The city of Rome itself is truly one of the wonders of the world. In it stand buildings and monuments which stretch through well over 2,000 years of Western history.

Many of the city’s landmarks, like the famous Colosseum, were built way back during Rome’s pre-Christian, pagan past. Others, like the beautiful Sistine Chapel, built during the Renaissance as a symbol of Rome’s and the papacy’s grandeur.

And still, other buildings in Rome were built during pagan times but were repurposed for Christian uses when the city became the center of Christendom. One of these was the fascinating, domed engineering marvel known as the Pantheon — a political meeting place and pagan temple which was turned into a magnificent Christian church.

Here are nine really cool facts about the Pantheon.

The Pantheon: Cool Facts

  1. No one knows exactly when it was built. Scholars can say that it was dedicated sometime circa 126 CE, but when it was worked on and who the brilliant architect was who originally worked on it remain a baffling mystery to scholars. There is an inscription on the building which reads, “Marcus Agrippa, the son of Lucius, three times consul, made this,” but it’s not clear if this is accurate or a later addition.

  2. It just barely survived the Dark Ages. When the Roman Empire collapsed in 476, the building was plundered but remained standing. Even though it was formally consecrated as a Christian church in 609, it still continued to be plundered during the Dark Ages, including once when Emperor Constans II melted down all of its bronze for imperial use.

  1. The pope even used the building’s bronze decorations to build cannons once. The pope in question was Urban VIII. He removed the bronze decorations from the portico and made 80 cannons with them in 1626.

  2. In 1270, a central bell tower was added to the building, but centuries later, Pope Urban VIII removed that bell tower and replaced it with two bell towers. Accounts say that the public mocked this addition, so Pope Pius IX finally removed them in the 19th century.

  3. The Pantheon was an absolutely unique architectural marvel. Its combination of a domed roof, inner room, portico, and a triangular pediment was extremely rare in the Roman world and was considered very difficult to build. But this design set the template for many architectural wonders to come.

  1. The great Renaissance painter Raphael is buried in the Pantheon. He lays there with his fiancé Maria Bibbiena.

  2. The Pantheon sits in an area known as the Piazza della Rotunda. And to add even more to the wonder of that magnificent place, it also contains a massive Egyptian obelisk, placed there in the 18th century.

  3. Those who watched the movie The Da Vinci Code, based on Dan Brown’s famous novel of the same name, know that the Pantheon is one of the central settings of the action in both the film and the book.

  4. For all of its extraordinary and long-ranging history, the Pantheon remains, to this very day, an active Catholic church. Mass is regularly held there on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.