The Colosseum Was a Housing Complex in Medieval Times

Recent archeological digs have found that people lived in the Colosseum during the medieval era

Paul Williams - Funkystock/imagebroker/Corbis

Visitors to Rome can’t miss the Colosseum. No, really, it's pretty hard to not see it—the hulking ruins rise out of the modern streets, a memorial to times gone by. But while this 1,942-year-old structure is best known for the bloody spectacles that it hosted for centuries, it actually went through a period of time where it was a giant housing complex, reports Discovery News. 

Between around 800 and 1349, the disused arena was rented out as a giant housing structure by friars of a nearby convent. The complex had sewage pipes crafted from terra cotta, stables and workshops. The occupants built stone walls in some areas to divide up the space, and the center served as a courtyard-like communal space.

It was abandoned in 1349 after a massive earthquake struck Rome. Apparently, living inside a crumbling (if magnificent) ruin wasn’t so appealing after feeling the ground shake.

At some points during its long history, the Colosseum was also used as a local quarry for other building projects. And, in the 1500s Pope Sixtus tried to turn the structure into a wool factory. (His pet project didn’t last long after his death.)

Currently, the Colosseum is undergoing a $33 million restoration, with money provided by Diego Della Valle, the chairman of the luxury goods company Tod's. Restoration work is expected to take three years. In the meantime, archaeological digs—and tourism—will continue.

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