24 Feb 2011

The Pantheon

The Pantheon in the light of the setting sun
The Pantheon in Rome Italy is probably my favorite building in the world.  Every time I see it, I am overcome with inspiration; even if it is the fifth time in the same day!  Construction of this stunning example of classical architecture began around 25 AD.  However after a fire around 80 AD, it was rebuilt under Hadrian and completed somewhere around 125 AD.  Originally built as a Pagan temple to the gods (the word pantheon meaning "every god"), it has stood as a Catholic church since 608 AD

The main part of the building, the Rotonda, stands exactly as wide as it is high, 43.3 metres.  The domed roof is the largest dome ever created out of concrete.  The pronaos (or porch) is lined by sixteen columns made of Egyptian granite.  The only source of natural light is the large oculus at the top of the dome, which is 9 metres in diameter and completely open; which means when it rains outside, it also rains inside the Pantheon.  Originally, the interior of the Pantheon was designed so the light entering through the oculus would illuminate specific monuments to the gods at specific times of day.

Sunlight streaming in through the oculus.
The Pantheon sits at the head of the Piazza della Rotonda in Rome.  In the centre of the piazza stands a fountain, Fontana del Pantheon, whose basin was designed by Giacomo della Porta in 1575.  An obelisk was added to the fountain in 1711.

Today the Pantheon houses several tombs, including that of King Vittorio Emanuele II, King Umberto I, Margherita di Savoia and painter Raphael.  The inscription on Raphael's tomb is translated to read "Here lies Raphael: that Nature feared when alive, whilst he was dying, Nature fears herself may die".

If you are planning a trip to Rome and would like to stay close to this amazing structure, I would highly recommend the Hotel Abruzzi.  The hotel sits along the piazza and has rooms with beautiful views of the Pantheon.  It is a great central location to explore the many, many treasures this wonderful city has to offer.

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