Popes Took Apart The Colosseum To Build The Vatican
Much like the people and animals who fought and died there, the Colosseum's had a pretty rough life. An iconic image of ancient Rome, it's basically an enormous, lopsided, slightly pink ruin that looks a lot like the world's largest pasta strainer. In fact, we're so used to seeing it with partially destroyed upper levels that renderings of what it once looked like feel wrong. But how did the Colosseum get destroyed, anyway?
In the 2,000-ish years since it was built, the Colosseum has endured fires, earthquakes, and a couple of World Wars. But even worse, it had to endure the Catholic Church and several of its popes, who had a lot to do with why the Colosseum looks like Swiss cheese today. See, when it was time to build St. Peter's Basilica or the Palazzo Venezia, they were all like, "We need stones? There's a sweet-ass quarry sitting right in the middle of Rome!" Yup, they swiped bits of the Colosseum and other Roman structures to build cathedrals. The floor of St. Peter's, for example, is made of rose porphyry, an extinct stone pilfered from the Colosseum. Over the years, so much of the Colosseum was hauled away to be used in other buildings that its stability was compromised, making it extra vulnerable to earthquakes, gravity, and time.
And that's not all the Colosseum has been through. Once the gladiators were gone, the site basically became Rome's back alley, with all the expected shady activities, and some interesting extras for good measure. People dumped manure and planted vegetables on the floor, while everybody from cobblers and money-changers to glue-makers and priests set up stalls throughout the labyrinthine passages. After dark, necromancers showed up and attempted to summon demons from the roof. One pope looked at the place and decided what it really needed most was to house a giant wool factory, complete with workshops and living quarters. Today the Colosseum is a World Heritage Site, so it's being restored and protected and definitely not being used like an open doorway by the dwellers of the underworld ... we think.