Completed in AD 128 , the reasons for its longevity is it almost continuous use. It was consecrated as a church in the 7th century and Mass is still held there today.
The marble work inside the building is astounding, especially when you consider most buildings at the time were built this way. It was a demonstration of Rome’s power – a political statement as much as an architectural one – as much of the marble came from countries they had conquered.
The walls are also made of coloured marble with columns in each alcove. I should probably remind you that these were all made by hand, or with quite simple tools, but the lines are all straight and true.
The dome of the building is a perfect half-sphere, and the hole in the top is open to the sky. The walls are 6 metres thick at the base, reducing to 2 meters at the top, and it is made of an early form of concrete.
While we were there the sun broke through the clouds, casting a large pool of light onto one section of the church.
It was spectacular, and to think it has been this way for 2,000 years.
Tomorrow we travel to Siena, although we hope to catch an exhibition of Leonardo’s machine before we go.