Pope thanks mayor personally

Holy Year: Rome dresses up - with sensational finds

Rom - Construction projects worth billions are digging their way through Rome. The Eternal City is set to shine for the largest Catholic pilgrimage event in 2025. The city and the Vatican are on a tight schedule - there is no time for historical finds.

Published  on 09.06.2024 at 12:00  – by Severina Bartonitschek (KNA)

Churned up earth behind high construction fences: all over Rome, yellow and white tarpaulins with the words"Roma Giubileo 2025" block the view of construction sites and the familiar routes of the city's inhabitants. The colours refer to the "culprit" for the Roman chaos that goes beyond the usual: the Vatican. This is because it will soon be organising a Holy Year, or "Giubileo" in Italian. Millions of people from all over the world are travelling to the Eternal City for this religious event.

And so Rome is sprucing itself up to make the city inviting for the pilgrims, as Mayor Roberto Gualtieri emphasises. Currently to the chagrin of residents and tourists alike. A total of 60 construction sites, mostly in the historic centre, are being carried out during the Holy Year. Italy created a special national budget for the major event. In addition, the city is implementing more than 300 other measures to improve transport - on wheels and on foot - as well as social, cultural and educational programmes. "Rome is transforming. The Eternal City is changing forever," is the slogan.

But for all eternity? The schedule is tight. The major construction work around the Vatican and the most important pilgrimage churches should be completed by Christmas Eve. Pope Francis will then officially open the Holy Year. At the meeting between Gualtieri and the head of the Church on the Capitoline Hill on Monday, the construction progress is likely to be a topic of discussion. The Vatican already discussed this in January. The Pope - himself dependent on a wheelchair - regularly appeals for a more liveable Rome, first and foremost for its own citizens, for example through accessibility for people with physical disabilities.

Biggest construction sites

Two of the largest jubilee construction sites are located near St Peter's Basilica and in front of the Lateran Basilica. The 87-year-old Francis may also see them as a symbol of his own work - because he is currently undertaking extensive restructuring in the diocese of Rome, as well as in the universal church, which is almost manageable compared to the building sites in the real world.

Lateran with papal palace in Rome
Bild: ©AdobeStock/ Stefano Tammaro

Construction is also underway here: The "Lateran" and the Basilica of St Giovanni in Laterano are the seat of the diocese of Rome.

New pavements, fountains and green spaces are to be built in front of the bishop's seat in the Lateran, which until now has been an open space for concerts and rallies. 15 million euros are planned for the upgrading of the 10,000 square metre square; it should be accessible from the third quarter of 2025, i.e. towards the end of the Holy Year. Until then, high construction fences and improvised pavements will characterise the area around the Papal Basilica and the Holy Stairs.

Mysterious skeleton find

The construction of a pedestrian zone between the Vatican and Castel Sant'Angelo is far more extensive. An underground tunnel for car traffic is currently being built for this purpose. It will cost 79.5 million euros to remove the avalanche of traffic from the visual axis of St Peter's Basilica. The work should be completed in time for the opening of the Holy Year - barring any unforeseen events.

Workers recently discovered a skeleton a few metres below the former roadway. It was hastily removed so that the excavations for the tunnel could continue. The bones are currently being analysed. It is already clear that the remains date back to the 16th/17th century; an unusually recent find for a city like Rome, where ancient remains are regularly unearthed on construction sites.

Further analyses will reveal who the deceased was. It is unlikely to have been the last unexpected find. So it remains to be seen how much of the Roman transformation will actually benefit the pilgrims of the Holy Year 2025. The spiritual motto of the Giubileo is therefore fitting: "Pilgrims of Hope".

by Severina Bartonitschek (KNA)