The Rome Pantheon, meaning “Temple of all the gods” was rebuilt around 125 AD during Hadrian’s reign. All the Gods of ancient Rome were worshipped here in the past and the building has been used throughout history, from the 7th Century as a Catholic Church. Today, it is perhaps the best preserved building of its kind and age in the world. The design of the extant building is sometimes credited to the Trajan’s architect Apollodorus of Damascus, but it is equally likely that the building and the design should be credited to the emperor Hadrian or his architects.
Hadrian was a cosmopolitan emperor who traveled widely in the East and was a great admirer of Greek culture. He might have intended the Pantheon, a temple to all the gods, to be a kind of ecumenical or syncretist gesture to the subjects of the Roman Empire who did not worship the old gods of Rome, or who (as was increasingly the case) worshipped them under other names.
Cassius Dio, a Graeco-Roman senator, consul and author of a comprehensive History of Rome, writing approximately 75 years after the Pantheon’s reconstruction, mistakenly attributed the domed building to Agrippa rather than Hadrian. Dio’s book appears to be the only near-contemporary writing on the Pantheon, and it is interesting that even by the year 200 there was uncertainty about the origin of the building and its purpose.
The Pantheon is located close to many apartments in Rome and Rome hotels in Piazza della Rotunda, in the heart of the Centro Storico. The Largo Argentina bus and tram stops are just a couple of minuets away, with the nearest metro station, Spagna, being about a 15 minute walk. The Pantheon attracts staggering numbers of tourists every year and masses are still held here, particularly on important Catholic days of obligation, and for weddings.
The dome rests on a cylinder of masonry walls. Hidden voids and the interior recesses allows for a lighter construction, and giving an effect of not so much a solid mass, but more like three continuous arcades, which correspond to the three tiers of relieving arches visible on the exterior of the building . Originally, these exterior walls were faced with fine marble which, over the course of the centuries, has been removed.
The dome itself is constructed through the use of stepped rings made from solid concrete with gradually less and less density the higher you go. To make this possible, lighter aggregate was used, including pumice, also the dome’s thickness diminishes the nearer to the top you get.
To fully enjoy this step back in time, make the most of your break in Rome, book your accommodation in Rome early and make sure to see the Forum, Palantine Hill and The Domus Aurea too!