LDS Church leaders experience a full week of VIP tours leading up to Rome temple opening

January 20, 2019

Leaders and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have completed a busy week of VIP tours through the new Rome Italy Temple prior to opening for public tours Jan. 28 through Feb. 15, excluding Sundays.

The significance of this church milestone is not being understated.

Members of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were tag-teaming during the week and gave private tours through the 40,000-square-foot edifice. Elders David A. Bednar and Ronald E. Rasband started the week of personal tours through what will be the church’s 162nd operating temple in the world. Elder Gary E. Stevenson started giving tours Thursday.

Reports on the church’s mormonnewsroom.org said visitors have been overwhelmed by the beauty of the building. Miniature replicas of the Christus statue featured in the new visitor’s center were presented by Bednar and Rasband to local political leaders of the city of Rome.

“It is beautiful,” Bednar said in a press statement. Bednar serves as chairman of the Temple and Family History Department. “The craftsmanship is expert and perfect.”

The temple has been more than a decade in the making. President Thomas S. Monson announced the temple would be built in 2008. Construction began in October 2010.

On Monday, tours were given to local and international press organizations, on Wednesday visitors from interfaith groups including an interfaith council from the Vatican toured the complex. Numerous groups from international architects to members of UNICEF have been guests.

“This had to be one (temple) that when you walked onto this site, every person should feel like they were on an Italian site,” said architect Niels Valentiner in a press statement. “They would recognize it because of the materials, because of the design, and because of the surrounding.”

The temple

According to Valentiner, the temple’s design was inspired by San Carlino, a Roman Catholic Church in Rome, a LDS Church statement said.

The temple sits on a 15-acre plot that features the temple, a multifunctional meetinghouse, a visitors’ center, a family history center and housing for visitors. It is being referred to as a religious and cultural center.

While there is Italian influence in the design and décor of the temple, several Utah businesses were engaged in the building process.

Companies from Utah include Holdman Studios and Glass Art Institute of Utah, InSite Design Group of Utah and Designed by Water Design Incorporated of Utah.

According to church descriptions, the warm earth tones and blue, bronze and gold hues can be seen throughout the interior. Artisans and craftsmen have installed the high-quality materials, which includes Perlato Svevo stone flooring quarried in northern Tuscany; Cenia marble from Spain; deep reddish brown Sapele, burl and cherry wood millwork; and Murano glass fixtures from Venice.

“We use the finest materials because it is the house of the Lord,” said Elder Bednar. “The temple is an expression of our love and devotion to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing is too good for the Lord.”

The Baroque-era feel of the bridal room is enhanced by crystalline sconces and hand-painted chairs.

Described as “exquisite”, a chandelier containing thousands of crystal prisms serves as the centerpiece of the building’s celestial room.

The celestial room represents the progression of reaching heaven to its members. The room is also filled with elegant furnishings made by Italian artisans, the press statement said.

Visitor’s center

Familiar to members of the LDS Church is the Bertel Thorvaldsen sculpture of the Christus that resides in the North Visitor’s Center on temple square in Salt Lake City. A replica stands in the Rome visitor’s center in front of statues of the original Twelve Apostles also by Thorvaldsen, as seen in the Church of Our Lady in Denmark, except Judas Iscariot. The statue of the Apostle Paul replaces it, according to church information.

Marble for the statues was quarried from the same quarry in Tuscany that yielded marble for Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David.

“When I saw the statues of the Savior, the Christus, and the Twelve Apostles, it was just a spiritually stunning moment for me,” Bednar said.

According to church information, the statues are complimented by an original mural of olive trees in an Italian countryside that serves as a backdrop.

“I’m just very humbled to be here,” Rasband said. “This is a very special place we’re in right here.”

The week also found Bednar and Rasband walking the paths that the apostles Peter and Paul walked. The church’s apostles stood in front of the Mamertinum Prison where it is believed Peter and Paul were held captive for declaring their testimony of Jesus Christ.

While at the prison, Bednar and Rasband did as Peter and Paul and testified of Christ.

In 1997, the LDS Church purchased the temple site, an abandoned 15-acre farm, which included a villa, small olive orchard and outside pizza oven.

“I used to come here as a youth, and we used to organize small soccer games,” said Stephano Mosco, a local LDS member in a press release. “And there was a stone over there where we used to cook pizzas.”

According to church statistics, there are 12 other temples in Europe. The Rome temple will serve 25,000 church members living in Italy and in neighboring countries.

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