Ruggero Vanni/Corbis

Built to withstand eternity, the mausoleum of Italy’s Gothic king Theoderic (454–526 C.E.) in Ravenna, Italy, resembles no other building in the Roman-Byzantine world. Its 300-ton roof—carved from a single slab of marble quarried in modern Croatia—“locks” the entire structure in place, making it difficult to remove even a single stone. Why did Theoderic go to such lengths in constructing his final resting place? Because, argues author Harry Rand, this Germanic king who professed a deviant form of Christianity feared that, upon his death, his orthodox Italian subjects would try to erase his memory by destroying his works. In fact, that’s just what they did, stripping Ravenna of almost all traces of Theoderic’s reign—but they could not dismantle his tomb.