ROME, Italy — On the outskirts of Rome along the ancient Catholic pilgrim route known as the Via Francigena and not far from a giant shopping center featuring a massive IKEA and the French do-it-yourself Mecca called Leroy Merlin, cranes are hoisting giant spires onto the top of a Baroque-revival-style church. But unlike most of the religious edifices erected in Catholic Rome, this Roman temple is being built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) of Italy to accommodate a congregation that has grown from 9,000 to nearly 30,000 followers in less than 30 years.
The Rome Temple Complex of the LDS sits on 15 acres and will feature lush gardens, and a 40,000-square-foot temple with floor and ceiling designs to mimic Michelangelo’s Capitoline Hill plaza overlooking the Roman forum. Marble from Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Brazil is being used to decorate the interior and exterior spaces. The grounds will also include a stake center meeting house (a stake being roughly similar to a Catholic diocese), a visitor center, a family history library and a special Mormon-only hotel for workers and worshippers.
The temple, which is expected to be inaugurated sometime next year, is the 12th temple built in Europe and the first ever in Italy, and it is one of 15 new temples currently being built worldwide by the growing Mormon church. Organizers say that while it is under construction the Roman temple will be open briefly to the public for guided tours to help encourage understanding, then it will be closed to all but church members except under special circumstances.