Lebanon: A book about the "Italian" story of Tyres tomb

Roman monument restored on Cooperation's initiative

11 June, 19:17

(ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, 11 JUNE - From the day in May 1937 when it was discovered, to the day in 1939 when it was taken to the National Museum in Beirut; from the dark days of the civil war, when it was covered in water in the basement of the building hit by shelling, to the day of its rebirth, when its frescoes were brought back to their original splendour thanks to restoration works funded by the Italian Cooperation: this is the amazing story of Tyres' tomb, a tomb originally built nearby the same location in Southern Lebanon during the Roman Empire. The book about the tomb's adventurous story has been presented today by Lebanon's Minister of Culture, Gaby Layoun, and by the Italian Ambassador, Giuseppe Morabito.

The tomb (whose base is 6.30x5.40 mt. and whose maximum height at its highest top is 3.40 mt.) dates back to the Second century AD and used to belong to an aristocratic family that was never identified; the tomb contained approximately twenty skeletons when it was discovered by chance by a shepherd in the Burj el Shemali area. "In Tyres, where Rome left its indelible track, there are still several examples of Roman art; however, this is certainly one of the most spectacular monuments ever found out in Lebanon", Minister Layoun said.

The entire tomb, with its walls are covered in frescoes on Greek and Roman mythology and its locula underneath, was taken to Beirut before World War II by a team led by the English architect Henry Pearson. However, in the 15 years of Lebanon's civil war (1975-1990), the Museum ended up exactly on the "green line" of the front dividing East Beirut from West Beirut and was partially destroyed. The Tyres Tomb, which had been placed in the basement, was covered by water and, subsequently, frescoes were seriously damaged by dampness. In 2009, Lebanon's General Antiquities' Directorate asked the Italian Embassy to help it develop a restoration project, which was approved later the same year and received funds worth EUR 256,000 by the Italian Cooperation. Works were carried out during three stages of two months each under the management of Giorgio Capriotti, with the cooperation of Italian and Lebanese restorers. Restoration works literally "brought back to life" the frescoes, which portray several myths of the afterlife, from Achilles returning Hectors' body to his father Priam; from Pluto kidnapping Proserpina, to Hercules in its 12th labour, with his club and Cerberus on a leash. Restoration works were accompanied by a museographical project by architect Antonio Giammarusti, carried out in the area in front of the tomb's entrance in cooperation with the Museum's curator, Anne-Marie Maila Afeiche, a narration of the monument's story. "Tyres' Tomb art and its story," Ambassador Morabito said," are now here to be admired and respected. Our past is closer to us today and conveys a very important message both to us and to future generations: culture and art are the heritage of the whole human kind." (ANSAmed).

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