ROME – A new temple to Apollo was built in the city of Taranto, Italy, last month by the Italian Religio Romana organization, Pietas – Comunità Gentile.
Pietas is a reconstruction of the ancient priestly and religious rites of Religio Romana and recently received formal recognition from the Italian state. The temple is not a restoration of an existing structure or the use of an ancient site, but a brand new building built to honor Apollo.
Pietas is based in Rome and has affiliates in cities throughout Italy, including Bologna, Genoa, Milan, Palermo, and now Taranto, itself an ancient Spartan colony. The region is often referred to as Magna Graecia, which includes the present-day Italian regions of Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, and Sicily. The organization has also arduously and carefully reconstructed elements of Religio Romana using ancient sources that are both Pagan and Christian to gather as much historically reliable material to develop its rites. Pietas is now recognized under Italian law as a valid national religious community.
Temple building has been an important part of that reconstruction. Over the last two decades, Pietas has been expanding its presence over the Italian peninsula, creating a temple to Jupiter in Rome, to Minerva in Pordenone, to Apollo in Palermo, and a temple complex to Apollo in Ardea. They also re-dedicated the sacred fire of Vesta in Rome and annually rekindle the metaphysical fire of ancient Roman times that had originally been continuously lit from 2760 BCE, but ended during the rise of Christian rule.
Pietas takes tremendous physical, intellectual, and spiritual care in the construction of its temples. The new temple, while smaller than many ancient sites, has been built with the measure and proportions available from antiquity, and with the customary auguries, astrological alignments, and architectural dimensions that are required as part of a sanctuary’s ritual construction. Pietas noted that the altar is a rectangle where the short side is half of the long one, corresponding to the Golden Rectangle.
Near the temple, they created an artisanal workshop, where they carve the stones to make ritual elements of the sanctuary including basins for ablutions, a holy path or via sacra, and religious imagery and other sacred items. Pietas also planted fruit trees and created a vegetable garden, to have the first fruits from the sacred gardens always available for the rites.
Pietas’ leader and Pontifex Maximus, Giuseppe Barbera Hermes Helios, spoke with The Wild Hunt and explained that opening these sites must be a central mission of Pietas.
“Currently the temple of Apollo is in a simple form,” said the Pontifex. “Still many decorations have to be made and assembled, but it is already functioning: rites, blessings, initiations, oracular tracts take place there, and it is already possible to celebrate ritual weddings.”
Pietas’ development of temple sites is central to its community. “The temple is a place of connection between the human and divine dimensions, also called ‘Aedes,’ which in Latin means ‘house of the divinity,’” Helios said. “By erecting temples, we create places where Gentiles can meet, practice, discuss, where they can live their spiritual life thanks to the ancient rite and the sharing of the feeling of friendship.
“Even more beautiful is knowing that you have a home for the Gods, who can return to coexist with men, bringing balance, peace, health, prosperity, and well-being,” he continued.
At the dedication of the temple in Taranto, Pietas said that one who attended said, “I am a practicing Catholic, and I have attended many rites in my life, but this was the first time ever in which I perceived a ritual as alive, real.”
Helios noted that the individual “was very excited to have lived this inner experience, and this is precisely our goal when we erect temples: to allow anyone, regardless of religion, gender, race, or anything else, to have important spiritual experiences and to perceive. the living presence of the deities.”
Helios also noted that he and his organization feel that humanity is experiencing an epochal transition. “We are all potentially protagonists of a new transformation, so the commitment must be born even more so that the reconstruction of Tradition is based on the healthiest and most beautiful values of the ancient world.”
He suggested reading Marcus Aurelius to understand how applicable ancient thought and guidance can apply to modern problems. He noted that it is often uncanny “how current and useful those values are.”
Pietas is also looking ahead. “A large sanctuary will soon be erected in Enna, dedicated to Ceres, where we have already erected a small temple to Hercules Victor and where we are building the largest temple built to date,” said Helios. “There will be areas for theatrical activities, gymnastic games, conferences, a guesthouse for pilgrims, banquet halls, other rooms for conferences, conventions, and more.
“Our worship is mainly domestic and we do not proselytize, but we create temples as a reference point for the community,” said Helios. But he also adds that the Pietas is growing rapidly. The organization has built solid relationships with its members worldwide and is open to everyone. “We accept memberships from all over the world. We have members of our community in the United States, Australia, Brazil, the list goes on.”
Membership is free and those interested can join by contacting Pietas.
As for the new temple, it is open to the public and available for worship, meditation, and reflection. “Anyone who wants to visit will be welcome,” said Helios. “Access is free. For those who knock, the doors are always open.”