History of the Rome Temple
The Temple of Rome is the first temple of the Church of Jesus Christ in Italy and thirteenth in Europe. It stands on a hill in the northern part of Rome on Via di Settebagni, 376-354, a majestic site embellished with flowering gardens, ancient olive trees and a fountain that runs from the Temple to the artistic building of the Visitor Center and the Family History Library for genealogical research.
Since it opened, visitors from all over the world have come to this sacred site for its beauty and religious significance. Members of the Church gather inside the temple for sacred religious ceremonies that bring them closer to God, while tourists come to view the temple grounds and enjoy the visitors’ center.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Italy
The history of the Rome Italy Temple traces back to the early days of the Church in Italy. In 1843, Joseph Toronto (born Giuseppe Taranto) became the first known Italian convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint when he was baptized in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1849 Toronto was among the first missionaries sent to his homeland when he accompanied the apostle Lorenzo Snow and others to Italy to open a Mission of the Church. The first mission was short-lived: it was closed in 1867, but a few converts remained.
Vincenzo Di Francesca, originally from Sicily, was another great example of the faithfulness of early Church members. In 1910 he was a Protestant minister in New York when he found a book that was missing its cover. He read the book, which he thought to be similar to the Bible. When he finished reading it, he prayed and received confirmation that it was a work of God. His heart, he said, palpitated “as if it were talking” and he felt a “supreme joy that no human language could [describe].”
Not knowing it was The Book of Mormon, a book of scripture sacred to members of The Church of Jesus Christ, Di Francesca began using the book in his sermons. When his superiors asked him to destroy it, he refused and was forbidden to preach. He later returned to Sicily, where he continued to share the book as often as possible.
In 1930, while consulting a dictionary, he found an entry for the word “Mormon”. Recognizing it as one of the names listed in his untitled book, he finally discovered the origin of the book and was able to get in contact with Church leaders in Salt Lake City. He maintained regular contact until the onset of World War II, when communication became impossible.
During this time, Di Francesca continued to preach using The Book of Mormon and other church materials that he translated into Italian. In 1951, after four decades of waiting, he was finally able to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Mediterranean Sea.
As a number of Italians learned of the Gospel in other countries and returned home to share the message with friends and family, the Church was re-established in Italy in the 1950s. The first Italian-speaking congregations were organized in Brescia and Palermo.
Picture of early members
In 1966 the Italian Mission was re-established with headquarters in Rome. The Church grew steadily and, between 1970 and 1980, the number of Church members in Italy increased almost eightfold. In 1981 the first stake in Italy (a diocese-like unit) was organized.
In 2012, the Church was granted an Intesa, an agreement with the Italian government granting the Church protections under the Italian constitution, including freedom to pursue its worldwide mission and recognition of Church leaders as clergy. Currently, there are about 27,000 members of the Church in Italy in almost 100 congregations.
The Italy Rome Temple
Latter-day Saints consider participation in the sacred ordinances of the temple the pinnacle of their worship. For many years, Italian members traveled to the closest temple near Bern, Switzerland, often at great personal expense. But members in Italy longed to have a temple in their homeland.
During the Church’s general conference on October 4, 2008, Thomas S. Monson, then president of the Church, announced plans to build a temple in Rome. Thousands of Church members in Italy, watching a satellite broadcast of the conference in their local meetinghouses, cheered, exchanged hugs and rejoiced. “We all shouted,” reported Massimo De Feo, who was serving as president of the Rome Italy Stake. He described the reaction as what “you might expect to see in a sports arena during a last-second win.”
Building the Temple
Construction began two years later on October 23, 2010. President Thomas S. Monson and local Church and community leaders participated in the groundbreaking ceremony.
Highlighting Italian culture was of utmost importance to architects in the construction of the Piazza. The architect for the Rome Italy Temple, Niels Valentiner, shared, “We kept coming back to this oval design, which is really seen by many as an expression of Italian Baroque architecture… It takes from Italy an architectural statement and brings it into the temple.”
Everything in the Piazza was designed to pay homage to Rome and celebrate local culture, including small details such as the recurring twelve-pointed stars inspired by Michelangelo’s Campidoglio Square and references to the olive trees that once stood on the site, as well as the overall design of the square which resembles an ancient Roman Forum.
On March 25, 2017, the gold-plated angel Moroni statue was placed atop the taller, eastern tower of the twin-spired building, one of the final additions to the temple.
Open House and Dedication
After construction was completed in February 2019, the temple was open to the public for several weeks in which time 52,000 people toured the temple before its dedication.
The Rome Italy Temple was dedicated on March 10, 2019 by President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For the first time in the history of the Church, every member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles participated in the dedication ceremony.
“In this ancient and great city that has stood since biblical times — in this historic nation of Italy — we acknowledge the ministry of two of Thy Son’s early Apostles, Peter and Paul, who once blessed this land with their labors,” said President Nelson in the dedicatory prayer. “May the influence of their abiding testimony of Jesus Christ continue to be felt among the vital values of this great country.”