Art: Old Man in Need

"When the Colosseum falls, Rome will fall; when Rome falls, so will the world." So said the Venerable Bede in awe 1,200 years ago, at the 1st century's most famed amphitheater. The Colosseum, though battered by earthquakes and ruthlessly despoiled by late Renaissance builders who stole its facing stones for the Farnese, Barberini and Venezia palaces, has long been an image of megalithic permanence. Not any more. Last week Roman authorities took the extraordinary step of closing the Colosseum to visitors indefinitely.

The danger is falling masonry. Since March, more than 30 pieces of...

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