Did You Know ...

... that bacteria protect the Colosseum?

The Colosseum in Rome was built between 72 and 80 A.D. and is the largest amphitheater ever built anywhere in the world. Following the serious damage caused by earthquakes in 847 and 1349, the building was used as a quarry during the Middle Ages and up until the Baroque period. In 1774, Pope Benedict XIV finally put an end to this exploitation of the Colosseum after he had declared it to be a site of martyrdom.

Today, bacteria and other microorganisms make a valuable contribution to maintaining this shining example of Roman architecture. They protect the monument from environmental influences by producing a natural organic bacterial film called patina.

To raise the public's awareness of this process, Sabine Kacunko, an artist from Berlin, made this otherwise invisible world visible by projecting images captured with a microscope as a part of the UNESCO International Year of Light 2015. For her project, »Invincible«, samples were taken from the outer layer of the patina and placed under a ZEISS microscope. These images of microorganisms were then projected onto an external facade measuring about 1,400 m2 on the northwest side of the Colosseum. People walking by could see how microorganisms from the protective layer preserve the walls.

For three days, the Colosseum was illuminated by a vast, colorful beam of light and images emanating from the projected bacterial biofilm. The art installation was visible from the Via Imperiale all the way to the Piazza Venezia. The light project is a part of the globally-sponsored »Grand Tour« in which Sabine Kacunko will illuminate different World Heritage Sites with her video art. She wants to forge a link between science and art.

4 November 2015

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