When you come upon the Rome Italy pantheon for the first time, it will stop you in your tracks.
It does this to me every time I see it, and I live here!
I hope you enjoy my photos of the Pantheon here, but nothing can do it justice like seeing it in person.
There is a lot to know about the Pantheon in Rome.
The history, the architecture, the outside, the inside, the art, what to see, do, eat nearby.
On this page, you'll find an overview of the these topics, with more details on dedicated pages if you want to learn more.
The Pantheon is one of the most well-preserved buildings of Ancient Rome.
The word "pantheon" comes from the Greek πάνθεον which literally means "a temple for all the gods", from πᾶν or pan, meaning "all" and θεός or theos, meaning "god."
So it was once a pagan temple in Ancient Rome. Today it is a Catholic church and also a monument you can visit.
It is considered to be the forerunner for all modern places of worship.
It's in the Rome rione (neighborhood) called Campo Marzio, which means "Field of Mars."
You can easily fit a visit to the Pantheon into a stroll around the historic center of Rome, even if you have limited time.
Click here to see the pantheon's location in Rome on Google maps. It will open in a separate window.
The Pantheon is truly a wonder of Roman architecture.
Here are just a few quick facts about the Pantheon that make it one of the most special monuments in Rome:
The Pantheon's dome is about 141 feet; or 43.2 m high and wide.
If completed, it would be a perfect sphere.
The dome itself was meant to represent the vault of heaven.
The Romans did a really incredible job constructing this … how do you make a dome with concrete bricks so that it does not collapse?
The answer is, you don’t.
As the layers of concrete blocks go up higher and higher, they get lighter and lighter.
At the very top, the bricks are made of pumice, a volcanic stone that is extra light.
The result is a dome that can literally stand the test of time.
Even Saint Peter's dome is not as large as the Pantheon's dome.
The Pantheon is the largest dome in Rome, and to this day, it's the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.
Other than the doorway, the oculus, which is about 9 meters (30 feet) in diameter is the only source of light.
If you could spend the day inside the pantheon, you would see all the sides lit up by the sunlight coming in and sweeping along the circumference of the interior. (More on this below.)
When it rains, it does indeed rain inside the Pantheon.
The rainwater is drained away using the ancient drainage system still in place today.
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The first version of the Rome Pantheon was built between 27 and 25 BCE by the consul Marcus Agrippa, Prefect of Rome's first emperor Octavian Augustus.
In 80 CE Agrippa's Pantheon burned to the ground.
The emperor Hadrian (CE 117-138) built the current version of the Pantheon to replace one that the Consul Agrippa built.
(You may also know Hadrian from his mausoleum, another of Rome's most impressive monuments from Ancient Rome, today known as Castel Sant'Angelo.)
The architect was likely Apollodoro of Damascus.
Hadrian left the Latin inscription on the façade (which we see today).
It reads: “M. AGRIPPA. L. F. COSTERTIUM. FECIT”, which, translated, means "It was built by Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time."
In the ancient Roman world and through the first 2-3 centuries of the Roman Empire, Romans mostly worshipped pagan gods.
When the Pantheon was first built, it was a Roman temple dedicated to worshipping the planetary gods (the Sun, the Moon, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury and Mars) in Ancient Rome.
In the early 4th century, Emperor Constantine made Christianity an official religion of the empire.
Subsequently, many buildings from Ancient Rome were converted to Christian churches.
The Pantheon was one such building.
In 609 CE, under Emperor Phocas, the Pantheon was turned into a church, Santa Maria ad Martyres, or Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs.
Probably one of the reasons we can see the structure of the Rome Pantheon so intact today is because it has been in continuous use since it was built.
Today, the Roman Pantheon is still used as a church.
In fact, on occasion, you may not be able to visit it if there is a Mass or special service.
For example, on Pentecost, there is a Mass after which Rome's firemen drop thousands of pink rose petals through the oculus.
In recent years this has become so popular, it is nearly impossible to get inside for Mass unless you come at around 7 AM.
Also, there is a special midnight mass at Christmas.
A Roman friend of mine even got married inside the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is also a mausoleum.
It houses the tombs of the Italian kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I as well as the Renaissance painter Raphael.
Probably the most common use of the Pantheon today is as a "must-see" monument in Rome.
The building itself is worth visiting, inside and out.
But there is also beautiful art on the inside to enjoy.
The Roman Pantheon is open Mon – Sat: 9 am - 7.30 pm and Sun: 9 am –6 pm. There is no cost.
However, on weekends and holidays, you must reserve tickets to enter (it's free to reserve.)
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