Featured on countless postcards, advertisements, film, books, and more, Rome’s crumbling Colosseum is one of the most recognisable landmarks on Earth.
Built-in the ancient times of the Roman Empire, this building once hosted a range of historic performances, with thousands of spectators cheering from the stadium seats. Sadly, over the years, this once grand stadium has undergone some hardship, causing parts of the building to collapse, and resulting in the Colosseum’s broken appearance.
It wasn’t just in the later years of the Colosseum’s life it faced hardship, but also during the times of the Roman Empire. First, a fire caused damage in 217 AD, destroying many of the upper wooden levels of the amphitheatre’s interior. It wasn’t until 320 AD that these wooden sections were fixed, but the building’s interior structure was overall weakened.
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Rome’s Colosseum was taken over by the church. Here they built a small chapel into the structure of the amphitheatre, changing the arena into a cemetery, with the spaces under the seats for housing. These houses were rented out until the 12th century. After this, the Frangipani family came and reinvigorated the building to use it as a castle. Finally, a major earthquake in 1349 caused a devastating effect that led the entire south side to collapse. However, many of the stones that crumbled off the building during the earthquake were reused. Many of the surrounding buildings near the Colosseum were with the old stones, including the cathedrals of St Peter and St John Lateran.
14th to the 19th century
After the devastating earthquake, the Colosseum continued to be plundered of its bare materials. The stone was stripped from the amphitheatre’s interior and the bronze clamps were hacked off the building’s walls. These harsh hack jobs left severe scars on the Colosseum’s walls, which are still visible today.
Colosseum in the 1700s
During the 16th and 17th century, Pope Benedict XIV declared the Colosseum to be a sacred site, as early Christians had been martyred there. This restricted further pillaging and the Pope instead commissioned the restoration of the building, with later Popes continuing this project of clearing overgrown greenery and repairing the crumbling structure. Luckily for us, this project was a success, allowing millions of visitors to visit this historic site and to marvel at the sheer beauty this building possesses.
Related article: Why was the Colosseum Built?