Wrongly called Temple of Vesta, it was dedicated to Hercules Victor, protector of traders who carried out their activities in the nearby Foro Boario. The area, located between the Tiber, the Capitol, the Palatine and the Aventine Hill, was intended for the livestock market.
Also known as Ercole Invitto or Ercole Oleario, the temple was probably built by the architect Hermodoros of Salamis towards the end of the 2nd century BC. on behalf of Marcus Octavius Herennius, a wealthy olive oil dealer. Inside was a magnificent bronze cult statue, perhaps made by Skopas Minore, a Greek sculptor of the end of the 2nd century BC. Found under the pontificate of Sixtus IV, it is now kept in the Capitoline Museums.
The building, built in Hellenic marble, has twenty Corinthian columns, standing on a stepped base of tuff blocks. Some of the columns are in Lunense marble, attributable to the restoration carried out under Tiberius probably after the flood of 15 AD.
In the 12th century, the temple was transformed into the church of Santo Stefano delle Carrozze. From the mid-16th century, it was dedicated to Santa Maria del Sole, following the discovery in the Tiber of an image of the Virgin considered miraculous. The interior of the building still retains a valuable fresco depicting the Madonna and Child with Saints from the end of the 15th century.
In 1809, when Rome was the second city of the Napoleonic Empire, the architect Giuseppe Valadier restored the temple on commission by the French government, trying to bring the structure to its original splendour.
Entrance only with guided tour or accompanist
To find out about all accessibility services, visit the Rome accessible section.