Lonely Planet review
Many Romans detest Richard Meier's minimalist glass-and-marble pavilion (the first modern construction in Rome's historical centre since WWII). Inside is the less-controversial Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Peace), Augustus' great monument to peace. One of the most important works of ancient Roman sculpture, the vast marble altar (it measures 11.6m by 10.6m by 3.6m) was completed in 13 BC.
It was originally positioned near Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, slightly to the southeast of its current site. The location was calculated so that on Augustus' birthday the shadow of a huge sundial on Campus Martius would fall directly on it. Over the centuries the altar fell victim to Rome's avid art collectors, and panels ended up in the Medici collection, the Vatican and the Louvre. However, in 1936 Mussolini unearthed the remaining parts and decided to reassemble them in the present location.
Of the reliefs, the most important depicts Augustus at the head of a procession, followed by priests, the general Marcus Agrippa and the entire imperial family.
Mayor Gianni Alemanno promised on his election in 2008 to have the unpopular monument pulled down. However, such plans have been modified, and instead the wall dividing the busy Lungotevere Augusta from Piazza Augusto Imperatore – which has been criticised for obscuring the baroque facade of the church of San Rocco all'Augusteo – is to be dismantled. The vast sum of €1.4 million was set aside for this, but the work shows no sign of being taken to fruition.