The Pantheon

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“The architect must not only understand drawing, but music.”

A beautiful rhythm flowed into the design of one of the world’s greatest architectural masterpieces, the Pantheon, as it harmoniously juxtaposes creativity with building skills.

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It has a simple yet powerful façade, with a portico lined with eight Corinthian columns (decorated with acanthus leaves on top) at the front and three at the sides. Then its door, the largest remaining door from ancient Rome, invited me to come in with much curiosity.  I had the instant view of its splendid interior… but my gaze shifted to a point in the middle where there was a light, illuminating the entire temple. I slowly walked toward it, a space underneath the dome, where I stopped and looked up at the sunrays emanating from the nine-meter oculus…then everything else was forgotten as I stood motionless with amazement.

It was simply captivating!  The worshippers during the ancient times must have found solitude and peace with the tranquility of the temple with the dome’s ethereal light.

The ingenuity of its architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, has much to do with the magic.

 

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“There is more than meets the eye!”

The eye of the dome, which measures around 9 meters, gives the only source of light…and the dome is definitely the Pantheon’s main attraction.

There’s a fascinating show of light each day! The sun’s movement changes regularly so there’s a different pattern of illusion from the oculus each passing day. However, “each year, on the very same day, the same pattern is repeated”. What a phenomenon!

The eye is open all the time so it’s a very interesting scenario when it rains. I suppose it’s bewitching with the light rain softly falling at a steady rate…and it’s somewhat theatrical with lightning, thunder and heavy rain. The water drains through the holes in the floor and goes straight into the sewage system.

 

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Apollodorus devised an ingenious method of casting in concrete mixed with a little quantity of lime and volcanic fragments, patiently bit by bit in horizontal layers, waiting steadily for the concrete to harden layer by layer, with the walls becoming thinner as it went higher, until it became…and still remains, after almost two thousand years, to be the largest unsupported dome in the world!

A dome was not only an architectural marvel but it became a remarkable symbol and was widely used in monumental structures …perhaps because the shape resembles magnificence…greatness…as if extending unlimited growths…as if reaching to heaven.

 

Originally built as a “temple of all gods”, the Pantheon was later closed and raided by the barbarians. It became a Christian church in the 7th century and was dedicated to Santa Maria ad Martyres.

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The High Altar of the Basilica of Sancta Maria ad Martyres

 

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The Chapel of the Annunciation

 

 

Monumental tombs had been set into the walls of the Pantheon. Buried here were King Vittorio Emanuele II, King Umberto I, Queen Margherita, architect Baldassare Peruzzi and artists Raphael and Annibale Caracci.

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The tomb of King Victor Emanuel II, who was crowned the first king of the United Italy in March 17, 1861.

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The tomb of the supreme artist Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known as Raphael, who died on April 6, 1520, at a young age of 37.

 

 

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The Pantheon is the best-preserved ancient building in Rome. On this site, the original structure was built between 27 and 25 BC by Agrippa, the best friend and son-in-law of Augustus.  It burned in the great fire in 80 AD and was rebuilt by Domitian but was burned again in 110 AD. The present structure was built by Hadrian between 118 and 125 AD.

How they built this architectural and engineering marvel with perfect geometry measuring 43.3 meters in width and height and an unsupported dome calls for a profound understanding of Roman’s excellence as builders…how those Roman hands, using such simple instruments like hammers, cutting tools and mason squares, built up the building bit by bit, steadily concrete by concrete.

 

6 Comments on “The Pantheon

  1. The Patheon is one of my favorite buildings in Rome. It is always astonishing to look at what the Romans accomplished so long ago…

    • I was surprised to see its magnificent open interior. It’s amazing how they designed and built this. Indeed, it’s a triumph of engineering!

  2. I had been told when I was a child that the oculus of the Pantheon was so high off the floor that when it rains the floor never gets wet because the drops evaporate before they make it to the floor! I guess this was an ancient urban myth. I’m a bit sorry to have it debunked 😦

    • Children’s fascination with magical things is full of cuteness! Indeed, the Pantheon could inspire such magical thoughts with its huge dome with gilded bronze!

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