Rome, reopening of the Mausoleum of Augustus

Rome (Italy). The project was colossal. More than 11 million euros, public and private, were mobilized for the restoration and development of the mausoleum of Emperor Augustus (built from 28 BC, see ill.). The cypresses and weeds hiding its 87 meters in diameter and 40 meters in height are only a distant memory. The scale of the work carried out is impressive: complex archaeological excavations approximately six meters below street level, the creation of a pedestrian zone around the monument as well as a new museum route of twelve vaulted rooms before accessing a panoramic walkway on the roof. Some 14,000 square meters of masonry from the old building as well as later additions were thus able to be restored. However, the project aimed at surmounting it with a steel and glass dome to protect it from climatic hazards is suspended due to lack of sufficient financial resources.

The Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome in 2005.

The revival of a major tourist site

Closed for fourteen years, the mausoleum reopened to the public in 2021 before closing again for the redevelopment work on Augusto Imperator Square which will be completed by the end of the year, just before the Jubilee, in 2025, which is expected to attract millions of tourists to the Italian capital. This deadline should satisfy the TIM Foundation, which financed the work to the tune of 8 million euros, and which wishes “revive a site which will soon be among the most visited in the world”.

Despite the scale of the largest circular tomb in history and its historical importance, the mausoleum has until now been absent from tourist guide programs. However, they would not have been short of anecdotes. The monument has had several uses over the centuries, from a tomb to a fortress, to a hanging garden and then to an amphitheater to host bullfights or set off fireworks before serving as a concert hall. Closed since 1936 by Mussolini, whose megalomania had designated the site as the place of his last burial, it is no longer an unsightly monument of Rome, but the beating heart of its city center.

Bulgari, great patron in Rome

The mausoleum of Augustus will soon be open again before the inauguration, in 2026, of a museum within it. Its development was entrusted to the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2000. If the renovation of the monument was made possible by the patronage of the TIM Foundation, the creation of the museum benefits from a financial contribution of 700,000 euros by the Bulgari Foundation. The jeweler knows the place well having opened a luxury hotel last spring on Augusto Imperator Square in a 14,000 m2, seven-story building. Rome is the cradle of the Bulgari house and the company has established itself in recent years as one of the most important patrons for the preservation and enhancement of its heritage. Six monuments benefited from its funding. After having actively participated in the rehabilitation of the staircase of La Trinité-des-Monts on the Spanish Steps and contributed to the restoration of the colorful mosaics of the Caracalla thermal baths, Bulgari recently financed the restoration of the Area Sacra de Largo Argentina. This abandoned archaeological complex in the heart of the city was able to reopen to the public last year. “We are very proud of this bond and happy that Bulgari continues to strengthen it,” welcomed the mayor of Rome Roberto Gualtieri, insisting on “the work in progress which has been slowed down a little by the numerous archaeological discoveries, but which will make the mausoleum of Augustus even richer for visitors”. A reference to the elegant marble head of the goddess Venus found last summer during archaeological excavations as part of the Augusto Imperator Square project.

Aerial view of the Mausoleum of Augustus, Rome.  © TIM Foundation

Aerial view of the Mausoleum of Augustus.

© TIM Foundation

The project has now entered its final phase. The work on the square, led by architect Francesco Cellini, will be definitively completed before the end of the year. “It will be a very beautiful square which will connect its ancient part and the modern part with, in its center, the extraordinary mausoleum of Augustus”, assures the architect. The appearance of the square has already changed radically. Over the past decades, it had ended up losing its identity, reduced to the role of a simple place of transit and illegal parking. The restoration of the mausoleum and Bulgari's ambitious hotel investment have already restored its dignity. All that remains is to discover the details of Rem Koolhaas' project for the new museum which will complete the rebirth of the mausoleum.

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