Pantheon is a catholic church (former Roman Temple) in the capital city of Italy, Rome. During the reign of Augustus, from 27BC to 14AD, Marcus Agrippa initially commissioned a temple. The temple was later completed by Emperor Hadrian around 126AD. Before the completion of the temple, the building was twice commissioned and got destructed tragically by fire (the first time) and by lightening (the second time). Initially the building was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa, by after being brought down by fire, Domitian recommissioned it only to be struck by lightening and then the pantheon was recommissioned during the reign of Trajan (98-117AD) but was later completed by Hadrian.
Though the purpose of the building remains uncertain but the name, built and decorations argues it was a temple of sort. The Pantheon is being used as a church from 7th century, dedicated to St. Mary and Martyrs. It is also known as Santa Maria Rotonda. One more theory suggests, the Pantheon was built for the emperors to make public appearances and to remind people of the celestial status of the emperor.
Built & Architecture of Pantheon:
Hadrian, going with his usual practice of rebuilding the old buildings to honour the original commissioner of that building, he dedicated the Pantheon to Marcus Agrippa. One can see there is an inscription on the front facade, which reads “M. AGRIPPA L.F. COS TERTIVM FECIT”; meaning “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, three-time consul, made this”.
Also there is minuscule inscription below the main one, saying “pantheum vetustate corruptum cum omni cultu restituerunt”, meaning “with every refinement they restored the Pantheum, worn by age”. In the inscription, “they” refers to Septimius Severus and Caracalla.
The whole building is a classic fusion of Greek and Roman architecture as the colonnade is very much Greek in style, whereas the cylindrical structure of the building reflects true Roman culture.
On the front, there is a colonnade portico. There are 8 pillars on the front with 2 groups of 4 pillars behind it. The colonnade is 7 meter stretch in front of the building. The building stands on a 1.3 meter high base, which was built only after the initial idea of having a few steps was dropped and the base was built.
The pediment was initially covered with bronze, and the design is believed to be inspired by an eagle in wreath. The entrance to the naos have large bronze doors which were initially covered in gold and were installed in the 15th century, replacing the original doors.
It was originally decorated with white marble plaster to match the portico. The whole structure is made of bricks and concrete, the dome was coated with bronze initially but the bronze sheets were removed by Constans II in 663. Rotunda walls also features relieving arches built from bricks. These relieving arches are visible from outside the rotunda on the top of the walls of the structure.
The height of the dome is same as its diameter, which is 142 ft. The dome of the rotunda is a perfect hemisphere with a oculus of 30ft diameter on top of it. The oculus on top still remains uncovered. The walls are 21ft thick and reducing to 3.9ft to the oculus. One can also see the amazing work of coffers on the dome in 5 rings of 28 from the inside.
Just as the relieving arches on the outside of rotunda, pantheon has many more arches inside the structure too, but all covered with marbles or plaster to match the interiors. The whole building is summed up with porous light stones in the inside. The walls have 3 semi-circular and 4 rectangular alcoves in the alternate manner. Each alcove has 3 niches for statues.
Because of the open oculus on top of the dome, the floors were built with an inclination of about 12inches to help clear off the water to the drain in case of rains. There are also some catholic additions in the niches of pantheon, in form of paintings, frescos, tombs and statues.
Some facts of Roman Pantheon:
- The word pantheon was derived from two greek words, pan (meaning “everything”) and theon (meaning “divine”).
- Legends say the place where this temple is built is the same place where Romulus, founder of Rome, was seized by an eagle after his death.
- This monument is the monument with most number of records.
- It is considered as one of the best preserved ancient monument.
- In 1270 a bell tower was added on the porch roof, only to be removed later on.
- It homes the tombs of the monarchs of Italy from 1870 – 1946. Also, it homes the tomb of Raphael.