7 things you need to know about the Pantheon
What is the Pantheon meaning?
Pantheon is a Greek word that translates to “all of the Gods” (Pan = all and Theon = gods so Pantheon meaning all of the gods). For this reason people suspect that this building could infact have been the most important temple in Rome since it wasn’t dedicated to one God, but all of them. If so then the alcoves inside are believed to be lined with statues of the most loved of the Roman gods. Today it serves as a church because it was gifted In the year 609 by the Emperor to Pope Boniface IV who consecrated it as St Mary and the Martyrs.
The Pantheon burnt down TWICE
Marcus Vispanius Agrippa, a Roman statesman and architect, constructed the first Pantheon between 25-27 BCE on his property in the Campus Martius. The original Pantheon was constructed with wood and burned down twice before Emperor Hadrian came along and constructed the marvel that we see today using mainly stone, brick and Roman cement! Hadrian is thought to have constructed the third and final Pantheon between the years of 125AD and 127AD although we can’t be sure of the year exactly because he chose not to write the date on it.
It houses the tombs of Rome’s elite
Inside you will find the tombs of some important figures in Roman and Italian history. The first King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele, his son King Umberto, Umberto’s wife Princess Margherita, and the famous Renaissance painter Raphael are all buried inside the Pantheon. This year, 2020, there is a rose laying upon the tomb of Raphael to celebrate the anniversary of 500 years since his death. His marble sarcophagus carries the inscription “Here lies Raphael, by whom nature herself feared to be outdone while he lived, and when he dies, feared that she herself would die.”
There is a big hole in the roof
Yes, incredibly the Pantheon is open to the skies and the technical term for the perfect circle, 8 metres in diameter in the roof is the Oculus. Although nearly 2000 years old the Pantheon still holds the record for the largest unreinforced dome in the world in 2020! When it rains the water passes through the Oculus to the floor of the Pantheon where an intricate ancient design channels the water into small holes.
You can fit a perfect sphere inside
The Pantheon takes the shape of a Sphere within a Cylinder. The dimensions of the interior space allow for a sphere with a diameter of 43.3 metres (142ft) to fit perfectly inside. The design is on of Archimedes’ great mathematical discovers and it demonstrates the 2:3 correlation between the volume of a sphere and a cylinder.
The most preserved building from antiquity in Rome
The Pantheon was converted into a church in its early life and for that reason it has managed to escape most of the pillaging and spoiler that took place throughout the ages. Astonishingly, the only things that have really changed over nearly 2000 years is the removal of some pagan statues, as well as the installation of the altar and catholic frescoes. The marble flooring is all completely original and even features some of the world’s most valuable stone Red Egyptian Porphyry.
The dome was completely covered in Bronze
When you visit Rome make sure you visit some of the spectacular viewpoints around the city and locate the easily identifiable humongous dome of the Pantheon. Imagine the dome completely covered in bronze gleaming in all its glory under the hot Roman sun. We know the entire dome was once covered in bronze and it was stripped during the middle ages. Also, the Portico on the front was also covered with Bronze which was famously taken by the Barberini Pope Urban the 8th to make the Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica. This led to the famous saying ‘quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini’ (what the barbarians didn’t do was done by the Barberini).