After years that included fasting and praying, waiting and wondering, Latter-day Saint eternal marriages soon will be solemnized in the Eternal City.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will open its much-anticipated Rome Temple to public tours from Jan. 28 through Feb. 16. The showcase edifice, reminiscent of ancient Italian architecture, then will be dedicated March 10 through 12 and open to faithful members for religious rites March 19.
On Monday, the Utah-based faith held a news conference in Rome and released photographs of the temple’s exterior and interior.
“It is beautiful,” church apostle David A. Bednar said in a news release. “The craftsmanship is expert and perfect.”
The three-story, 40,000-square-foot structure in northeast Rome comes with curved ceilings, curved walls and hints of colonnades and columns. Not surprisingly, perhaps, in a country dominated by Catholics and the heart of the world’s largest Christian faith, Italy’s first Latter-day Saint temple was inspired by San Carlino, a Catholic church in Rome.
“This had to be one that when you walked onto this site, every person should feel like they were on an Italian site,” architect Niels Valentiner said in the release. “They would recognize it because of the materials, because of the design, and because of the surrounding.”
The temple’s entrance features a floor-to-ceiling stained-glass wall depicting a scene from Christ’s life, with original paintings throughout the building and a grand staircase in the lobby.
“It’s connected just at the top and the bottom,” project supervisor Bret Woods said in the release, “so it’s essentially a free-floating staircase — and, of course, an elliptical shape.” The oval design harks to Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio near Capitoline Hill in Rome.
The temple’s 15-acre campus includes a church meetinghouse, a visitors’ center, a family history center, a piazza and guest housing.
As in many Latter-day Saint visitors’ centers, the one in Rome has a life-size statue of the Christus, a replica of sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen’s iconic work, along with scaled statues of the ancient apostles — carved out of Carrara marble from the same quarry in Tuscany that gave shape to Michelangelo’s David.
The Rome Temple took more than a decade to bring to fruition. It was announced in 2008 and construction began two years later. Work eventually stalled for a stretch, so much so that Italian Latter-day Saints held a daylong fast in January 2015 in seeking heaven’s help to get the project back on track.
Latter-day Saints consider temples — there are more than 160 operating across the globe, including 12 in Europe — houses of God, places where devout members participate in their faith’s most sacred ordinances, including eternal marriage.
“All temples are significant,” Bednar said, “because a temple is a point of intersection between the earth and heaven.”