The ancient columns of Assisi’s Temple of Minerva dominate the town’s elongated medieval Piazza del Comune; the temple was built by private donation from two wealthy local residents during the reign of Augustus in the first century BC. When Rome converted to Christianity in the fourth century AD, the pagan temple – along with many others throughout the empire – fell out of use and was abandoned. By the sixth century a community of Benedictine monks had requisitioned it, and between 1215 and 1270 the building was HQ to the Comune of Assisi; still later it became a jail. Back in use as a Christian place of worship by the mid 16th century, the temple was rededicated to the Virgin Mary by Pope Paolo III and subsequently restored before being given over to a community of Franciscan friars.
Today the temple’s original Corinthian columns and pediment form the façade of the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (literally St Mary ‘above’ Minerva), built in 1539 but with its glitzy interior given a thorough Baroque facelift a century later by local architect Giacomo Giorgetti.
Piazza del Comune, Assisi. Open Mon, Wed & Sat 7.15am–7pm; Tue & Fri 2pm–5.15pm; Sun 8.15am–7pm. Admission free. Best reached on foot in Assisi’s pedestrianized centro storico.