History and Facts about the Pantheon in Rome

Pantheon, Rome

History and Facts about the Pantheon in Rome.

The Pantheon refers to a former temple in ancient Rome which was started in 27 BC, by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (the mighty vice of Augustus).  As we speak today, the Pantheon is a church in Rome, Italy. After its fiery destruction, the Pantheon was reconstructed by Emperor Hadrian somewhere between 118-128 AD.

Brief History of the Pantheon

The Pantheon is a great symbol of ancient Roman architectural designs. The building has defied all the odds of time and still stands today as a strong and beautiful structure. It also has a rich history to match its longevity. The first structural foundation of the Pantheon was laid between 27 and 25 BC. The building was dedicated to the Roman gods. The Romans revered their gods so much; they were confident that, Romulus, the Roman founder rose up to heaven from that building.

The original rectangular-shaped temple could not stand the test of time. It allegedly got torn down by fire in 80 CE.  Emperor Hadrian was the one who reconstructed the temple and gave it the new look we see today. It was put up at the same location as its parent temple.  Hadrian was humble enough to retain the original writings on the Agrippa’s temple.  He did not inscribe his own name on it.

Architectural Marvel of the Pantheon, Rome

Bricks and concrete constitute the greatest percentage of the building blocks of the Pantheon. The building has 3 main sections:  a porch supported by granite-made columns; a giant dome on a cylindrical building; the two parts of the building are then connected by a rectangular portion. The dome has a sizable diameter of 142 ft. There is a wide hole (oculus) on the dome’s top. The whole functions to allow rain, light and all sorts of weather to penetrate into the Pantheon

The walls and floor surfaces of the rounded portion are designed with marbles and gilt. One artist by name Michelangelo, couldn’t believe the level of magnificence that was inherent in the Pantheon. He was paraphrased to have said that the building’s work was probably done by angles from above; not human beings. The architectural legacy of the Pantheon inspired a whole new generation of architects in Europe and afar. A lot of popular buildings took form after the Pantheon. Examples include ex-president Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia. There are also several universities across the world that have modeled their buildings after the Pantheon. Most notable one has got to be the University of Virginia.  The list of Pantheon replicas continues to grow to this day.

Marvelous Facts about the Pantheon

The following are some very marvelous facts about the Pantheon in Rome:

The Pantheon has an interesting meaning

When you break down the word “Pantheon”, you arrive at a beautiful meaning. Pantheon came from two Greek words “Pan” (which means “all”) and “Theos” (which translates into “gods”). When put together, Pantheon then means “all gods”. This meaning totally agrees with our earlier historical overview of Pantheon wherein we stated that the building was dedicated to Roman gods.

There is a Latin Inscription on the Pantheon

An inscription bearing a name credit to Agrippa is boldly displayed on the top view of the Pantheon. The Latin inscription reads: “M.AGRIPPA L.F.COS.TERTIVM.FECIT”. The inscription simply means that Marcus Agrippa (Lucius’son) built the structure.

Latin Inscription on the Pantheon, Rome

Latin Inscription on the Pantheon in Rome and its meaning.

It’s the most successfully preserved Ancient Roman Structure

The strength and beauty of the historic monument is one which dazzles curious minds. When you consider how the Pantheon mysteriously survived some deadly raids, it’s better to conclude that the building was just meant to exist eternally. The actual age of the Pantheon is uncertain but it’s usually estimated to be about 2000 years old. Technically, the Pantheon wasn’t supposed to still be standing – a lot of ancient Roman monuments have gone down for good, but the Pantheon keeps adding more years to its age-old life. On an honest scale, the real composition of the building blocks of the Pantheon isn’t completely understood. What is known is that it has a concrete-like composition.

The Pantheon was converted to a Christian Church

It is very ironical to learn that the Pantheon which originally served as a pagan symbol, now stands as Christian pride today. We earlier on learnt that Vipsanius Agrippa built it as a temple for the gods. But in 609 AD, it was turned into a church. Today, Pantheon is now the St. Mary of Martyrs’ church (Sancta Maria). This was a great achievement because they were able to marry paganism (the smaller gods) to the bigger God (Christianity). This also comes on the backdrop of the wishes of Emperor Hadrian. When Hadrian rebuilt the Pantheon, his intention was to make it a safe place for the worship of all types of gods, not just Roman gods.

The Pantheon and Emperor Hadrian

What Hadrian said about the Pantheon after he reconstructed it in 118 CE

Two earlier Pantheons got destroyed before the current one

A look back at the historical annals reveals that  Vipsanius Agrippa established the first Pantheon somewhere between 25 and 27 BCE. In 80 CE, a fire allegedly brought down the first Pantheon. Domitian then built the second Pantheon. But it did not stay for long; in 110 CE, a bolt of lightning struck down the second building. Emperor Hadrian then completed reconstructed the Pantheon around 118 CE. He used it as a venue for Roman senatorial meetings. After the collapse of its two ancestors, the third Pantheon that survived is what we currently see in Rome.

The Dome of the building is a wonder

Dome of the Pantheon, Rome

Dome of the Pantheon and the oculus

From top to down, the Pantheon is perfect in shape and beauty. But one part is more extraordinary about the Pantheon; it’s the dome structure. It’s simply amazing and unique among domes. The eye (oculus) of the Pantheon has a diameter of about 27 ft (7.8 m). It provides the only source of natural illumination from the skies. Rain scarcely falls through the hole, but if it does so, there is drainage to carry the water away.

The opening also links the temple to the smaller gods above. The dome has some records to its name. For over 1300 years, it was the largest dome ever built, until modern times. It has a diameter of 142 ft (43.3 m) and a base height of 71 ft (22 m). Even today, the dome hasn’t lost all its records. It’s still the largest free-standing (unsupported) dome on our planet. The ancient architects were wise enough to beat gravity by reducing the weight of the material in the uppermost parts of the dome.

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1 Response

  1. L. Berger says:

    Fascinating, thank you.

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