The 1,400-year-old ancient arch of Ctesiphon in Iraq undergoing restoration


The Taq Kasra, a landmark in architectural history being a 1,400 year old brick arch – the largest in the world – and also known as the Arc de Ctesiphon as it is the only Remaining visible structure of the ancient city of Ctesiphon, has begun to undergo restoration work to regain its former glory, authorities said on Wednesday.

The famous 6th-century monument, located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of the capital Baghdad, is the last remaining structure of the former Persian imperial capital Ctesiphon.

Restoration work on the arch, also known as Taq-i Kisra from its Persian name, was carried out in 2013 after a massive slab fell due to humidity from heavy rains.

Conservation officers stand along the scaffolding of the Arch of Ctesiphon, also known as Taq Kisra (Arch of Khosrow), at the ancient site of Ctesiphon near al-Madain in the center Iraq, November 24, 2021 (AFP Photo)

But the new bricks also started to fall after the downpours last year.

The first phase of “emergency” work that began in March is due to end next month, said David Michelmore, a conservation expert working with a team of archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania.

“What falls at the minute is not the original Sassanid construction, it is modern repairs,” he told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“There was a lot of rebuilding in 2013-2014 and probably all of this will have to be dismantled and replaced,” he said.

General view of the Arch of Ctesiphon, also known as Taq Kisra (Arch of Khosrow), in front of the curatorial scaffolding at the ancient site of Ctesiphon near al-Madain in central Iraq, November 24, 2021 (AFP Photo)

General view of the Arch of Ctesiphon, also known as Taq Kisra (Arch of Khosrow), in front of the curatorial scaffolding at the ancient site of Ctesiphon near al-Madain in central Iraq, November 24, 2021 (AFP Photo)

The construction of the arch began in 540 AD during the long wars of the Persian Sassanid dynasty with the Byzantine Empire. It was part of a palace complex that began three centuries earlier.

With its 37 meters high and 48 meters long, it is the largest brick arch in the world.

Iraqi Culture Minister Hassan Nazim said the work was aimed at “consolidating” the site, which lies near the bank of the Tigris and poses a risk of groundwater infiltration.

The current phase is funded with a budget of $ 700,000 from the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Zones (ALIPH), said Laith Majid Hussein, director of the Iraqi State Council for Antiquities and Heritage. .

Conservation officers stand along the scaffolding of the Arch of Ctesiphon, also known as Taq Kisra (Arch of Khosrow), at the ancient site of Ctesiphon near al-Madain in the center Iraq, November 24, 2021 (AFP Photo)

Conservation officers stand along the scaffolding of the Arch of Ctesiphon, also known as Taq Kisra (Arch of Khosrow), at the ancient site of Ctesiphon near al-Madain in the center Iraq, November 24, 2021 (AFP Photo)

He lamented “many errors” in the previous restoration, including the laying of a heavy “layer of cement on the arch”.

The next step would be “total restoration” which would help strengthen the structure and prevent collapse, he said.

In 2004, the World Heritage Fund declared that due to its decay the arch was “in danger of collapsing”.

These warnings turned out to be premonitory: at the end of 2012, a slab about 2 meters long fell.

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