In the stunning context of the Colonna Barberini Palace, the halls of the first floor host images of the Goddess Fortuna, statues and portraits, the faces of the ancient citizens of Praeneste and the recollection of the feats of some of them, such as the general that accompanied Trajan in his conquests. The second floor focuses on the sanctuaries and on the necropolis, featuring votive items in terracotta and valuable bronze engravings: mirrors and cistae narrate the myths about the young damsels of Praeneste and how they were raised to become women. The third floor hosts the renowned polychrome mosaic depicting the flooding of the Nile, one of the largest and most important mosaics of the ancient world, made in Palestrina by artisans from Alexandria of Egypt. Finally, the cryptoporticus – the vaulted gallery that runs beneath the cavea tiers – hosts sculptures and engravings.
History opens its doors on the magnificent Sanctuary of the Goddess Fortuna Primigenia, one of the most imposing achievements of Hellenistic-Roman architecture and undoubtedly the best preserved one. For centuries pilgrims have come here from all over the Mediterranean to ask the Goddess a question; the foremost cities of the ancient world sent their ambassadors here to seek advice; mothers came, year after year, in a procession, begging the Great Mother for protection, both for themselves and for their daughters.
This crossroads of peoples and people met the history of Rome, which conquered Praeneste with great difficulty and then wanted it with her in her campaigns, eventually dragging it down with her as she fell.
Palestrina’s National Archaeological Museum guards these doors of history and keeps them open, so that you may step in.