A Velarium (plural: Velaria ) was a large canvas tarpaulin. On the upper floor of the Colosseum in Rome, the construction of which Vespasian had arranged masts were attached, where a huge shade -giving solar sail could be raised. In case of bad weather and at high heat, the audience were so protected by a tent roof.


The Velarium was a terrific technical feat at that time, it was knitted together from many equal-sized sheets. The extremely complicated design could only be done by very experienced sailors of the Imperial Fleet. This fleet unit was stationed at Misenum on the Gulf of Naples and was appointed specifically for this mission to Rome.

The Coliseum originally had a total of 240 mast mounts that were located at the upper edge of the building. The construction of the mast holders was such that some of the pylons, once inserted, could not move in their sockets. This should ensure additional stability of the spanned solar sail. The distance between the brackets is exceptionally small in comparison with other amphitheaters of antiquity. This allows to draw conclusions on the attempt by the designers to supply the interior of the gigantic structure as possible with as much shade.

For the actual awning many large fabric tarpaulins were tied together. The center of the structure was a ring which was placed on the bottom of the amphitheater. This ring ropes ran over the 240 Awning poles to the outside of the arena. There winches were used to clamp the velarium. The complete process tentering was very weary and went on for several days. Up to 1,000 men were needed to mount the Velarium.


Except in the Roman Colosseum there were such Vela or Velaria in many theaters and amphitheatres of the Roman Empire. For announcements of games was sometimes explicitly mentioned that the solar panels would reared.

In the arts

In art Velarium designated until the beginning of the 20th century a horizontal taut screen either in a room with a skylight, as an exhibition hall, or painting, or a street or a place. Was his production of a festive occasion, the Velarium was often provided with ornaments or figurative paintings from the hands of famous artists. It was not customary to issue the Velarium on the current day's event also publicly.