremors over the centuries and later styles are a/so evident. The current structure dates mostly from the 9th-10th cent. The superb faÁade (11-12th cent houses an impressive portal with capitals showing figures of sirens (symbolising temptation and sin) and two monks on horseback with swords (symbolising prayer and the churches struggle to establish Christianity). Over the portal there is a large rose window. The Byzantine crypt conserves the sarcophagus of S. Ellero and is the focal point for numerous pilgrimages. It is enriched by crosses and contains the Saint's remains.


A sculptured stone reminds the legend of the meeting of S. Ellero and Theodoric
(Galeata, Archaeological Museum "Mons. Mambrini")

In the Autumn of 1942, the Germanic Archaeological Institute in Rome carried out archaeological excavations in Saetta, an area adjoining Galeata, with the aim of uncovering the site of the presumed hunting lodge belonging to the King of the Goth, Theodoric. These excavations brought to light the first traces of his sumptuous villa. New excavations carried out since 1998 by the Department of Archaeology of the University of Bologna, have led to a definitive understanding of the entire complex, which is far more extensive than previously assumed. The building was divided into several areas and pavilions, connected by long corridors and large open spaces. One of the most important pavilions of the villa contained ample baths, fully unearthed during recent excavations

The baths were on of the most prestigious halls of the villa of Theodoric in Galeata, a large area dedicated to relaxation, leisure and personal care, revealing the importance of the villa's owner. The baths were not in the core of the villa and were divided into different areas, a summer and a winter section, which were accessible through a long arcaded passageway (ambulacro).
From here you entered a square courtyard with a central pool and exedras on the sides. From there one reached the winter section itself, centred on an apsidal frigidarium (coldest bathing room) and an octagonal calidarium (hottest bathing room}, which was the end of the thermal path.


The pool at the centre of the quadrangular courtyard

The summer area of the baths revolved around the large open court/are and was characterized by a series of pools for swimming in cold water or for the refreshment of those who stayed in the baths during the summer. There were two twins rooms {18-20) along the north and the south sides of the courtyard, functioning as dining rooms or spaces for rest, refreshment and protection from the sunlight and summer heat. On the east side of the open court there was a long rectangular room divided into a central hall or apodyterium (changing room) (7), with two side pools (8 and 13). A flight of stairs (6) led from the apodyterium to the frigidarium and the beginning of the thermal path.

The winter section of the baths was designed along a north-south axial alignment, built around three principal rooms: the laconicum (a dry steam bath much like a modern sauna), the tepidarium (a warm bathing room) and the frigidarium (a cold bathing room), which was linked directly with a large octagonal caldarium (a hot bathing room, covered with earth to conserve it)
The calidarium had three pools attached for bathing in hot water (alvei). Two of the four praefurnia intended to produce the necessary heat for rooms that needed heating have also been found