Championnet - House of the Sailor

The exclusive and panoramic terraced quarters of Ancient Pompeii

The exclusive and panoramic terraced quarters of Ancient Pompeii open to the public. Two extensive stabilisation and restoration works have been carried out under the Great Pompeii Project.
The opening concerns the Championnet complex, a collection of elegant residential buildings, (consisting of more than 60 rooms) finely decorated and arranged in various atriums and peristyles, and terraced to the south west of the Pompeii plateau, with panoramic views over the Sarno plain. Also open is the House of the Sailor, a building with a double atrium, a private bathing system and a wide underground area dedicated to baking; a characteristic unique in the Pompeian domestic landscape.

The two large structures are opening to the public for the first time, with an exhibition of original finds in many of the rooms and in the kitchen of the underground route of the Championnet complex, according to a pre-existing plan of widespread musealisation at Pompeii - which sees objects and tools of the past relocated to where they were found.
On Friday, 22nd September 2017, General Director Massimo Osanna and the General Director of the Great Pompeii Project illustrated the works of the Great Pompeii Project. 

Thanks to the synergic alternation between two sites carried out under the Great Pompeii Project, of structural restoration and restoration of both the decorative wall and floor elements, the House of the Sailor, located in a panoramic area of the ancient city (fig. see left) near the Forum, has reopened to the public.
The domus, brought to light beginning in 1871, owes its name to the partially preserved mosaic located at the entrance (fig. see right), which depicts six ships moored in their respective dockyards, probably a symbol of the safe harbour that the house represented for its inhabitants.
The double atrium building (fig. see left), featuring a private bathing area and a wide underground area dedicated to baking, represents a unique aspect in the Pompeian domestic landscape, specifically due to its planimetric articulation, which combines the characteristics of an elegant and traditional town house with the function of commercial and productive warehouses.
 Considering the richness of the decorative elements, it is plausible that the marble fountain (the so-called Fountain of the Rooster) at the southwestern corner of the block was crafted thanks to the patronage of the house owner. The building was constructed at the end of the 2nd century BC, in an area close to the Forum in which the ground level sloped considerably towards the northeast, resulting in a different articulation across two independent levels: the south one, which stands on high terracing that has been filled and levelled, while the northern one extends over several vaulted semi-hypogean rooms with access to Vicolo dei Soprastanti (VII 15, 16).
The central element of the house, which serves as a link between the two, is represented by a garden, which is located at a lower height than the main residential quarter and situated in the northwest corner of the domus.
Beginning in the first decades of the twentieth century, a veritable collection of amphorae was found inside the garden of the House of the Sailor (fig. see left), consisting of an immense number of specimens from different areas of the Site. The extraordinary collection, itself decontextualised, was destroyed by the aerial bombardment of the 13th September 1943. In memory of this devastating event, a mound of fragments has been recovered from a crater of one of the bombs which struck this part of the domus.
 The main residential rooms of the dwelling open onto an imposing Tuscan atrium adorned with Third Style decorative elements, with numerous remarkable mosaics in black and white. The large rectangular impluvium, made of Nocera tuff blocks and adorned with an elegant moulding, was surrounded by a mosaic with a white meander motif. At the southern edge of the impluvium, above the vault of the hypogean cistern, there was a white marble well on which it is still possible to recognise the deep grooves left by the rope that held the bucket used to draw water. On the opposite side of the impluvium basin was a grey marble base which, given the cavity, must have supported a statue for a fountain.
The most interesting room of the complex was the wide oecus, to the east of the  access fauces, which functioned as a winter triclinium. Paved in simple cocciopesto, it was fitted with two high windows, connected through two vents within the wall, to two lower open slots probably used for ventilation.
During the course of the 1st century BC the building was enlarged to the east with the addition of a wing designed to house a small bath complex, consisting of a tepidarium (warm air room) and a caldarium (hot air room), evidenced by the covering of tegulae mammata (tiles with projections which create a gap for the passage of air); just beyond the complex is completed by a room, perhaps with the function of an apodyterium (changing room) and a circular space, probably a frigidarium. In the last phase of the life of the house, during the 1st century AD, all the rooms on the lower floor were converted into a bakery workshop and connected with the existing warehouses, while in the western part, a second atrium was created for the servile sector.

 The Championnet complex, an entire residential quarter south of the Forum and Basilica, located between the terrace of the Sanctuary of Venus to the west and the Sarno Baths to the south west, opens to the public after years of closure.
The entire Championnet complex, which also includes the House of the Geometric Mosaics and the municipal buildings which overlook the Forum, has been open since November 2016, but is now entirely restored to public access with the opening of this second lot, consisting of the Houses of Championnet I & II and the so-called Courtyard of the Moray Eels.
Total site 4100m2 including
The house of the Geometric Mosaics,   with its hypogean rooms, along with the municipal buildings - 2100m2
The Houses of Championnet I & II and the Courtyard of the Moray Eels - 1800m2 (of which 140m2 are the visitable hypogean rooms in the area of Championnet I, and 100m2 of furnished exhibition area (former Enel Cabin) in the Courtyard of the Moray Eels.
The complex takes its name from General Jean Étienne Championnet who, during  the French presence in Naples following the flight of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon in 1799, was a great supporter of the studies at Pompeii, which at the time were focused on the area.
This is an exclusive quarter of Ancient Pompeii, due to both its proximity to the main urban plaza - the fulcrum of the civil, religious and economic life of the city - as well as the presence of large domus articulated on terraces with ramps, loggias and cryptoporticuses, and boasting a panoramic view over the Gulf towards the islands. The so-called “sloping houses” must have belonged to wealthy members of the urban aristocracy, and represent on of the most unique aspects of Pompeian building.
The panoramic terraced houses which distinguish this district are atypical when considered alongside the traditional domus reflected in the surrounding residential urban fabric, revealing a substantial change in the conception of articulating rooms with respect to the atrium, through a gradual development of the tendency towards assimilation of the panoramic perspective in the arrangement of living spaces.
This large residential complex, with over 60 rooms, most probably built for one occupant, consisted of two domus with atria which had access from Vicolo di Championnet, which were probably joined since the beginning at street level through a corridor and enlarged with the acquisition of the area directly over at least two buildings predating the 2nd century BC, on which the large peristyle (colonnaded garden) would be built following the earthquake. The peristyle was characterised by the presence of a large basin for fish breeding, from which derives the name of Courtyard of the Moray Eels, which represents the link between the large residential complex of the House of the Geometric Mosaics and the Houses of Championnet I & II, with its respective underground levels.
The interventions of the GREAT POMPEII PROJECT have been directed towards the restoration of the architectural structures and all of the wall and floor decorative elements of the residential buildings.
These activities required preliminary archaeological investigations, which were particularly extensive in the hypogean rooms of the House of Championnet I and in the so-called Courtyard of the Moray Eels, and yielded highly interesting, and in some cases  unprecedented, scientific data relating to the urban development and history of construction in a central district of the city, even in its most ancient phases.
The project has also envisaged the construction of modern and innovative flat coverings in metal carpentry, coated in Corian slabs - designed to protect the most significant and delicate mosaics discovered in the House of Championnet I & II - which are anchored in the sections of reconstructed masonry.
This form of covering is being trialled for the first time on an archaeological site. The choice of this material for the coverings is a result of its lightness, malleability, greater durability and linearity, but also due to its ability to incorporate external elements (such as slopes) in the structure itself, and even for the neutral colour which prevents it from distracting attention from the various richly coloured floor decorations which are present.
The project has also undertaken works aimed at improving accessibility and enjoyment, such as the walkways and stairways leading to the hypogeum of the House of Championnet I, illuminated by LED rods laid at the base of the metallic walkway.
For one of the underground rooms we sought to restore it to the original function of a kitchen by the positioning within of objects which characterised this purpose at the time of its use as a domus. In particular, all kinds of vessels utilised in 79 AD for the cooking of food are visible: ollas for boiling, pans for frying and pots above an iron tripod. The mortar was used to grind, mince and mix all the ingredients. Containers for transporting products from all over the Mediterranean were also stored here: amphorae from Crete and Turkey for wine, and others for the distribution of wine produced in Pompeian territory.
In the former Enel cabin, some exhibition spaces have been arranged, which display various finds  from the excavations of the domus, conducted in the 1930s and 1970s (bronze cups, bone spindles for weaving, bone pins, oil lamps, bronze jugs, necklace elements, statuettes and fragments of fresco and plaster, including fragments of frescos and flooring discovered during excavations conducted by the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, etc.). Also on display is a cork model which depicts the entire district, begun in 1865 by Giovanni Padiglione. It forms part of a group of models built before the great model of the entire city of Pompeii which is today housed at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
The lighting of the rooms is, among other things, self-sufficient as it is guaranteed by a stand-alone photovoltaic system.ù

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- House of the sailor
The Championnet 
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Pompei, 22nd September 2017
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