History and Nature’s Meeting Point: The ‘Rome Rose Garden’

Tags: Currents Faith, Inspiration, Jewish, Rome

Currents News Staff

In the heart of Rome, a colorful botanical jewel can be found. The ‘Rome Rose Garden’ is not only a tourist attraction, but also has significant importance for the city’s Jewish community.

From 1645 to 1934, it was once their cemetery.

“The ‘Rome Rose Garden’ is a meeting point between history and botany,” said garden historian Salvatore Ianni.

“It contains a collection of 1,100 specimens of roses. However, it also contains a lot of history, as does almost every other place in Rome,” he added.

“For 300 years it was the cemetery of the Roman Jewish community, the oldest such community in the whole West.”

In 1934, the mayor of Rome, Francesco Boncompagni, asked the Jewish community to relocate the cemetery to another location. Additionally, during the Second World War, the rose garden near the Vatican had been destroyed.

In 1950, the Jewish community agreed to move, but only on one condition.

“The Jewish people consented,” said Ianni.

“They wanted to give a noble send off to an area that was so sacred to them. They asked for Moses’ tablets to be displayed there to mark this ancient sacred place for them. In order not to forget the strong connection between Rome and the Jewish community, small paths were made in the garden in the shape of the Menorah, the seven-armed Hebrew candelabra.”

Each year, the Garden holds a contest to reward the most beautiful and original rose.

Although it may seem simple, it really isn’t. Growing a new type of rose is a process that can last more than 15 years.

In this immense garden visitors can find peculiar roses with the smell of incense, green apple and even “damask rose,” used to make the world’s most expensive perfumes.

“Roses produce some of the best perfume,” said Antonello Santelli, a botanist at the garden.

“The ‘Rome Rose Garden’ is like a precious gem, as so many expensive perfumes are made with roses. The essence of the rose has a very high market value. To make just one gram, you need more than a more than two pounds of petals,” he explained.

It is a dream place which unites history and botany, in addition to a high dose of romanticism.