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Temple of HerculesBy Anthony Parente
The temple was built around 120 BC and is considered a tholos, which is a circular structure with a ring of columns supporting a domed roof. The temple consists of 20 Corinthian columns (10.6 m tall) on a tuff foundation supporting a roof. The interior consists of an inner chamber or cella, which contained a bronze statue by the Greek sculptor Scopas Minor dedicated to Hercules. The statue has since been removed and placed in the Capitoline Museum.
In the 12th century Pope Innocent II had the temple converted into a church dedicated to Santo Stefano, patron of carriages. In the 17th century it was rededicated to Santa Maria del Sole (Saint Mary of the Sun) after the discovery of a patron icon of the Virgin Mary floating in the Tiber River. The icon was placed in the cella. Towards the end of the 19th century the church was deconsecrated, and the icon moved to the Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso. Fortunately, a major conservation program took place to restore the temple to its original glory.
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