Fire not only destroys, it can sometimes also help preserve buildings. This is what has happened to an architectural complex originating in Ancient Rome that has been discovered under a old cinema of Verona, north of Italy. Already known as the ‘little Pompeii’ for its walls decorated with brightly colored frescoes and the good condition of its heating system on the floors and walls, reminiscent of those of the city of Ancient Rome destroyed in 79 AD by the eruption of Vesuvius, still the original use of this discovery is unknown.
Although it has been known for at least 15 years that there are vestiges of the Ancient Roman era under the Astra cinema, closed for years and located in the historic center of Verona, it has not been until now that the richness of the remains has been made aware thanks to the latest excavations. The finding would confirm the importance of the city for the Romans, who considered it a significant bastion from which to control northern Italy and the roads that communicated with the Alps and other significant cities such as Mediolanum (present-day Milan) or Genua ( Genoa). The magnificent Roman amphitheater in Verona is the best witness of that importance.
«As in other citizen contexts, a fire appears to have ended the use of the complex», Explained in a statement the Superintendency for archeology, fine arts and landscape of the provinces of Verona, Rovigo and Vicenza. This agency reported the discovery of fallen remains from the ceilings, as well as a charred wooden furniture that was in a space that, despite the destruction of the fire, “It has preserved intact the magnificent colors of the walls, decorated with frescoes from the 2nd century”. The heating system has also been found, as well as original pavements embellished with mosaics and other inlaid pieces.
As also happened in Pompeii, Herculaneum and many other cities, a fire also in this building in Verona “Unexpectedly marked the end of the complex”, although he left “traces of the last scene of life.” It is expected that in the coming days the Superintendency for Archeology will offer further information on the details of the find, the development of the excavations and the future prospects of the discovery.
After years in which it screened films for Veronese, the Astra suffered the same fate as many other cinemas located in city centers and had to close its doors. It remained abandoned until, in 2010, the authorities gave the green light to the project promoted by its new owners, who anticipated turn the movie theater into a three-story shopping mall. The works, in principle, had the approval of the Superintendency, to the point that the construction of a walkway was planned to allow visitors, while going shopping, to enjoy the Roman remains under the building.
With the latest findings, the city may have lost a commercial center, gaining instead a cultural appeal which adds to the amphitheater or to the Casa de Julieta.