Millennia-old buildings don’t typically make the news for new architectural developments, which is why the Colosseum’s underground unveiling is so monumental. For the first time in 2,000 years, the hypogea (the chambers and corridors located below the monument) will be open to the public. These underground levels were where gladiators and animals would prepare and wait before entering elevators that would bring them to the arena for battle.
Visitors have been able to enter the hypogeum network since 2010, but only a small section of it. Now, a new wooden walkway has been constructed so tourists can explore the subterranean corridors and archways.
The opening is the product of a massive restoration project launched in 2011 and expected to be completed in 2024. It began with a cleaning of the Colosseum’s facade, followed by the reopening of its underground areas. The third and last phase of the project involves restoring the galleries, updating the lighting system, and adding a new visitor center, The Guardian reports.
The Colosseum’s director Alfonsina Russo told CNN about the restoration and the opening of the Colosseum’s underground chambers to the public, “This restoration is absolutely important for the archaeological research, because it enables us to reconstruct its history. This was the backstage of the shows that went on in the area. [It is the location for] all the preparation, even the technology — they brought props, men and animals up into the area through a series of elevators and cargo lifts.”
The opening of the hypogea marks the end of the current restoration project, though the Ministry of Culture recently announced that a stage-like wooden arena would be built over the hypogea. In addition to making the structure more historically accurate, the arena would also be used to host concerts and other events.