Pantheon Rome Italy - a short history

The Pantheon is one of the best preserved ancient temples in the centre of Rome. A well maintained and magnificent attraction in Rome. It was built over 1800 years ago during the reign of the emperor Hadrian and completed in A.D. 126. The recent 2005 cleaning of the interior ceiling bring an almost new feeling to the place. The marvelous colours all around stand out far better than in years gone by.

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A short history of The Pantheon Rome Italy

It has a colourful history, because the present building seemed to be the only one that was either able to remain intact or not suffer any natural catastrophes. Previous human dedications to the divine included a temple to Mars and Venus built in B.C. 27 by Marcus Agrippa, son-in-law to the emperor Augustus. It burnt down a hundred years later. The emperor Domitian rebuilt it but it was then struck by lightning in A.D. 110 and burnt down again. Both were based on a conservative T-shaped structure.

A picture from the outside of the Roman Pantheon

Some form of divine curse appeared to be on the site as no temple dedicated to one or some gods was allowed to exist there. Hadrian arrived and commissioned a new temple with a totally new design and ensured that it was dedicated to all the gods, thus its name, which comes from the Greek word pantheion, which means place for all gods.

The building is a wonderful example of Roman architecture that combined regional characteristics with a unique style. Its uniqueness was that it was the first to fully utilize two structural forms, the arch and the vault. A vault is an arched ceiling of which the dome was the commonly used form. They both reduced or eliminated the need for columns to support the roof, because it could rest on the outer walls. Interestingly, the columns became mere sculptural decorations.

Most temples used to emphasize exterior size, so as to humble and reduce the human worshipper. The divine was always grander than the human. The Pantheon turned this thought around by emphasizing interior space rather than exterior form. The interior is beautifully and evenly lit. A large opening was created at the top of the dome known as the oculus or eye that measures 30 feet (9 meters) in diameter. Something of the gods looking in at the people and the humans looking out at the gods. It was to be the only source of light.

A picture of the inside of the Pantheon

The use of dome and arches obliged the builders to create a harmonious space so that everything fits together beautifully. The best illustration is seen in the walls as they vary in thickness. At the bottom, they start off at 20 feet (6 meters) until they reach 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) near the oculus. Being circular, it measures about 142 feet (43 meters) in diameter. Its domed roof rises about 142 feet (43 meters) above the floor at its highest point.

The materials used were largely of brick and concrete. A rectangular portico or porch that has a triangular roof supported by a row of eight Corinthian columns extends from the entrance of the building. As with any Ancient edifice, some of the original pieces no longer exist, as they had to be replaced except for the bronze doors at the entrance and some of the marble used in the interior decoration.

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