Latter-day Saints from around the world gathered in Italy today to commence the public open house for the Rome Italy Temple. The open house, which runs from Jan. 28 through Feb. 16, is open to the public.
The Rome Italy Temple dedication will be held from Sunday, March 10, through Tuesday, March 12. Here are eight stories featuring the new temple and its significance to the Church members there.
Among the most influential longtime members in Italy, Agostino and Pierina Vardeu were baptized members of the Church in June 1978, and the gospel has been blessing their lives for over four decades.
Agostino quit drinking a month after the missionaries started teaching him, and both he and his sons quickly set a baptism date. On the day of his baptism, Agostino's wife, Pierina, surprised him by saying she had also arranged to be baptized that day.
"It feels like yesterday, not 40 years," Pierina said. "I was the happiest woman and mother because I got a special family, the (eternal) family I'd wished for. I'd prayed a lot for that."
Missionaries throughout Italy have noticed that Italians are intrigued by the temple, and talking about the temple has proved to be a useful missionary tool.
“The Italians are very curious people, so they want to know what this building is,” said Sister Sadie Decker of McKinney, Texas.
“The temple is a beacon, a great missionary tool for us as we point people toward it,” said Elder Bryce Dickey, a missionary from Happy Valley, Oregon, who is serving in Rome. “It helps them see that this Church isn’t just something small and isn’t just an American church. Instead, it’s a global Church that is fulfilling prophecy. It’s going to fill the whole earth.”
Church members Daniele and Norma Salerno of Rome, Italy, were delighted to move into their new apartment that happened to look directly onto the future site of the Rome Temple.
“I asked if they knew what they were building out there,” Daniele Salerno recalled. “The agent replied it was ‘the Mormon Church’ and said nothing else about it. Obviously, we knew what it was, and it made us smile — they thought the construction site would deter buyers, but we decided to take the apartment because of it.”
Having a pristine view of the temple right outside their kitchen window has helped the Salerno family keep the gospel as their primary focus.
“I feel that gospel study is home-centered when the home becomes the hub of all meaningful teaching and learning experiences,” Daniele said. “To do this, as parents we feel the need to prayerfully develop a constant awareness of the spiritual needs of each of our children at different stages of their lives.”
4) A look at how the Christus and 12 Apostle statues went from Copenhagen to the Rome Italy Temple grounds
In the early 1800s, Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen — who trained in Rome — crafted sculptures of Jesus Christ and 12 New Testament Apostles. Thorvaldsen worked with clay, plaster and eventually Carrara marble while sculpting the 13 statues, which were destined for the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen.
During the Rome Italy Temple construction, the Church digitally mapped the statues in Copenhagen, quarried marble in Carrara to fashion the modern-day replicas and then placed the reproductions at the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center.
5) Learn everything you need to know about the symbolism of the statues in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center
There are many symbols evident in the marble statues housed in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center, including a staff, a bag of money and an eagle, to name a few.
Among the most striking symbols are the keys that the apostle Peter holds in his hand.
"The keys held in Peter’s right hand are symbolic of Matthew 16:19, where Christ tells Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
6) First look: Elder Bednar, Elder Rasband tour the Rome Italy Temple with journalists and political dignitaries
Elder Bednar and Elder Rasband welcomed the first visitors to the Rome Italy Temple on Jan. 14. Among the guests was Marcello De Vito, president of the Rome City Council.
"I've seen it under construction for two years now, but walking through it today was extraordinary, a very special experience. It will certainly improve the architecture of our city," he said in a Deseret News article detailing the event.
The three-story, 40,000-square-foot Rome temple features architecture inspired by ancient Rome and an exterior of Bianco Sardo granite.
“This had to be one that when you walked onto this site, every person should feel like they were on an Italian site. They would recognize it because of the materials, because of the design and because of the surrounding,” said architect Neils Valentiner."
Lining the piazza of the Rome Italy Temple are 400- to 500-year-old olive trees from Northern Italy.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles notes in the video that “there’s tremendous symbolism in olives and in olive trees. ... Whenever you cut the roots of an olive tree, they’ll sprout. They don’t die; they will continue to sprout. Some have suggested that perhaps that’s symbolic of the hope of the resurrection.”