The Pantheon, Rome, Italy

The Pantheon, Rome, Italy

With its impenetrable wall and huge marble columns, the Pantheon is a monument in Rome, Italy. It is speculated that the original Pantheon built sometime in 25-27 BC, Marcus Agrippa, during the reign of Augustus. However, the exact construction date of the Pantheon remains uncertain. The inscription in the front reads “M- AGRIPPA-L-F-COS-TERTIVM-FECIT”, which in full can be read as “Marcus Agrippa Lucii Filius Consul tertium fecit” and translates literally into “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, made when consul for third time”. The dome on the Pantheon was the largest in the world until the Florence Cathedral was constructed in 1436.


The location of the temple is also very significant. It was in this very place that the namesake of the city, Romulus, was carried away by an eagle and taken to the land of Gods, upon his death.

The word ‘Pantheon’ is etymologically derived from two words: ‘Pan’ meaning ‘all’ and ‘theion’ meaning ‘God’. This means that the temple was built to honour all the Roman Gods and Goddesses.

In 80 CE, a huge fire burned down the entire temple. Emperor Domitian rebuilt it. Unfortunately, in 110 CE, the temple was struck with lightening and was burnt again. It was again built for the third by Emperor Hadrian, in 125 CE. However, the inscription on the front bearing Agrippa’s name has been retained, even after it was reconstructed twice, even though the actual structure is very different from the original. Originally, the main building was approached by a flight of stairs. After the reconstruction, the ground level was raised, and the stairs were removed. In 202 CE, the Pantheon was repaired by Septimius Severus and Caracalla. Under the main inscription, a smaller inscription was added to acknowledge their efforts. The inscription reads: ‘pantheum vetustate corruptum cum omni cultu restituerunt’, which means ‘with every refinement, they restored the Pantheum, worn by age’. In 609 AD, the Pantheon was converted into a Catholic Church, and it was handed over to Pope Poniface IV. This protected the glorious monument from being exploited and looted.

Since it has been rebuilt twice over the ages, and because it has been maintained so well, the Pantheon remains one of the best preserved monument. Unlike some of the other monuments, which fell out of use, the Pantheon has been utilise for various purposes throughout history.


The Pantheon is a marvellous monument with massive and impressive construction. The entire building stands on a 1.3 meter high base. The steps are made up of yellow marble, and extends outward from the ends of the base. The main building comprises of two important parts: the porch and the circular building. The porch, measuring 33.1 X 13.6 meters, is Classical Greek in its appearance. The  Corinthian Columns each measures 11.8 meters tall. There are eight columns in the front and two groups of four columns just behind it.


Two important factors led to the success of the building’s construction. The first is the fine quality of mortar used in the cement and the other being the careful selection the materials used, ranging from the heavy basalt in the foundation and the lower parts of the base, to the lightest of the pumice stone.


The interior of the Pantheon is made so that it outshines the exterior. The double door, leading to the circular building or the rotunda, is made of bronze. It is believed that these bronze doors were once gold plated. Each of the door measures 12 X 7.5 meters. The doors on the monument today, though ancient, are not the original ones. The rotunda is 43.2 meters in its diameter.


The dome of the Pantheon is a perfect hemisphere, measuring 142 feet (43 meters) in diameter and rising to a height of 71 feet (22 meters) above its base. It supposedly weighs 4535 metric tonnes. Because of its immense size, the exact process of its erection has never been determined. The thickness of the dome changes with its height. It ranges from 6.4 meters wide at the base to 1.2 metres around the oculus. This intends to signify the archway to heaven.


There is an opening at the centre of the dome, through which sunlight floods in. The opening, or the oculus measures 43.3 meters, which is exactly the same as the diameter of the interior circle. The ocular was quite revolutionary for its time. The light flooding through this space, performs the task of a reverse sundial. The oculus ensures the cooling and ventilation of the interior of the Pantheon. There is even a drainage system that drains the rain water that falls through the oculus.


The Pantheon was perhaps the first of the several monuments of antiquity built so that the interior outperformed its exterior. Several masterpieces, such as The Annunciation are placed throughout the inside of the Pantheon.

The Pantheon was perhaps the first of the several monuments of antiquity built so that the interior outperformed its exterior. Several masterpieces, such as The Annunciation are placed throughout the inside of the Pantheon.

During the Renaissance, the Pantheon started being used as a tomb. It is the final resting place of many a great personalities, like composer Arcangelo Corelli, painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci, and architect Baldassare Peruzzi. King Umberto I and his wife Queen Margherita were also buried here. The other king of Italy, King Vittorio Emmanuele II was also buried in the Pantheon.

Though masses are not held regularly, the Pantheon is still used as a church today. Masses are held only on important Catholic days and weddings.


The square situated in front of the Pantheon is known as Piazza della Rotunda, and is also a very popular tourist spot.


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