The Pantheon in Rome is as wide as it is tall (142 x 142 feet). The 27 foot wide oculus in the roof is the only source of light and was designed to allow the smoke from the burning of sacrificed animals to escape. The hemispherical dome was made from concrete and is still the largest dome in the world of its type.
Agrippa’s name is still inscribed in the trabeation above the portico in Latin and bears the inscription “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, Consul for the third time built this.”
Trebeated construction consists of a vertical beam, known as a post or a column, and a horizontal beam, known as a lintel, positioned atop one another to form the walls and facade of a structure.
In 330, the capital of the Roman Empire was transferred from Rome to Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey) by Emperor Constantine. We know very little about what happened to the Pantheon between the time of Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century and the early seventh century because during this period, the city of Rome’s importance faded and the Roman Empire disintegrated. The Pantheon fell into a long period of disrepair. In 476, the German warrior Odoacer conquered the western half of the Roman Empire, where Rome was situated.
The Pantheon’s long decline continued until around 609. In 609, Pope Boniface IV got permission from Byzantine emperor Phocas to convert the Pantheon into a Christian church, known as in Latin as Sancta Maria ad Martyres (St. Mary and the Martyrs). Pope Boniface had 28 carloads of martyrs’ bones brought here from various cemeteries in Rome. It became the first pagan temple to be consecrated as a church.The Pantheon became a station church, where the pope would hold special masses during Lent, the period leading up to Easter. It was the first Roman pagan temple to be consecrated as a Christian church. The conversion played a key role in the Pantheon’s survival, as the papacy had the resources to repair and maintain it.
When the artist Michelangelo saw the Pantheon, centuries after its construction, he reportedly said it was the design of angels, not of man. The Pantheon proved an important influence for the great Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, as well as countless architects who followed, in Europe and beyond.
BUILDINGS MODELED AFTER THE PANTHEON
The U.S. Capitol rotunda (below) was inspired by the Pantheon.
Many state capitol buildings were modeled after the Pantheon. The Oklahoma State Capitol (below) was built in 1917. The Greco-Roman structure was topped with a dome in 2002 and houses murals and paintings of Oklahoma’s history. The Capitol Art Collection has more than 100 permanent sculptures, murals and paintings located throughout the Capitol’s hallways and rotunda. The Oklahoma Veterans Memorial is located outside on the north side of the capitol complex. Four walls depict scenes of World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam wars.
The state of Illlinois Memorial of the Vicksburg campaign at Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi (below) is also modeled after the Roman Pantheon. It was designed was by W. L. B. Jenney and the sculptor was Charles J. Mulligan. Vicksburg National Military Park preserves the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from May 18 to July 4, 1863.
The U.S. Supreme Court building (below) was designed by Cass Gilbert and was built between 1932 and 1935.
The need for a separate headquarters was argued for, successfully, by Chief Just William Howard Tuff in 1929. Cass Gilbert designed the building in the Neoclassical style with public facades made from Vermont marble.
The Pantheon in Paris is in the Latin Quarter of Paris also resembles the Pantheon. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve but now it functions as a secular mausoleum. It is often cited as a fantastic example of neoclassical architecture. Construction began in 1758 and was completed in 1790. It was designed by architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot and famously contains the Foucault Pendulum.
THE PANTHEON TODAY
Following the Pantheon’s conversion into a Christian church, it eventually became the burial place for Renaissance figures including painter Raphael, composer Arcangelo Corelli and architect Baldassare Peruzzi.
Saint Mary and the Martyrs houses the mortal remains of Raphael in an ancient marble sarcophagus. Raphael died in 1520. The bust of Raphael (below) is located in the niche left of the aedicule and was completed in 1833 by Giueseppe Fabris.
The tomb of the fist king of Italy is pictured below. Several monarchs are buried there too, including Vittorio Emanuele II, who died in 1878 and was the first king of Italy since the 6th century. His son, Umberto I, who was assassinated in 1900, and Umberto’s wife, Queen Margherita, who passed away in 1926 are also buried here. King Vittorio Emanuele II (1820-1878), has a statue of St. Ann and the Virgin in the aedicule to the left of the tomb by Lorenzo Ottoni. The tomb of Victor Emanuele II was created from bronze that was recast from the Castel Sant’Angelo’s cannons at the turn of the 20th century.
Today, the Pantheon is a major tourist destination for visitors from around the world, while continuing to function as a church. Catholic mass is regularly held there.
The massive original doors are still used for entry into the Basilica.
Most of the original marble was recycled for St. Peter’s Basilica. In 1625, Pope Urban VIII (Barberini) removed the bronze from the beams of the portico to make 80 cannons for Castel Sant’Angelo and the four spiral columns of Bernini’s Baldachinno in St. Peter’s Basilica. The colossal bronze doors are original. Today we might consider the recycling of materials a “green” ecologically friendly move but the Roman’s say, “Whatever the barbarians didn’t do, the Barberini did.”
The general area around the Pantheon is the financial and political hub of the city and includes the stock exchange and Parliament. I think the Cafe Agrippa is a great place for a “Vino con Vista”!
The Piazza della Rotunda is the name of the square in front of the Pantheon. One of Rome’s prized Egyptian obelisks occupies the center of the square. Did you know that you will never get lost in Rome if you follow the obelisks? They are like a Roman GPS system that mark important landmarks in Rome.
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides to Italy and Vino Con Vista Travel Guides can be purchased at these sites.
To learn more about Rome visit www.vino-con-vista.com
- Silent Night Holy Night: A Vatican Christmas (vinoconvistablog.me)
- From Rome, With Love – A City Holidays Were Made For (vino-con-vista.blogspot.com)
- Francesco Borromini’s Church of Sant Ivo alla Sapienza in Rome (vinoconvistablog.me)
- Spend a Glorious Vino Con Vista Weekend in Rome: Non Basta una Vita (vinoconvistablog.me)
- Travel to Italy – Rome and Venice (vino-con-vista.info)