Mausoleo di Augusto, the tomb of Emperor Augustus, will be opened in Rome

Mausoleo di Augusto, the tomb of Emperor Augustus, will be opened in Rome

(CNN) – He was the first Roman emperor to rule from Julius Caesar and built an empire that eventually extended from the United Kingdom to Egypt, bragging about his deathbed, „I found Rome built of bricks and left it of marble.“

But Emperor Augustus was not paid in kind when he died in AD 14.

His tomb – a colossal, circular mausoleum, which was the largest in the city when it was built – was abandoned for centuries.

With its roof falling off and the cypresses planted around it left to grow wild, it was always a far cry from the carefully preserved Colosseum and Roman Forum.

In fact, for the past 80 years it has been closed to the public, with brief openings in 2000 to celebrate the city’s jubilee year, and then again, before it was closed in 2007 for archaeological investigations.

It was hoped to reopen in 2014, marking the 2000th anniversary of Augustus‘ death. In the end, as the restoration work continued, it was opened on the same day.

But finally, the 13-year restoration is finished and is scheduled to open to the public in March 2021.

Thorough renovation

After decades of neglect, it will once again open to the public.

Capitoline Authority for Cultural Heritage

The restoration work, which was completed in two phases, cost more than € 10 million ($ 12 million). The first phase, funded in part by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, and Romanian authorities, was completed in 2019. It oversaw the monument’s restoration.

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The second phase, funded by Fondazione TIM, Telecom Italia’s social arm, worth 6 million euros ($ 7,300,000), focused on the interior spaces, preparing them for the tours.

Massive structural work was undertaken to protect the shrine, and a spiral staircase leading to the monument’s roof was rebuilt.

Fondazione TIM also has a restoration of the burial space, and the landscaping around the mausoleum.

Even the outdoor square, Piazza Augusto Imperatore, is being restored. Until now, the mausoleum was semi-circular, with cars parked all around it. The works are due to be completed in December 2021.

Great neighbors

The Mausoleo di Augusto was the largest circular cemetery in the ancient world.

The shrine was originally the size of a Pincian Hill.

Capitoline Authority for Cultural Heritage

It is not the first facelift for archaeological remains in the region. near Ara Pacis – A large ceremonial altar erected to celebrate the return of Augustus from his campaigns in Gaul and Spain in 13 BC, with intricate statues of the imperial family appearing as part of a procession.

In 2006, the old wing around it was replaced with a glass and steel structure by architect Richard Meyer and is more of a work of art in its own right. The altar can now be seen from the Tiber River and the mausoleum behind it.

Augustus had great plans for his grave. The Emperor – who was born in 63 BC, and assumed power in 27 BC – began working on it in 28 BC, after his victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium, when „Augustus“ was just Octavian – the name before he became emperor.

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A huge tomb covered with marble

The Mausoleo di Augusto was the largest circular cemetery in the ancient world.

Interiors have been severely damaged over the centuries.

Capitoline Authority for Cultural Heritage

Built for him and his family, it is the largest circular cemetery in the ancient world, about 90 meters in diameter and at least 45 meters high, than the remains can be imagined. Only a third of the original monument has survived.

Its sheer size made it roughly the size of nearby Pincian Hill, and it was located next to the Tiber River so that it could be seen from most of the city.

Although it appears to be made of brick today, these walls were covered with travertine marble, and only traces remain of them today.

It is believed to have served as a tomb for more than 100 years, before records were lost. It was mentioned after that in the tenth century.

From castle to amphitheater

The mausoleum seen in 1963, when the area was less built.

The mausoleum, seen in 1963, with the Tiber River behind it.

Rome Museum, photographic archive

In the Middle Ages, a fortress was built over the remains, but it was destroyed in 1241. After that, the structure was gradually dismantled, with the marble removed for use in construction.

In the 16th century, the owners of a nearby mansion turned the interior of the tomb into a garden. By the 1880s it was used as an amphitheater, with both bullfights and fencing. In the nineteenth century, it was covered with a point glass and used in theatrical performances. By the twentieth century, it was in use as a concert hall, the Auditorium Augusteo.

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It was only in 1936 that his new life ended, when the fascist regime – which had been intent on excavating and preserving the city’s heritage, in an effort to align itself with ancient Rome – demolished the dome and modern buildings, to reveal the tomb again.

Restoration work was halted during World War II, and began again in the 1950s.

The site will open on March 1, 2021, and as of April 22, visits will include elements of virtual reality and augmented reality. Tickets for the 50-minute visits – which are free before April 21 – must be booked in advance on The lifts will be in use from April 22nd – before that, there is no free entry.

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