Et tu Fluffy? Rome weighs evicting cat shelter.
Tucked into a corner of the Largo Argentina temple square in Rome, the cat sanctuary provides food and sterilization to hundreds of homeless cats. But critics say it besmirches the ruins.
It is located next to the exact spot where, according to legend, Julius Caesar uttered the immortal words "et tu, Brute?" But now, 2,000 years later, the ruined temples and fallen pillars of Rome’s Largo Argentina are caught up in a fresh, albeit rather less bloody, confrontation:Skip to next paragraph
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Should the historical site remain a shelter to hundreds of homeless cats?
Authorities in the city say that a cat refuge tucked into the corner of the architectural area should be closed because it is unhygienic and was built without any proper planning permission. The founders of the sanctuary argue they provide a vital service, taking in strays, sterilizing them, and giving them food and medicine.
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The seemingly parochial row has caused uproar in the Italian capital, where Romans have lived side by side with cats since ancient times.
The cats – there were 250 of them this week – have free run of the adjoining archaeological remains and can be seen lounging in the sun on broken bits of marble, padding along fallen pillars, and dozing on the corrugated iron roofs which protect the monuments from the rain.
But heritage experts say the sanctuary, built on top of the pedestal of an ancient Roman temple, is an affront to an archaeological zone of world significance, right in the heart of the city.
The temple – and the cat sanctuary on top of it – is a few yards from where Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 BC. It is built inside a cave-like space beneath a staircase leading into the archaeological remains, a sunken area now surrounded by shops, apartments, a theater and a tram stop.
“It is extraordinary that Rome council allowed a structure of this kind to be built in an area of such archaeological importance,” Adriano La Regina, a former head of Rome’s archaeological authority, told the Italian press this week.
“How was it possible that these cat lovers were able to construct their refuge on an ancient monument?” Andrea Carandini, former president of a national heritage council, told La Repubblica newspaper. The national cultural heritage commission said this week that the refuge should be closed down.
The issue even arose in parliament this week. A senator from the center-left Democratic Party said it was “unthinkable” that ancient Roman ruins should be treated in such a way and asked the heritage minister, Lorenzo Ornaghi, what he was going to do about it.