The Pantheon is one of Rome’s most fascinating landmarks. The temple was built by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC, dedicated to the gods of the Ancient Romans and to remember Actium’s victory over Antony and Cleopatra. The temple was burned down in 80 AD. It was subsequently rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in 125 AD and was thereafter maintained and renovated under the rule of Emperors Septimus Severus and Caracalla. In 346 pagan worship was banned and most temples were closed by 356. A decree in 408 made the temples like the Pantheon a secular building. It remained unused until the 7th century when the Byzantine Emperor Phocas gave the temple to Pope Boniface who transformed it to a Roman Catholic Church and consecrated it to St. Mary and the Martyrs.
The Pantheon also known as Santa Maria Rotunda is one of the best conserved Roman structures. As such, one can see the mixture of ancient, medieval, renaissance and modern designs. The building is circular with a portico of granite Corinthian columns. The structure is linked and opens to the rotunda. Its concrete dome has an oculus which opens to the sky, and to date, it is still the world’s largest unsupported dome. Another interesting trivia is that the height to the dome’s oculus and the diameter of the inner circle are both 142 ft in measurement.
Aside from its architectural achievements which include its near to perfection dome and its maximum use for space, it is also the home of great works of art. The original inscription of Agrippa is still visible. The church’s main altar still holds the original 7th century icon of the Madonna and Child and apse is richly decorated with golden mosaic crosses. There are still 2nd century decors from the temple which can be seen on the right side of the apse. Meanwhile the 15th century Melozzo da Forli’s Annunciation fresco can still be seen on its entrance’s niche. Other painting includes: the 15th century paintings of St. Lawrence and St. Agnes by Clement Maioli, and Pietro Bonzi’s Incredulity of St. Thomas as well as the Tuscan school’s fresco of the Coronation of the Virgin and Umbrian school painting of the Madonna and the Railing. The church is also the home of the Dream of St. Joseph, a stucco relief made by Paolo Benaglia and the Rest during the flight from Egypt made by Carlo Monaldi. The church’s vault held 17th century canvases made by artists like Ludovico Gimgnani, Francesco Rosa, Giovanni Peruzzini, Luigi Garzi and Giovanni Carlone.
Valuable sculptures and statues can also be seen inside the church. This include: the Il Lorenzone’s St. Anne and the Blessed Virgin, Vicenzo de Rossi’s St. Joseph and the Holy Child and the Vicenco Felici’s St. Agnes. The busts of Baldassare Peruzzi and Raphael can also be seen. It is also interesting to visit the tombs of prominent people like the painters Raphael and Annibale Carraci, the composer Arcangelo Corelli, architect Baldassare Peruzzi as well as royals like Vittorio Emanuelle II and Umberto I.
The Pantheon’s magnificent architectural design inspires equally impressive structures worldwide like: Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, St. Peter’s Basilica and Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale in Rome. Ditto to St. Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin, Anatomy Theater in Paris and The Chapel of Mier y Pesado in Mexico. The United States’ famous buildings like the US Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial, Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia and the 2001 Founders Hall of the Soka University of America are also inspired by the Pantheon.
When you are in Rome, do drop by this World Heritage Site and be in awe with the history and the treasure that is the Pantheon.