Of all ancient Rome’s great buildings, only the Pantheon (Temple to All the Gods) remains intact as the most magnificent symbol of the Roman Empire. It was originally built in wood in 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa but was entirely reconstructed by Hadrian in the early II century AD after it was destroyed in a fire.
This remarkable building once entirely covered in white marble, 43m wide and 43m high (a perfect sphere resting in a cylinder) and laced with white marble statues of Roman gods in its niches, is among the architectural wonders of the world, even today.
A pedimented pronaos precedes a gigantic domed rotunda, with a rectangular feature as wide as the pronaos and as high as the cylindrical wall inserted between the two. This combination of pronaos and rotunda gives the buiding a special place in the history of architecture. Animals were once sacrificed and burned in the center, and the smoke escaped through the only means of light, the oculus, an opening at the top 5.5m in diameter.
The interior now houses the tombs of two Italian kings (Vittorio Emanuele II and his successor, Umberto I), and the resting place of Raphael, between the second and third chapel on the left. In 609 it was converted into a church, the Santa Maria ad Martyres, informally known as “Santa Maria della Rotonda”.