In 609 the ancient Roman temple known as the Pantheon (c. 118-125) was converted into a church, Sancta Maria ad Martyres (also known as Santa Maria Rotonda).
A church needs a bell-tower and so three small bell towers were added to the portico. By the seventeenth century the bell towers had become unsafe and Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) was commissioned to replace them. His two bell towers, which came to be known as the orecchie d'asino (the ears of an ass), were demolished in 1882.
The Pantheon was first built by Marcus Agrippa (Augustus’ friend, general, colleague and son-in) and completed or dedicated in 27BCE. When the temple was rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian he had the original inscription bearing the names of Agrippa and his father copied on the new building:
M (ARCUS) . AGRIPPA . L (VCIVS) . F (ILIVS) . COS . TERTIUM . FECIT
(Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, built this in his third consulship).
In time the bronze letters disappeared, but the empty matrices of the inscription made it easy to work out what had once been there. And in 1894 the hollows were filled with new letters.
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian, writer and guide