Rome's Pantheon to charge entry from 2018

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From May next year, tourists in Rome will have to pay to enter the Pantheon, one of the Italian capital's most relevant historical sites, the Ministry of Culture said on Monday.

All those visiting the complex will be charged 2 euros (2.36 U.S. dollars), but those going there to pray, the ministry said in a statement.

The announcement came after a deal was signed between the ministry, the directorate general of museums, and the local diocese of the Catholic church in the morning.

The entry fees would allow "a better enhancement and protection of the monument", and help incur maintenance costs and boost security for visitors, Italian cultural authorities said.

The Pantheon -- a 43.3 meter-high, ancient Roman, circular temple -- drew 7.4 million people last year, with an increase of about 0.5 million visitors over 2015, statistics released by the ministry in July showed.

Built by consul Agrippa (emperor Caesar Augustus's son-in-law) between 25 and 27 BC, the Pantheon was originally a temple devoted to "all gods."

Among the many historical sites of the Italian capital, the Pantheon is believed to be the only intact complex remained from ancient Rome. Much of its undamaged status today would be due to its being officially converted into a temple of the Christian church in 609.

The complex underwent major consolidation and restoration works between 1929 and 1934, and today hosts the tombs of Renaissance painter and architect Raphael, among that of several other artists, and of two Italian kings and a queen.

The Pantheon still works as a church, and, under the new agreement, touristic visits would be suspended during religious ceremonies, said the culture ministry. 

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