Venturing southwest of the Trevi Fountain, travelers will find themselves in the Piazza della Rotonda looking up at the monolithic Pantheon. Still an architectural touchstone nearly 2000 years after its dedication, the Pantheon is the largest freestanding concrete dome in the world. It was originally completed by Emperor Hadrian to be used as a pagan temple, but has since been converted to a Catholic religious space: the Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs.
The Pantheon’s interior, despite being adorned with beautiful statues and images in the Christian tradition, feels more like a temple than the typical Baroque and Renaissance cathedrals found throughout Italy. It has an empty floor with no built-in pews, so one feels the true enormity of the space immediately upon entering. The Pantheon’s oculus opens at the dome’s center, allowing a halo of natural light to enter the space. On rainy days, the oculus adds to the Pantheon’s mystique as the rain falls in a column through the center of the church.