There is no shortage of breathtaking churches in Italy, but the Chiesa della Beata Vergine del Soccorso in the town of Rovigo has something that sets it apart from the rest: its octagonal shape.
Dubbed “La Rotonda” because of its unique architecture, it is a rare example of an eight-sided Catholic church. Construction began in 1594, and it’s believed the architect, Francesco Zamberlan, chose the octagonal shape for the symbolism of the number eight in the Christian religion.
The structure is actually composed of two polyhedrons: the church itself, and an eight-sided porch that wraps around the exterior. Yet for all its geometric intrigue, the real highlight of this Rovigo gem isn’t revealed until you step inside.
The interior walls—all eight of them—and the ceiling are entirely covered with baroque paintings, frescoes, carvings, and statues. The lavish decorations depict the life of Mary, miracles, and portraits of notable figures from the era of Venetian control inserted into allegorical scenes.
Opposite the main entrance is the golden altar, beautifully adorned with carvings and statues. In the center, surrounded by angels, is the miraculous image of Mary, with the infant Jesus resting on her knees holding a rose. It is believed that in 1797, Napoleon forcibly entered the church on horseback, leaving an imprint of a hoof on the floor. Behind the church, isolated, stands the bell tower. And under the exterior porch there are numerous gravestones memorializing notable people and events in Rovigo’s history.