The Pantheon at Rome is the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome.
It is a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome.
The original Pantheon was built in 27-25 BC under the Roman Empire, during the third consulship of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, and his name is inscribed on the portico of the building.
In fact, Agrippa’s Pantheon was destroyed by fire in 80 AD, and the Pantheon was completely rebuilt in about 125 AD, during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, as date-stamps on the bricks reveal.
In 609 it was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the martyrs.
Probably one of the most fascinating features of the Pantheon is the Architecture.
When approaching the front of the Pantheon one can see the inscription above still reads in Latin the original dedication by Marcus Agrippa. The inscription reads: The inscription reads “M. AGRIPPA.L.F.COSTERTIUM.FECIT” which means “Marcus Agrippa son of Lucius, having been consul three times made it”.
The portico (porch) is made of 16 monolithic Corinthian columns topped by a pediment.
The 16 monolithic columns of the portico were conducted with Egyptian granite, porphyry and white marble bases. They are 39 feet (11.8 meters) tall, 5 feet (1.5 meters) in diameter and weigh 55 metric tons (60 short tons) each.
Beneath the porch are huge bronze double doors, which were returned and restored in 1563, are 6.4 meters (21 feet) high.
The most fascinating part of the Pantheon is its giant dome. The dome was the largest in the world for 1300 years and until today it remains the largest unsupported dome in the world! The diameter of the dome is 43.30 meters (142 feet) and is in perfect proportion with the Pantheon by the fact that the distance from the floor to the top of the dome is exactly equal to its diameter.
The dome weight 4,535 metric tons (4,999 short tons).The thickness of the dome varies from 6.4 meters (21 feet) at the base of the dome to 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) around the oculus.
The oculus which is the opening of the dome and the source of light for the Pantheon is 8.2 meters (27 feet) in diameter.
In contrast to the plain appearance of the outside, the interior of the building is lined with colored marble, and the walls are marked by seven deep recesses, screened by pairs of columns whose modest size gives scale to the immensity of the rotunda (building with a circular ground plan) .
Rectangular coffers, or indentations, were cut in the ceiling, probably under Severus, and decorated with bronze rosettes and molding.
The dome features five rings of 28 rectangular coffers. This evenly spaced layout was difficult to achieve and, it is presumed, had symbolic meaning, either numerical, geometric, or lunar.
The bronze rosettes and moldings of the ceiling and other bronze embellishments have disappeared over time, and a frieze of stucco decoration was applied to the interior directly beneath the dome in the late Renaissance.
The main altar of the church is opposite the entrance, and the original 7th-century icon of the Madonna and Child can be seen above it. This was previously dated to the 13th century, but the 7th-century original was recently recovered under layers of overpainting. It is a rare survival of an icon from a period when they were a common feature in Roman churches. The apse is decorated with a golden mosaic featuring crosses.
Monumental tombs are set into the walls of Pantheon, including that of the painter Raphael [pic. below]. Vittorio Emanuele II, first king of a unified Italy, and his successor, Umberto I, are interred here as well.
In the 16th century, Michelangelo came to the Pantheon to study its dome before he began work on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica (whose dome is 2 feet smaller), and the Pantheon’s roof was stripped of bronze for use in Bernini’s baldacchino in St. Peter’s Basilica. In 1563, the bronze doors were restored.
In the plaza outside the Pantheon is a lovely fountain topped by an ancient Egyptian obelisk.
The design of the Pantheon is so that a perfect sphere could sit inside symbolising the vault of heaven.
Michelangelo once described the design of the Pantheon as an “Angelic and not human design.”
One of the Pantheon’s great unsolved mysteries is its true purpose, and whether it was used for religious or a ceremonial functions.
The Pantheon is located at Piazza della Rotonda and although the square is rectangular it is names so after the unofficial medieval name of the Pantheon which was Santa Maria Rotonda.
The Pantheon has not only inspired the Renaissance masters like Michelangelo and Brunelleschi but it has inspired contemporary architects who paid homage to the ancient monument. 5 famous buildings that were inspired by the Pantheon: Jefferson Memorial, Low Memorial Library (Columbia University), National Gallery of Art (Washington DC), US Capitol and Panthéon in Paris.