Pantheon Rome

Rome’s Pantheon , after which the Pantheon in Paris was modeled, deserves to have a page on this site which both pays tribute as well as covers it in detail.

The Pantheon in Rome, Italy is a building which was commissioned during the reign of Augustus by Marcus Agrippaas as a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome. The Pantheon was then rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian about 126 AD. It is considered to be best preserved and most influential building of ancient Rome.

With its large marble columns and thick brick walls, the Pantheon forms an immediate impression on its visitors. But probably the most amazing part of the building is the high dome which stands 43 meters up. Until 1436 when the Florence Cathedral was constructed, the it stood as the largest dome in the world.

Pope Boniface IV converted the Pantheon into a Christian church in 609 and he consecrated it to Sancta Maria ad Martyres, who is now known as Santa Maria dei Martiri. Not everone knows for centuries, the Pantheon is actually a Christian church. (1)

Because it was turned into a church it was kept very well-preserved. As a matter of fact, you can still pretty much experience the Pantheon much the way the ancient Romans would have. There have certainly been changes made to it (there’s now a Christian altar and some frescoes of saints for example), but the dimensions and much of the decorations of the building have remained the same.

The Pantheon is still used as a church. Masses are celebrated there, in particular on the more important Catholic days of obligation and as well as for weddings.

Pantheon Rome Facts

1. This current structure isn’t the original Pantheon . It’s still ancient of course but it happens to be the third version of the building. The very first structure was built in about 27 B.C., but that one burned down; the second Pantheon , built in the 1st century A.D., also burned down. This current Pantheon has managed to survive later fires.

2. The word Pantheon itself is a Greek adjective which means “honor all Gods”. The pantheon was first built as a temple to tribute all gods.

3. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft).

4. The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky.

5. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon ‘s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. What this means is that at about 142 feet in diameter, the dome of the Pantheon is bigger even than that of of St. Peter’s Basilica. And there’s no rebar or any kind of reenforecement in there. What’s unbelievable about that is the fact that it was constructed by the Romans in 125 A.D.!

6. The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.

7. A lighting effect can be viewed every April 21st as the midday sun strikes a metal grille which stands above the doorway, saturating the outside courtyard with light.

8. Within the Pantheon tomb is a story of a doomed engagement. The famous Renaissance painter, Rafael,is buried inside the tombs and Maria Bibbiena, his fiancée, is also buried there right beside him. As sweet as that may seem, it also has a tragic side. in 1514, Raphael became engaged to Maria, who was the niece of a powerful cardinal. Rafael put off getting married to Maria for a full six years during which time, he was involved in a passionate love affair with a local baker’s daughter. Maria then died before they were married and at the young age of 37, Rafael died soon after.

9. A beautiful fountain named the “Fountain of the Pantheon ” stands in front of the Pantheon designed by the famous architec Giacomo Della Porta in 1575 and sculpted out of marble by Leonardo Sormani. Pope Clement XI later requested that the fountain be modified in 1711 at which time Filippo Barignoni designed a new layout, with a different basin, and it was at this time that the obelisk of Ramses II was set in the center on a plinth with four dolphins decorating the base.

Pantheon Rome History

Where the Pantheon now stands was not some coincidence and the location was not chosen by chance. It is in fact a legendary place in the city’s history. According to Roman legend, this location is the place where Romulus, the founder of Rome, was seized by an eagle at his death and taken off into the skies with the Gods.

The name Pantheon comes from the two Greek words pan, which means “everything” and teon meaning “divine”. The Pantheon was originally a small temple which was dedicated to all Roman gods. That temple was built the years 27 and 25 B.C. by the consul Agrippa,  who was the Prefect of the Emperor Augustus. (2)

The Pantheon combines a cylindrical structure which is clearly Roman along with the splendid outer colonnade of Greek inspiration. Even though the new structure was very different than that of the original, Hadrian wanted a Latin inscription to be placed on the façade, that when translated means “It was built by Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time”.