‘Round Rome: The Pantheon

Rome, Italy

The Pantheon is one of the most famous buildings in Italy’s capital city and a must-see site on any visit to Rome.

It is also is the oldest domed building. The dome itself, the top of which is an oculus (an open hole), is to this day still the largest dome of unreinforced concrete in the world.

Marcus Agrippa built the Pantheon under the reign of Augustus (27 BC-14 AD). A rebuilding was undertaken by Emperor Hadrian around 27AD. It then burnt down in the year 80. Domitian rebuilt it but it caught fire again in 30 years later.

At each point, various alterations were made.

There is much debate about the forms the Pantheon has taken throughout its history, from the shape and placement  of the portico to the direction it faced, not to mention great discussions about the internal layout!

Architects, structural engineers and historians alike to this day ponder upon how exactly it was achieved to set in place a dome without the use of steel rods or similar reinforcement.

One thing for certain is that it is an architectural wonder of the world.

The word Pantheon derives from the Greek for ‘common to all gods’. Although this was likely not the official name of the original structure, it has nonetheless proven accurate given its history spanning the varying religions throughout Rome’s history.

Initially the Pantheon was likely the sacra privata (private chapel) of Agrippa, rather than being a public temple (aedes publicae), however it has been a a Roman Catholic church since the 600s. Masses and celebrations such as weddings are still held there to this day.

As to the inside of the Pantheon, there are the tombs of some Italian royalty – King Vittorio Emanuele II, King Umberto I and his Queen Margherita.

The tomb of artist Raphael here lies also, just by that of his dear fiancé who died just before their wedding.

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