baths of Caracalla with water jets. © Tiziana FABI / AFP

Water returns to the Baths of Caracalla

By Region Central Italy Culture News

Rome’s Baths of Caracalla has revealed a new pool called “The Mirror,” reflecting the ancient ruins of the bath complex constructed 1,800 years ago in the second century.

The pool, conceived by the site’s director Mirella Serlorenzi and overseen by Rome’s special superintendent Daniela Porro, aims to showcase a harmonious blend of ancient and contemporary elements.

With 20 submerged water jets and spotlights creating a mesmeriing play of light reminiscent of the steam from the ancient baths, the installation offers a tangible connection to the past.

Designed by architect Hannes Peer and Paolo Bornello, “Lo Specchio” (The Mirror) is a 42 x 32 metre pool featuring a stage over the water. The stage is for hosting classical music concerts or theatre and dance performances.

Baths of Caracalla "Lo Specchio" reflecting the Baths ruins © Tiziana FABI / AFP
“Lo Specchio” reflecting the Baths ruins © Tiziana FABI / AFP

“The return of water is not only a wonder for its own sake, a joy for the eyes and the spirit, but is meant to be a concrete symbol of reconnection with the ancient world,” said Porro. He added that the pool reinforces “the role of the Baths of Caracalla as a centre promoting culture and art”.

“The Mirror” will debut on April 13 with a ballet premiere set to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

The Ancient Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla, a sprawling complex of Roman public baths constructed between 212 and 216 AD, remained operational until the sixth century. They were named after the emperor Caracalla.

The baths adhered to the standard design of Roman baths known as the “great Imperial baths.” They functioned as more than just bathing facilities, resembling leisure centres. In addition to bathing, the complex provided amenities for strolling, reading or studying, exercising, and personal grooming.

The earthquake in 847 destroyed much of the building along with other Roman structures.

Today, visitors can explore the site’s underground areas, including gymnasiums, changing rooms, and various chambers. Additionally, the Baths of Caracalla hosts open-air opera, dance performances, exhibitions, and contemporary art installations as part of Rome’s summer cultural programme.

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