The heart of the California State Capitol is the Rotunda. This circular room is 53 feet in diameter and rises 128 feet from the basement of the building to the oculus at the apex of the inner dome.
On occasion, the Rotunda serves as a ceremonial space, but more frequently, the Rotunda serves as the main orientation space for the hundreds of visitors who explore the Capitol each day. Here, while visitors snap photos and sign up for tours, legislative staffers, lawmakers, reporters, and museum employees, help carry out and document the work of state government.
Visitors’ first glimpse of the Rotunda is usually from the first floor. Standing on flooring of Belgium black and Vermont white marble tiles arranged in a checkerboard pattern, visitors are surrounded by decorative murals. These murals featuring design motifs of swirling foliage, urns and stylized griffins, a mythical animal with the head of a lion and a body of an eagle, artists first painted these murals on canvas, after which, workers permanently attached them to the plaster walls. Separating these murals are four barreled niches featuring faux marbleized paint. Inside the niches are urns, which, on occasion, hold fresh-cut flower arrangements. The focus of this room, however, is a massive statue made of Carrara marble. Slightly over life size, the statue, titled Columbus' Last Appeal to Queen Isabella, has rested in the center of the Rotunda since 1883. Although visitors can see portions of the inner dome from the first floor, the best view can be seen from the second floor.