The Pantheon is one of the most remarkable buildings in the world. It has been used as a place of worship continuously for longer than any other structure in Europe. It is also the best preserved Ancient Roman structure in Rome.
The first temple here was founded in 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa. It was founded as a temple to all the Gods, or Pantheon. Agrippa's building was square, not circular, and oriented to the south rather than the north. The building was damaged by fire in 80 AD and repaired by Domitian before another fire caused more damage. This time Hadrian decided to completely rebuild, and the circular heart of today's Pantheon was built between 118 and 128 AD. Despite appearances to the contrary the front porch also dates to Hadrian's time, but it is the rotunda and the roof which always grab the attention.
In fact even today the Pantheon has the widest circumference of any dome - the whole building is as wide as it is tall. That the dome is one single piece of Roman concrete makes it more amazing still. The distinctive hole in its centre acting as a keystone as well as providing light for the interior.
The Emperor Phocas, one of the last, Byzantine, Emperors of Rome gave the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV and it was converted into the Church of Santa Maria ad Martyres in 604 AD, thus preserving the building for eternity.
Hemmed in by the surrounding buildings and the small square in front of it the Pantheon looks considerably smaller than it is, but still takes the breath away, no more so than when you wander through the tiny winding streets of the old quarter of Rome and suddenly come upon this wonder of Ancient Rome.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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