Architect of Rome Temple Shares Symbolism of Temple's Shape, Structure

In a Facebook post, Elder David A. Bednar explained, "The shape of the oval is found throughout the Rome temple. An oval has no beginning and no end and is a symbol of eternity. This is especially appropriate in Rome, which is known as the 'eternal city.'"

The architect for the Rome Italy Temple, Niels Valentiner, shared additional insights with the Church News about this oval shape and the difficulties building a structure that was a perfect oval. “We kept coming back to this oval design, which is really seen by many as an expression of Italian Baroque architecture," he said. “It takes from Italy an architectural statement and brings it into the temple.”

Elder Larry Y. Wilson added, “If you want to try a difficult construction project, build something the shape of an oval. . . . Many of these interior walls are the shape of an oval. That piece of furniture looks like it’s sitting flat against the wall, but if you go look at it carefully, it’s custom made in the shape of the wall. So it’s actually curved on the back of it to fit against the curved wall.” 

In addition to the oval theme, the structure of the entire temple complex, including a fountain of water that flows from the temple toward a statue of Christ—the Living Water, holds deep symbolic meaning. 

“We knew we wanted to connect (the temple to Italy), and one of the most important things that was very clear in the beginning was that we really wanted to make sure that we created the concept of an Italian piazza,” said Valentiner, president of VCBO Architecture.

Elder Bednar shared the reasons for this acute attention to detail with the Church News:

“The temple is a place of spiritual power. And that power blesses not only Latter-day Saints, but it extends into the neighborhood and into the community. If you take, for example, the temple in Accra, Ghana: I visited there the first time in 2005, and there wasn’t much there other than the temple, a stake center and the area offices. To see how that surrounding environment, that surrounding community has been blessed and prospered in the years since then is stunning. So I think the power, the spiritual power that emanates from the House of the Lord, it’s not the building. The building is nice, but it’s the power of the ordinances and the covenants. And when you have Latter-day Saints striving to honor those covenants, who come here to be reminded to renew, to remember, that can’t help but bless the entire community, even the entire nation.”

Lead image by Ravell Call, Deseret News
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