Amphitheatre of Durrës

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Quick Summary

Location
41°18'43"N
019°26'42"E
Country
 Albania
Categories
  • Monuments
  • Sacral
Rating
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Description

The Amphitheatre of Durrës (Albanian: Amfiteatri i Durrësit; Latin: Amphitheatrum Dyrrhachinum) is a Roman amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Durrës, Albania. Construction began under the emperor Trajan in the 2nd century AD and it was destroyed twice by earthquakes in the 6th and 10th centuries. It is the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Balkan Peninsula with once having a capacity of 20,000 people.The amphitheatre is included on the tentative list of Albania for inscribing it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was discovered in late 1966 and has become a popular tourist attraction.

History

The amphitheatre was built in the beginning of the 2nd century AD. It was used for performances until the 4th century AD. The earthquake of 345/346 likely damaged the monument and closed the 'ludii gladiatorii'. An early Christian chapel was constructed on the amphitheatre in the second half of the 4th century. The chapel was initially decorated with frescoes; in the 6th century, mosaics were added. A medieval chapel was built in the 13th century, also decorated with frescoes. The amphitheatre was covered over in the 16th century, after the Ottoman occupation, when the wall was built nearby. Marin Barleti described the monument as 'well constructed'. About one third of the site was discovered and excavated in the 1960s by Vangjel Toci; the rest was excavated in the 1980s by Lida Miraj. After excavation the amphitheater slowly deteriorated, as no conservation efforts were undertaken prior to the 2000s, and construction continued to take place around the site. In 2004 the University of Parma started restoration work to save the monument.

Site

The amphitheatre has an elliptical shape with axes of 132.4 metres (434 ft) and 113.2 metres (371 ft). The arena is 61.4 metres (201 ft) by 42.2 metres (138 ft) and is 20 metres (66 ft) high. It is built on a slope of the hill, and inside the amphitheatre there are staircases and galleries at different levels. The chapel with mosaics is preserved.The site currently functions as a museum.

Dangers

The amphitheatre is surrounded on all sides by the city of Durrës, and a section of the arena itself has been built upon with modern housing. Thus, development pressures threaten the long-term preservation of the site. The municipality of Durrës is now planning to remove the houses. The amphitheatre has serious structural deficiencies, and its mosaics and paintings are slowly decaying.In 2013, the amphitheatre was shortlisted along with thirteen other sites by Europa Nostra as one of the most endangered cultural heritage sites in Europe.
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