How the Arch of Janus was restored

The last time I was in Rome which feels like a century ago but was actually a year-and-a-half ago, I happened upon a rhino in front of a large, thick, four-sided arch. The rhino is not material to this story, really, and remains an unsolved mystery, but the arch turned out to be a little-known gem of the city: the only surviving quadrifons (four-faced) arch in Rome.

It was built in the second half of the 4th century A.D. in the Forum Boarium, the ancient city’s cattle market. It was looted for materials in the early Middle Ages and converted into a fortress by the Frangipani family. Between 1827 and 1830 it was deconverted back to what was believed to be its original configuration, only the restorers were mistaken and the original attic was destroyed, shortening the soaring arch into a bit of a cube.

Tucked behind the huge tourist attraction of the Bocca della Verità and neglected when other monuments in the Forum Boarium — the the Temple of Portunus and the Temple of Hercules Victor — were restored in the 90s and 2000s, the Arch of Janus was placed on the World Monuments Fund watch list in 2014 for its precarious condition. That spurred a multi-year study and restoration program that concluded in 2017.

The World Monuments Fund released a video about the restoration which I described as showing “tantalizing but not satisfying snippets of the restoration.” Now Italy’s Cultural Heritage Ministry has released the mega director’s cut. At 24 minutes, it is 12 times longer than the trailer and goes into gripping detail on the cleaning, restoration and structural challenges of the arch. Great extended intro with aerial footage of Rome too.