Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, known for its history and glorious architecture. The Colosseum alone is not the only iconic remnant of the ancient Roman Empire. The Roman Pantheon is also one of its finest architectural marvels. This structure features an impressive design, harmonious proportions, as well as striking elegance, and as a connoisseur of art and history, you will surely enjoy visiting the Pantheon.
What’s so special about the Pantheon?
The Pantheon has existed for over 2000 years, but much of this Roman temple remains unknown. It is a majestic but mysterious monument and tourists are free to visit it. For the inhabitants, it is an important place. Here is everything you need to know about the Pantheon, its history and some amazing facts.
What is the Pantheon?
The Pantheon was originally built as a temple dedicated to the pagan gods of Rome. Since its construction, it has been a place of worship among the people. The Greek word, Pantheon, refers to “to honor all the gods”. Thus, the building had importance during the Roman reign.
The structure was declared sacred in the 7th century CE. Today it is also the oldest church in the capital known as Santa Maria Rotunda or Sancta Maria Rotunda. It remains a working church where you are free to attend mass. Many weddings also take place in this church.
The building has a beautiful and striking design. It has been copied many times over the centuries. The main cylindrical building of this structural wonder features a large dome. The structure was studied by Michelangelo when he also designed the famous dome of St. Peter. You will not help admiring the entrance to this portico supported by sixteen Corinthian columns.
What’s inside the building?
Inside the Pantheon is an elegant round room dominated mainly by the dome. According to legends, it represents the heavens up there. Interestingly, the Pantheons have no windows. Light enters here through the oculus open to the elements.
Who built the Pantheon?
Many stories and myths surround the construction of this building. In general, inscriptions on monuments help archaeologists learn all about their patronage. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the Pantheon.
The inscriptions on this monument are very misleading. For many decades, the raised bronze letters engraved on the building have emphasized that Marcus Agrippa initiated the construction of the Pantheon. But in 1982, another discovery revealed that Emperor Hadrian had called for its construction. The emperor reigned from 117 to 138 CE, and Marcus Agrippa is believed to have lived in the first century BCE. This means that there is a difference of 100 years between the two events.
Marcus Agrippa could not have been the patron of the current Pantheon, as he lived 100 years before Emperor Hadrian. Further archaeological studies reveal that the current Pantheon was built and designed around 114 CE, and construction was completed during the reign of the emperor.
The survival of the building
The Pantheon embraces elegant Roman building techniques. But besides them, many social factors have also led to the preservation of this structure over the centuries.
According to history, in 609 CE, Emperor Flavius Phocas Augustus donated the building to the Holy Roman Church. Pope Boniface IV declared it a place of worship. Due to its use as a Catholic church, the Pantheon remains in good condition. Even today, the cultural importance of this building among Catholics remains the same. Unfortunately, some parts of metal elements, bronze and pagan statues have been removed from the building.
The Pantheon has undergone essential repairs over the centuries. These repairs also altered its original structure. Despite this, it remains a living artifact signifying the majesty of ancient Rome.
Know these interesting facts
After almost 2000 years of construction, the Pantheon remains a highlight of the Italian capital. Here are some interesting facts about the building.
- When Michelangelo first saw the Pantheon, he said that this marvel was more like the work of angels and not of humans.
- You may not know it, but many kings are buried inside the Pantheon. It happens to be the final resting place of Italian kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I and Raphael, the Renaissance master. The tomb of Emanuele II reads Padre Della Patria, which means Father of the Fatherland.
- The dome incorporates a circular hole in its center, known as the oculus. It also suggests that it is raining inside. This is not a problem due to a systematic arrangement of well-hidden drainage holes in the floor. However, what is fascinating about this open ceiling is that on April 21, during the celebration of Rome’s birthday, the midday sun begins to shine through the oculus of the doorway of the Pantheon.
- The walls of the Pantheon are very thick. When you build a dome, the pressure is outward, not just downward. Thus, they had to build walls 6 meters thick. The severity of the thickness of these walls can be seen when comparing the original brick to the restoration.
- People often forget this fact, but do you know that the doors of the Pantheon are not original? It is because of the restoration works of the building that the original doors have been replaced by the most recent ones. Nevertheless, some speculate that the original doors of this building could be at the Church of Saint John Lateran.
- Today, when you visit the Pantheon, you will see many open spaces with stunning views. However, when it was originally built, the space was not so open. The ground was much lower and you would have had to climb a long set of stairs to enter. It also had a converted portico spanning the entire area on all three sides.
- There was a temple dedicated to Neptune connected to the back of the Pantheon.
- The monument holds the record for being the largest concrete span ever built. The Pantheon also happens to be the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built.
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