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Color 'restored' to Roman altar to peace

Ara Pacis 'painted' with groundbreaking light projection system

20 November, 18:54
Color 'restored' to Roman altar to peace (ANSA) - Rome, November 20 - The Ara Pacis, an altar to peace built in the first century BC in honor of Emperor Augustus will show its true colors on Sunday thanks to a groundbreaking light projection system.

Though the stark-white monument has lost its color over the centuries, visitors next weekend will see its intricate array of friezes in dazzling technicolor.

According to researchers from the Vatican museums, who have gone over every inch of the 2000-year old altar for traces of pigment, the Ara Pacis was brightly colored when unveiled by the Roman senate in 14 BC.

Rome's culture chief Umberto Broccoli said the study has furnished light technicians with the exact colors embellishing the monument, which they have been able to replicate with hundreds of tiny light projectors.

Broccoli said the color system, financed with the help of a network of city supermarkets, cost the city between 60,000 and 70,000 euros, "but it was money well spent".

"The definition of the colors is extraordinary," said Broccoli.

"If Augustus saw it, he wouldn't notice the difference".

The Ara Pacis has been ''painted'' before, during Emperor Augustus' birthday in September, but museum officials say the technique has come a long way in two months and that return visitors won't be prepared for the spectacle the altar has in store.

Over the weekend, visitors will see frieze of Mars, god of war, will be momentarily restored to its original crimson against the deep greens of the altar's viney motif. Scenes of mother earth nursing her young and Trojan hero Aeneas making a sacrifice to the gods will return the life-like splendor they enjoyed under the paintbrushes of Roman craftsman.

The Ara Pacis will be in color from 10:00 to midnight local time, after which culture authorities say visitors will have to wait for another special occasion, perhaps on April 21 for the annual celebrations for the founding of Rome.

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