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Rome's biggest temple reopens

Shrine to Venus and Rome restored over 26 years

12 November, 15:26
Rome's biggest temple reopens (ANSA) - Rome, November 12 - Ancient Rome's most imposing shrine, the Temple of Venus and Rome, has reopened after a restoration lasting almost 30 years in welcome news for a government under pressure since last weekend's collapse of Pompeii's Gladiator School.

Facing East and West to symbolise the sweep of the empire, the temple was built in the second century AD by Hadrian on the vestibule of Nero's Golden House, shifting the Colossus of Nero close to the Flavian Amphitheatre so that it got its better-known name, the Colosseum.

"We have restored to Rome one of the most powerful symbols of the power and greatness of the Roman Empire," said restoration chief Claudia Del Monti, who has been on the job for all but three years of its 26-year duration.

"My project was aimed at reading the temple as far as possible in its entirety," she said, recalling that it had once been split in two and was used as a car park until the 1980s.

Rome's archeological superintendent, Anna Maria Moretti, said the revamped temple "affords an extraordinary view, walking up from the Colosseum".

With majestic pillars and soaring arches, the Temple of Venus Felix (Venus the Bringer of Good Fortune) and Aeterna Roma (Eternal Rome) was designed by Hadrian in 121 AD, inaugurated by him in 135, and finished by his successor Antoninus Pius in 141.

Damaged by fire in 307, it was restored with changes by Maxentius.

The temple restoration is part of the government's plans to open up more ancient sites, said Culture Undersecretary Franco Giro, deputising for Culture Minister Sandro Bondi who was fielding a fusillade of questions in parliament over Saturday's collapse of the school in Naples where gladiators trained. Giro noted that the pits under the Colosseum where gladiators prepared for mortal combat have recently been unveiled and other temples, such as that of Antoninus and Faustina, are set to be reopened within the next year.

"We are respecting the schedule we set for the Forum and we are proceeding with a restoration of an area that was in deep decay, having been abandoned by governments of all colours," Giro said.

He rejected criticism of Bondi's handling of Italy's artistic heritage which began with his allegedly supine acceptance of budget cuts that led to Italy's museums staging a mass closure Friday.

The undersecretary also defended the minister from what he described as "unfair" attacks over the situation in Pompeii, calling the centre-left opposition "ill-informed".

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