Tensions in Italy flared on Monday as plans to restore the Colosseum’s arena floor were advocated by Cultural Minister Dario Franceschini, according to ANSA. Franceschini suggested that the rebuilding of the ancient ground – where gladiators and animals fought and died – could help transform the Roman amphitheater back into the city’s most iconic monument.
Built in 80 AD, Rome’s Colosseum originally housed a wooden floor covered with sand that masked an underground pathway of tunnels once used to bring fighters onto the stage. In the later 19th century, however, excavators removed the floor. Then, in July 2014, archaeologist Daniele Manacorda suggested that a floor should be built back in—and Cultural Minister Dario Franceschini agreed.
“I really like archaeologist Manacorda’s idea to give the Colosseum back its area. All that’s needed is a bit of courage,” Franceschini said on Twitter, along with photos illustrating the Colosseum both before and after the excavations of its underground area.
Fransceshini’s support of the project falls in line with bringing in more tourism and revenue to Rome’s many historical sights. Ideally what would happen is the Colosseum’s stage floor would be used to feature cultural events, concerts, and perhaps even reenactments of the 2,000-year-old shows from the Roman era. The area below, which once housed an elaborate series of elevators and pulleys to raise and lower scenery and props, as well as bring up caged animals like lions to the surface, would then be turned into a museum.
“It is possible. There would not be any big problems, though the research would need to be extensive because complex questions need to be resolved,” Adriano La Regina, Rome’s former archaeological superintendent, told Italian media on Monday. “The Colosseum is not as delicate a monument as it might seem, it was built as a stadium able to accommodate tens of thousands of people.”
Others, however, aren’t too fond of the idea, stating the country’s economical slump left little money for such grandiose, non-priority projects.
“We are living a dramatic moment for cultural patrimony. In this situation, I do not think that giving the Colosseum back its floor is a priority,” said Salvatore Settis, art historian and former head of Italy’s cultural heritage council.
Art historian Tomaso Montanari added, “With all there is to do, with all the enormous cultural heritage in danger, so many unknown things among our treasures, is it right for the Cultural Minister to focus on the Colosseum and its use as a performance venue?”
In the meantime, the 159-foot-high monument is undergoing a 20-million-euro clean-up and restoration funded by Italian billionaire Diego Della Valle, which is expected to be complete by 2016.