Entrance fees suggested for Rome's Pantheon

Italian culture minister wants to introduce tickets for Pantheon in Rome.

Visitors could soon have to pay a "moderate" charge to visit the Pantheon according to a proposal by Italy's culture minister Dario Franceschini who said his ministry would discuss the idea with the city's diocesan authorities.

Visiting the Pantheon is currently free, in line with the custom of the Rome vicariate which does not charge entry fees for churches.

However the minister says he fails to see why entrance fees are required for sites such as the Colosseum or Palatine Hill, and not the Pantheon, which attracts almost seven million vistors a year. Franceschini said his intention to introduce tickets would fund the maintenance of the ancient monument as well as oversee the "flow of tourists in these critical times."

Founded in 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa and dedicated to all the gods of ancient Rome, the Pantheon burnt down in 80 AD. It was then rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian between 120 and 124 AD. The building was converted to a Christian church by Pope Boniface IV in 609 and called the church of St Mary and Martyrs.

The Pantheon has the world's largest non-reinforced concrete dome, whose height from floor to the oculus, and diameter of the interior circle, is 43.3m. It is also the burial place of 16th-century artist Raphael and two Italian kings, Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, as well as Umberto's Queen, Margherita.

The monument is open from 09.00 to 19.30.