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Pantheon inside and out
Unlike most huge monuments, the Pantheon takes only a moment to be overwhelmed by its beauty - stop at the portico - take a few steps - look ahead - left - right - upward -- it is all right there before your eyes. The immense vault, suspended overhead seemingly without support is crowned by the open circle - rays of sunlight bath the devout as their prayers rise to the heavens.
Rome's only monument that is architecturally intact from classical times. In reality, no one knows when it was built, but supposedly by Agrippa in 27 BC (due to the inscription "M Agrippa....") - actually it was destroyed by fire in 80 AD and redesigned by Hadrian. Hadrian said, "My intentions had been that this sanctuary of All Gods should reproduce the likeness of the terrestrial globe and of the stellar sphere...The cupola...revealed the sky through a great hole at the center, showing alternately dark and blue. This temple, both open and mysteriously enclosed, was conceived as a solar quadrant. The hours would make their round on that caissoned ceiling so carefully polished by Greek artisans; the disk of daylight would rest suspended there like a shield of gold; rain would form its clear pool on the pavement below, prayers would rise like smoke toward that void where we place the gods."
With the permission of Emperor Phocas in 609 AD, Pope Boniface IV converted the pagan temple into a Christian church - in 1929 it was named Basilica Palatina. The interior measures 43.4 meters (width & height). The thickness of the cupola diminishes as it rises. Light and air enter as prayers rise through the opening at the top - almost 9 meters across. Many famous people are buried here including Raphael and the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II di Savoia.
Try to take your time here - come back when its not too crowded.
Photo and reference text by permission Robert Piperno non-commercial purpose only
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Pantheon Church of Santa Maria ad Martyres
The Pantheon is thought to have been originally been built in honor of the seven Roman gods that lent their names to the first known planets. Located in the Piazza della Rotonda, Roman legend says this is the spot where, upon his death, Rome's founder, Romulus, was taken to the Gods by eagles. The structure was built between 27 and 25 BC by Consul Agrippa, the Prefect of the Emperor Augustus. After a fire destroyed the temple, Domitian rebuilt the Pantheon in 80 AD. Pantheon, which is Greek for "everything divine" or more commonly "Temple of All Gods" was turned into a church by Pope Boniface IV in 609 AD, giving it the name "Santa Maria ad Martyres". The original monuments to the Roman gods are long gone, now replaced by the tombs of seven prominent Italian figures. Kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, his queen, Margherita, painters Raphael and Annibale, composer Archangelo Corelli and architect Baldassare Peruzzi. The Pantheon is open Monday-Saturday from 8:30-19:30, Sundays 9:00-18:00 and Holidays 9:00-13:00. Masses are held Saturdays at 17:00 and Sundays at 10:30. Admission is free. One of the most historic buildings on Earth and a must see when visiting the Eternal City.
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The Pantheon, Part II
Inside the Pantheon, you will note that sixteen monolithic granite columns support the portico. At one time, the ceiling of this portico was covered with bronze, which weighed about 450 pounds, but it was removed by order of a ruler in the middle 1600s. Then, Bernini used that brass for the high altar at St. Peter's. However, the bronze doors are original.
The interior measures the same in diameter and height. They had the oculus so that prayers could ascend to heaven. I found it so serene, and I think that is because of its simplicity. Don't get me wrong; there is a difference between simplicity and being simple. The Pantheon is anything but simple. The finest materials were used in perfect proportion, which adds up to perfection.
Before it was a church, when multiple gods were worshipped, statues of gods and heroes were in the seven niches which surround the portico. There are still antique yellow marble columns that are original, and they remind us of the original splendor.
There are many sovereigns and artists buried here. One of the most well known is Raphael, a popular artist. Another famous person is Victor Emanuel II.
Take some time to really look at everything and soak in the perfection, the beauty, the simple elegance of this masterpiece of architecture.
There are plenty of narrow streets around the Pantheon with a mixture of restaurants, cafes, and financial/political buildings, so try eating nearby. We ate outside facing the Pantheon one lovely afternoon. It's certainly a great place to people watch.
- Historical Travel
Piazza della Rotonda
Another meeting point. The first thing that strikes you: The Pantheon. This jewel of Roman architecture just dominates this charming place. Very busy, filled with terraces, restaurants and bars (and Mc Donald's handling tourists), this cool little piazzas a also a nice place to stop and relax along your journey through Rome’s streets. In the middle of the square, is another fountain, this time, by Giacomo della Porta(and another obelisk). As you may or may not know, most of Rome’s fountain water is drinkable and you’ll probably notice those little “nose”-like fountains you can find almost everywhere in Rome (and it’s most welcome with Rome’s hot summers). Put your finger in the nose and the water will spring from a little hole on top so you don’t need to use some acrobatic positions to refresh yourself. Explore the streets around, especially on the right side of the square, turning your back to the Pantheon where you will find little jewelry and vintage clothes stores. And oh, don’t forget the Pantheon!
Gift of the Gods - The Pantheon
The Pantheon, the temple to “all the gods,” was spared destruction because it was given to a religion with one god. Lucky for us.
Indeed, today, the Pantheon still functions as a Roman Catholic church, with masses celebrated on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, just like any other local parish church in Rome. It is good to remember this when planning a visit. Although the building is usually open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., when services are being held you should refrain from walking around (though you can stand near the entrance). Entry is free through the massive, bronze doors, said to be “original” but having undergone significant restorations.
So many ironies, secrets, legends, art, politics, science, skill and history in one building.
To begin in the middle, (you already knew it was built by Emperor Hadrian in 118 AD to replace an earlier temple destroyed by fire, right?) the temple was closed in the 5th century as Christianity grew in power. Sometime between 607-9, it was given to Pope Boniface IV for use as a church by Emperor Phocas (Eastern Roman Empire). It was rechristened Santa Maria ad Martyres (St. Mary of the Martyrs). Twenty-eight wagonloads of Christian martyrs bones were moved from their graves and buried under the Pantheon, and the Pope proclaimed All Saints Day, a commemoration of all the martyrs. The church calendar had been getting more and more crowded, with not enough room to celebrate a day in honor of each saint.
Two years ago, the dirty and stained coffered ceiling underwent cleaning and restoration, resulting in this beautiful, pristine image of the oculus and the dark blue of an early evening sky. I've read that it used to be possible to write for permission to climb the dome from the outside, and look down, over the lip of the 9-meter wide (30 feet) oculus. Now THAT would be something!
Don't miss this one! The Pantheon (pronounced PAN-tee-on) is one of Rome's most important treasures as it's the most well-preserved structure of its age in the city and possibly in the world. Designed by and constructed under Emperor Hadrian in the early 2nd century, it was originally a Roman temple dedicated to "pan theos"- all the gods - and until the 15th century the dome was the largest ever built. The diameter and height of this 142-foot dome are exactly the same, and a 27" oculus (round opening at the center of the dome) is the only source of interior light.
The Pantheon was spared the building-over or tearing-down of other pre-Christian temples due to its conversion to a Christian church by Pope Boniface IV in AD 609. That still didn't save it from the plundering of bronze roof tiles by Constans II (who sent them to Constantinople) and bronze portico by Pope Urban VIII of the Barberini family. Some of material from the portico is said to have been melted down to make cannon for Castel Sant'Angelo, and rest used by Bernini for his magnificant baldacchino in St. Peter's. As the famous saying goes, "What the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did!"
Still an active Catholic church dedicated to - here we go again - St. Mary, it's officially known as St. Mary and the Martyrs. It's also a tomb for Italian Kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci, composer Arcangelo Corelli, and architect Baldassare Peruzz.
Entrance is Free. As this is officially a place of worship, proper attire is highly recommended.
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The Church at the Pantheon
Originally a temple for all pagan gods, the temple was converted into a church in 609. The Pantheon contains the tombs of Raphael and of several Italian Kings. Its interior design contrast with the temple's structural design, but the marble floor still features the original Roman design.
Pantheon: Part I, The Exterior
“My intentions had been that this sanctuary of All Gods should reproduce the likeness of the terrestrial globe and of the stellar sphere.”
— Emperor Hadrian (AD 76-AD 138) his thoughts on the Pantheon
The main attraction in the Piazza della Rotonda is the Pantheon, from the Greek for ‘all the gods.’ It is our favorite building in the world.
Originally, the Pantheon was built in 25 BC by Marcus Agrippa, a Roman statesman and general. This building was destroyed by fire in AD 80. The bricks used by Emperor Hadrian to rebuild it are stamped with a date corresponding to AD 125. Hadrian paid tribute to Agrippa by having the latter’s named chiseled on the pediment of the portico (see photo #4).
The first Christian emperors closed the Pantheon, along with all other places of pagan worship, in the fourth century AD. In AD 609 the Byzantine Emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated it as the Church of Mary the Virgin and all the Martyr Saints. Because this antique pagan temple was turned into a Christian one explains why it is the most intact building to come down to us from the Ancient Romans.
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It’s one of the rare things which is free in Rome. The exterior of the Pantheon for me is not such impressive like the interior. The name Pantheon comes from the fact that it was originally a temple to all gods. On the dome there is an opening in the center through which the light comes in.
Pantheon: The crown jewel of Roman architecture
The Pantheon is without a doubt the best preserved Roman monument. It is also one of the most copied piece of architecture in the world. People who know Washington DC will see similarities with the Jefferson Memorial and if you look at the ceiling of Union Station, you’ll notice it’s the same motif used in Pantheon's dome! The original building was ordered by Agrippa, one of emperor’s August most trusted general and was build in 26 AD. In fact, it is the Emperor Hadrian himself who designed the building we see now and had it built almost a century later but he preserved the heritage of Agrippa as you can read his name on top of the building. It is a temple dedicated to all the gods (Pan-Theos, in Greek means all-the gods). It used to be covered in shimmering marble, decorated with numerous statues and it has a huge bronze door. In 605, it was converted as a Christian Church (it still today) as Santa Maria ad Martyram. The Pantheon was stripped of most of its riches partially by order of Pope Urban VII who had the door stripped and melted the metal to make the canopy for the high altar of the Basilica of Saint-Peter, partially to make cannons for the Castel Sant'Angelo. The first thing you notice are those huge pillars and when you get in, the dome with its center hole designed to let the light flood in is striking. As a whole, the Pantheon is just impressive in its simplicity and the purity of its lines. You will also find the graves of different kings (Umberto I and Vittorio-Emmanuelle II) of Italy but also the genius painter Raphael who died really young. There is also the grave of queen Margherita (after which the famous -and patriotic- pizza is named after).
Pantheon(pic 1) is one of the must-see sites in Rome so it was no surprise that we met with hordes of other tourists there. It is located at piazza della Rotonda(pic 5), a square full of tourists, locals and carriages that wait for those who want to see Rome on a romantic but expensive way.
On the square there is a marble fountain with an obelisk in the center, people using it as a meeting point. You can drink your coffee or have lunch at one of the cafes on the square (and pay the privilege for the view) but we preferred to go inside the Pantheon which an architectural masterpiece.
This amazing roman temple was built back in 126AD by Marcus Agrippa. There was another temple on the same spot that was burnt in 80AD so emperor Hadrian asked for a new one. It was dedicated to All The Gods of Ancient Rome. It’s the best preserved monument of Ancient Rome (and also the largest).
Although there’s a portico with 3 raws of Corinthian columns the main building is circular, check the back side (pic 4 taken from piazza della Minerva). Of course, you have to go inside to appreciate the beauty and scale of the temple but it was annoying with so many other people around (pic 2) but fortunately you can enjoy the “oculus”, the opening in the middle of the concrete dome(pic 3).
Since the 7th century turned into a catholic church and this is how it’s used today although you wont feel anything “religious” inside here with so many cameras clicking non stop next to you :) Photography is allowed inside.
The Pantheon has also been used as a tomb since the renaissance era. Famous people among the ones that were buried here are king Vittorio Emanuele II and the painter Raphael…
By the way there is only natural light inside (coming from the “octulus” and the door. The floor has a small angle so when it rains the water goes to the drains.
It’s open daily 8.30-19.30 and there’s no entrance fee
- Historical Travel
If you thought concrete was a relatively modern building material, think again. The Romans were using the stuff long before the architects of the 70s fell in love with it, and nowhere did they use it to better effect and in such a sophisticated way as in Rome's amazing Pantheon.
Worn and somewhat battered though it might be on the outside in its rather cramped surroundings, the Pantheon stands today as the most complete building of the Roman era, a magnificent survivor judged, rightly, one of the most revolutionary buildings in the world. You need to step inside though, through the massive pillars of the portico and into the vast space under the coffered dome , to realize the sheer genius and audacity of the structure - a perfect model of balance and harmony.
Still the largest masonry dome in the world today, nearly 2000 years after it was built, its diameter exactly that of the height from floor to the top of the dome (almost half as big again as the White House dome) makes it a perfect semisphere. Natural light floods the entire building from a single opening in the roof - the oculus. Looking up at the elegant rotunda that appears to float above you, it seems impossible that there are literally tonnes and tonnes of concrete up there, 7 metres thick in places.
Now a major, major attraction and seemingly always full of tourists, the burial place of the artist Raphael and King Vittorio Emanuale, and the Church of Our Lady and the Christian Martyrs, the Pantheon was built as a temple to all the gods of Rome. Michaelangelo said angels, not men, had designed it. Legend claims it owes its survival to divine protection. Maybe it does - its survival is little short of miraculous.
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Pantheon: Part II, The Interior
“Here lays Raphael, by whom the mother of all things (Nature) feared to be overcome whilst he was living, and whilst he was dying, herself to die.”
— Raphael’s epigraph, written by Pietro Cardinal Bembo (1470-1547)
Since the Renaissance the Pantheon has served as a national necropolis. Among those buried there are the artists Raphael and Annibale Caracci, the architect Baldassare Peruzzi and the first two kings of a united Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, as well as Umberto’s queen, Margherita.
The first to be buried there was Raphael (6.April.1483-6.April.1520), who rests in a sarcophagus (see photo #1) donated by Pope Gregory XVI. On 14.September.1833 the tomb was opened to inspect the moldering skeleton, of which drawings were made. Raphael’s tomb is the third chapel on the left.
The second chapel on the right holds the tomb of Padre della Patria (Father of the Nation), King Vittorio Emanuele II, who died in 1878 (see photo #2). The chapel was originally dedicated to the Holy Spirit.
Directly opposite his father is the tomb of King Umberto I and his wife Margherita di Savoia (see photo #3). The chapel was originally dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. The royal tombs are maintained by the National Institute of Honor Guards to the Royal Tombs, founded in 1878.
In the second century AD, during the Age of the Antonine Emperors, which included Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, colored marbles were favored over the traditional white. In the Pantheon the seven niches, where the gods were worshipped, were marked by two large columns made of Numidian yellow marble, or of pavonazzetto, a breccia coming from Phrygia in modern-day Turkey. Breccia is a rock consisting of fragments of stone, such as marble or limestones, within a natural cement of a contrasting color. The veins of pavonazzetto had so many different colors that they brought to mind peacock feathers, hence this stone’s name, pavone is Latin for peacock.
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The Pantheon is the best preserved of the ancient Roman buildings and it is amazing.
Its dome is more than 40 metres high, and it was the largest dome in the world until 1436 when the Florence Cathedral was constructed.
At the top of the dome is a large opening, the oculus, which is the only source of light.
When you enter the Pantheon (free entry) you will find yourself standing in the centre, neck craned looking up to the sky in awe.
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IS THAT A HOLE IN THE ROOF?
IT IS! The Pantheon is fantastic building (my favourite in Rome) started out life as a Temple around the year 120. It is a Great domed hall with an ‘Oculus’. Guess that’s a fancy name for a hole in the middle of the roof. Yes, it has a fantastic drain system as rain does come straight in. So does sunshine. Do not leave Rome without visiting!
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