Thursday, January 28, 2010

Travel to Rome: Pantheon

The day after Christmas we used up the last of our 48 hour hop on-hop off bus tour. The hop on-hop off was good and bad. Since we didn't really know where or how to get to major attractions it was nice that this bus just dropped you off near them. If we had planned a little better, public transportation would have worked just as well and for a fraction of the price we could have bought bus tickets that were good for a whole week of unlimited rides as opposed to just 48 hours. Live and learn.

We decided to get off near the Pantheon (not to be confused with the Parthenon in Greece nor the one in Nashville, Tennessee, which by the way I have been to.) and see the sites in that area for the day, then catch either the hotel shuttle or public bus to get back to the hotel.

Before going in the Pantheon a stroll around the Piazza della Rotonda was needed, the square in front of the Pantheon. There is always something to see. The fountain is really something to behold.

fountain at pantheon

Fountain in front of Pantheon

Just beyond the fountain and the Pantheon stands an apartment building. There is no telling what the rent is on an apartment next to the Pantheon or anywhere in central Rome for that matter!

apartments near Pantheon

Then we focused our attention on the Pantheon itself. When a building is almost 2000 years old it is bound to have some interesting history. The Pantheon definitely fits that. The original structure was build in 25 BC by Marcus Agrippa to celebrate the victory over Antony and Cleopatra. This temple burned down in 80 AD. The one that stands today was rebuilt in 125 AD. It is one of the most well preserved ancient buildings in all of Rome.

Pantheon means every god in Greek and the original purpose of the building was for pagan worship. Then Christianity came to Rome and pagan worship was banned in the 4th century. The building was reopened as a church in early 7th century and dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the martyred saints.


The shape of the church is a perfect sphere sitting in a cylinder. All the math that was is involved in the structure is amazing! I can feel a possible project for my students coming on. Besides the shape the other amazing fact about it is that the only source of natural light comes from the oculus, the opening in the dome. The oculus is 27 feet in diameter! Twenty-seven feet!

When we were there it was cloudy and rainy outside. The rain just fell in but there was drainage because the floor was dry everywhere except right under the oculus. It is too bad the sun wasn't shining because other pictures I have seen of the oculus with the sun shining in are amazing! Here is my cloudy day version.

inside pantheon

Inside the Pantheon are the tombs of the first king of the unified Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II and his successor Umberto I. Then there was the cool tomb: the tomb of Raffaello Sanzi da Urbino, or simply, Raphael, the Italian Renaissance painter and architect. One of his most famous works of art is The School of Athens a mural that is found in the Vatican Museums.

Rafaels tomb

The inscription on the tomb reads ILLE HIC EST RAPHAEL TIMUIT QUO SOSPITE VINCI / RERUM MAGNA PARENS ET MORIENTE MORI, meaning "Here lies Raphael, by whom the mother of all things (Nature) feared to be overcome while he was living, and while he was dying, herself to die."

The Pantheon has inspired many architects. We can even see the results right here in the good ole US of A. Our US Capital, Monticello in Virginia, and the Jefferson memorial are all modeled after the Pantheon. Tucking away memories and mental images we continued on our exploration of Rome, but that my friends, will have to be another blog!