The Temple of Venus and Roma in the Roman Forum used to be the largest temple in ancient Rome. It was dedicated to two goddesses, the first one of which, Venus Felix was the goddess of love. The second one was Roma, dedicated to Rome itself.
Temple of Venus and Roma Rome
Construction of the Tempio di Venere e Roma started in the year 121. The emperor Hadrian (who was also its architect) inaugurated it in 135 and Antonius Pius finished the work in 141. After a restoration process that took 26 years, it was reopened to the public in 2010. Just think of that! In the 21st century it took six years longer to restore the building than it took in the 2nd century to actually build it.
An earlier restoration took place after a fire in 307. In the 9th century the temple was destroyed by an earthquake. Not long after that, the Santa Maria Nova Church was built on the ruins. In 1612 this church was reconstructed and became the Santa Francesca Romana Church. The cella (inner chamber of a temple) on the Roma side facing the Colosseum became the new church’s bell-tower.
In subsequent centuries most of the columns surrounding the temple disappeared. Later some of them were replaced by buxus trees.
The Temple of Venus and Roma was built on top of the ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea. This meant that the enormous statue of Nero that gave the Colosseum its present name needed to give up its spot to make construction possible.
As an aside, this also indicates how enormous the Domus Aurea was, since the entrance to the monument is in the Colle Oppio Park, quite far from the temple.
The most famous architect of the time, Apollodorus, did not think much of Hadrian‘s skills as an architect. He made no secret of this and was later executed.
The temple stands on a platform of 145 by 100 metres. The monument itself measures 110 by 53 metres.
The two main chambers housed statues of Venus and Roma. Venus‘ chamber faced the Roman Forum and Roma‘s chamber faced the Colosseum. There was a row of 4 columns at the entrance to the chambers. The entrance led to staircases which in turn led to the Colosseum. There used to be ten white columns on the short sides and eighteen on the long sides of the temple.
Hadrian had been rather clever in placing the two goddesses back to back, since this was also reflected in their names. Roma spelled backwards results in Amor, which was the Latin word for Love and Venus was, as said, the goddess of love.