The Pantheon from Pantheion meaning "[temple] of every god") is a former Roman temple, now a church, in Rome, on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. The present building was completed by the emperor Hadrian. He retained Agrippa's original inscription, which has confused its date of construction as the original Pantheon burnt down so it is not certain when the present one was built.
The building is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to "St. Mary and the Martyrs.” The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda. Today, the Pantheon is a state property, under Italy's Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism.
Today, almost 2000 years after its construction, the breathtaking pantheon is a remarkable building to see. The spectacular design, proportions, elegance and harmony are a striking reminder of the architecture of the great Roman Empire. When Michelangelo saw this wonder for the first time he said that it looks more like the work of angels, not humans.
The Pantheon's large circular dome with a conventional temple portico front, is "unique" in Roman architecture. Nevertheless, it became a standard exemplar when classical styles were revived, and has been copied many times by modern architects.
The great architectural achievement was due to the massive weight of the large dome. Roman engineers lightened the dome as much as possible; not only its thickness progressively decreases, but the materials used in the upper part of the dome were lighter with internal spaces within the dome walls. The decrease in thickness has the effect that while the interior of the ceiling is spherical, its exterior is slightly “flattened”. It is larger than the dome of St. Peter’s basilica but since it seems flattened from the outside it is hard to get a full sense of its dimension. The hole (oculus), 7.8 meters in diameter, is the only source of light and is the connection between the temple and the gods above. Rain occasionally fall through it, but the floor is slanted and drains the water if it manages to hit the floor. In practice, rain seldom falls inside the dome.
A lighting effect can be viewed on April 21 when the midday sun strikes a metal grille above the doorway, saturating the courtyard outside with light. The Romans celebrated April 21 as the founding date of the city, and the impressive sight of their Emperor standing at the entrance of the Pantheon surrounded by light coming from inside the pantheon might have been seen as something that, in effect, raised their emperor to the level of the gods and invited him in to join them.
Rome Private Tours
There are plenty to do in Rome, Italy. Here is our recommended points of interest for Groups of friends and family to get together and enjoy.