Virtual reconstruction of Tarragona’s amphitheater through the opening procession

Carme Codina-Peñarroja


This paper is focused on a three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of Tarragona’s amphitheatre. The intention is to improve the current museography of the monument, which poorly performs its main purpose: cultural heritage dissemination. Firstly, most of the grandstands and the main entrance are the results of a partial restoration carried out during the 1960s, based more on pragmatic rather than scientific criteria, and with many historical inaccuracies. Secondly, the worship complex, consisting of a sanctuary on the arena and another one down of, goes unnoticed by most visitors. Finally, the only area where the grandstands remain, and the only one where someone can understand the vaulted construction technique, it is not available for public entrance.

Facing this situation, the present reconstruction proposal provides people with a useful tool to comprehend the Roman building, especially where the remains are poorly preserved or inaccurately restored. In this regard, a set of rendered images has been created and, by such means, people can compare the reconstruction of the Roman building with its current remains. For this purpose, scientific methods have been employed, as well as 3D modelling technologies. First and foremost, all publications relating to Tarraco’s amphitheater have been thoroughly reviewed. Then, the archaeological remains have been redrawn using CAD tools. Henceforth, the plans and sections have been reconstructed, 3D modelled and rendered. 

While the reconstruction was being developed, Roman ludic processions were found to be an interesting topic that could serve as a common thread. This way, the sectors to be reconstructed were sequenced as follows. First, the eastern entrance or Porta Triumphalis, which led the entourage to the arena. Second, the upper sacellum, where the priests conducted the liturgies to inaugurate the games. Third, the southern area, through which the gladiators and the authorities left the arena to their positions (for the first group, the service's rooms located in the underground, while for the second one, the authorities stand). Last but not least, the sanctuary under the arena, where the gladiators could perform their last prayers before the combat began.

Along with the text below, images of the reconstruction can be found next to photographs of the state of preservation, following the aforementioned sequence. Therefore, Figures 2, 3 and 4 explain the image and functioning of the main entrance (Porta Triumphalis): while Figures 2 and 4 show virtual restorations from the inside and the outside, Figure 3 presents the development of the corridor in section and plan. Figures 6 and 7 display how the upper sanctuary had looked like from the arena and once inside respectively. Figures 9 and 10 are a 2D restoration of the southern area, where its role as a hub can be understood. Figure 11 shows the southern sector from the outside, where the double entrance can be appreciated, as well as the outside stairs used by the authorities to climb to the first level and one of the multiple configurations that the façade could have taken. Figure 12 reproduces the authorities stand as the Roman spectators would have seen it. Finally, Figures 13 and 14 are images of the lower sacellum, as seen by the gladiators down the arena and in axonometry together with the upper sanctuary.

In summary, this work aims to improve the museography of Tarragona’s amphitheatre. An immediate application would be including the images in the signposting. Furthermore, they can be used as a basis to undertake a bigger project to adapt the whole museography to be better understood by society.


cultural heritage; virtual reconstruction; Roman archaeology; museography; amphitheatres; Roman processions

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