The Restoration of the Pyramid of Caius Cestius

Logo of the Project

After some 2000 years and about 10 years of study and research, but after only 8 months since the manifestation of intention by an enlightened patron of the arts, the Pyramid, one of the most emblematic and mysterious objects of Roman Antiquity, will begin to undergo a work of restoration to all of its four sides.

On 26 March 2012 the company Yagi Tsusho LTD, in the person of its president, Yuzo Yagi, signed with the Special Superintendency for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome a donor agreement aimed at the restoration of the Pyramid of Caius Cestius. Such a generous donation has resulted in a call for tenders to carry out the work, issued by the Superintendency in accordance with the provisions of the law and on the basis of a project drawn up by the architect Maria Filetici and the archaeologist Rita Paris, both officials of the Superintendency. On November 26, construction work began to erect the scaffolding needed to execute the restoration. 

The Pyramid, tomb of Caius Cestius, one of the seven Epulones (members of one of the four great priestly colleges at Rome) of the Emperor Augustus, has been shrouded for centuries by the mystery of its contents: the urn holding the ashes of the deceased was in fact stolen from the burial chamber at an unspecified time, and also lost are the bronze statutes portraying Caius Cestius which were placed outside the building. The ongoing restoration and research for this project will provide further elements on the history of this funerary monument that Caius wanted to be made in the likeness of the Pyramids of Egypt and that was built, by testamentary volition, in just 330 days.

In this way, the Italian State returns to the Pyramid the appropriate dignity, thanks to the sensitivity of a Japanese patron, in witness of a universal cultural consciousness of which we can be proud. 

In this page the primary information about the work in progress will be provided, so that all those interested can be involved in the work that is being carried out.

THE PYRAMID. THE FUNDAMENTAL SIDES OF THE MONUMENT

The Pyramid is the monumental tomb of Caius Cestius, a Roman magistrate and member of a college of priests, built between 18 and 12 BCE along the Via Ostiensis, a major transit road leading to the port of Rome.
Its shape is inspired by the exotic taste for Egyptian architecture, which spread in Rome after the conquest of Egypt in 30 CE. The monument, however, was built in this place according to Roman construction techniques.
The City's defensive circuit of walls built by the Emperor Aurelian between 272 and 279 CE incorporated the Pyramid, thus saving it from the destruction that befell similar buildings. 

The dimensions of the Pyramid are 29.50 metres (100 Roman feet) long at the base, 36.40 metres (125 Roman feet) in height. It was built in opus caementicium covered with slabs of Carrara marble merely set against its nucleus, without toothing. In 1663 the Pyramid had already been the object of excavations and of a general restoration by order of Pope Alexander VII. The intervention in progress addresses the four sides and consists of a conservative restoration of the marble surfaces as well as of the securement of the heavy deformations of the cladding. 

The internal burial chamber has walls painted with panes with a white background wherein winged Victories that bear offerings alternate with ceremonial vessels. The law of 18 CE limiting the ostentation of luxury in the tombs had prevented the placement of precious objects within the edifice; in exchange, bronze statues of the deceased were placed outside, with inscriptions attesting to such notices. 

The urn that held the ashes of Caius Cestius has never been found. Perhaps it was stolen during the burglaries already carried out in the Middle Ages by treasure hunters.  It remains a mystery, even today, whether inside the monument there is a second chamber, as has always been imagined. 

Credits

Data di pubblicazione: 
20 December, 2012