According to Barbara Jata, director of the Vatican Museums, after the unification of Italy in the 19th century, anti-spiritual sentiments pervaded the country and all contact with the church was removed from the Roman monument.
Speaking at the book launch, Ms. Jata said she had never noticed the painting before it was restored, and had visited the Colosseum a few days earlier to see it, “slipping in like a normal tourist.”
Referring to the Pantheon, which was consecrated in 609 and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Christian Martyrs, Mr Zukari said the Colosseum was not the only ancient Roman monument to have undergone a “Christianization process”.
The bones of several martyrs were brought from the tombs of Rome to the Pantheon in carts. The masses are still held, He said. Throughout the city, Michelangelo turned parts of Diocletian’s baths into one Memorial Church.
In 1965, Pope Paul VI re-introduced the tradition of celebrating the Passion of the Christ at the Colosseum on Good Friday. It is now broadcast on television worldwide.
“The Colosseum is a complex place that has been read differently over time, often with conflicting views, whether pagan, Christian, secular or anti-spiritual,” said Marcello Fagiolo, a prominent art historian. And it is still changing.