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 Essential Architecture-  ROME

Temple of Venus and Rome (in the Roman Forum)

architect

Hadrian (by Apollodorus of Damascus, according to Fletcher).

location

Rome, Italy

date

123 to 135

style

Roman Classical, Roman Corinthian

construction

masonry

type

Temple
 
  The Temple apsis by night.
 
  Interior of Cella: Reconstruction by German Architect Josef Bühlmann.

The Temple of Venus and Roma (Latin: Templum Veneris et Romae) was the largest temple in Ancient Rome. It was located at the far east side of the Forum Romanum, near the Colosseum. It was dedicated to the goddesses Venus Felix (Venus the Bringer of Good Fortune) and Roma Aeterna (Eternal Rome). The designer was emperor Hadrian. Construction on the temple began in 121. Although the temple was officially inaugurated by Hadrian in 135, the building was finished in 141 under Antoninus Pius.

The building measured 110 m in length and 53 m in width. It was placed on a stage measuring 145 m in length and 100 m in width. The temple itself consisted of two main chambers (cellae), where the cult statue of the god was, in this case the statues of Venus, the goddess of love, and Roma, the goddess of Rome, both of them seated on a throne. The cellae were placed symmetrically back-to-back. Roma's cella was faced west, looking out over the Forum Romanum, Venus' cella was faced east, looking out over the Colosseum. Each cella had its own line of four columns at the entrance.

As an additional clever subtlety by Hadrian, Venus also represented love (Amor in Latin), and "AMOR" is "ROMA" spelled backwards. Thus, placing the two divinities of Venus and Rome back-to-back in a single temple creates a further symmetry with the back-to-back symmetry of their names as well.

At the west and east sides of the temple (the short sides), ten white columns (decastyle) were placed and at the south and north sides of the temple (the long sides) eighteen white columns were placed. All of these columns measured 1.8 m in width, making the temple very imposing to see.

Within Venus' cella, there was another altar where newly wed couples could make sacrifices. Right next to this altar stood gigantic, silver statues of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina.

In order to build the temple, which is placed on the remains of Nero's Domus Aurea, the statue of Nero, the Colossus, had to be moved. They placed it near the amphitheatre, which became known as the Colosseum shortly afterwards.

Hadrian's most brilliant architect, Apollodorus, was unimpressed by his emperor's architectural skills. He made a scornful remark on the size of the statues within the cellae. He said that they'd surely hurt their heads if they tried to stand up from their thrones. He was banished and executed not long after this.

A serious fire in 307 caused major damage to the temple. It was restored by the emperor Maxentius. The present-day remains are of this temple. The restoration of Maxentius altered Hadrian's original design, adding rounded niches in the rear of each cella for the cult statue of the respective goddesses.

Unfortunately, a gigantic earthquake at the beginning of the 9th century destroyed the temple once again. Around 850, though, Pope Leo IV ordered the building of a new church, Santa Maria Nova, on the ruins of the temple. After a major rebuilding in 1612, this church was renamed Santa Francesca Romana. This church incorporated Roma's cella as the belltower.

Over the years, most of the columns around the temple have disappeared. Nowadays, only a few are still standing where they used to be, others that have gone missing have been replaced by buxus trees.

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