Pantheon: Gift of the Gods - The Pantheon

The Pantheon, the temple to “all the gods,” was spared destruction because it was given to a religion with one god. Lucky for us.

Indeed, today, the Pantheon still functions as a Roman Catholic church, with masses celebrated on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, just like any other local parish church in Rome. It is good to remember this when planning a visit. Although the building is usually open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., when services are being held you should refrain from walking around (though you can stand near the entrance). Entry is free through the massive, bronze doors, said to be “original” but having undergone significant restorations.

So many ironies, secrets, legends, art, politics, science, skill and history in one building.

To begin in the middle, (you already knew it was built by Emperor Hadrian in 118 AD to replace an earlier temple destroyed by fire, right?) the temple was closed in the 5th century as Christianity grew in power. Sometime between 607-9, it was given to Pope Boniface IV for use as a church by Emperor Phocas (Eastern Roman Empire). It was rechristened Santa Maria ad Martyres (St. Mary of the Martyrs). Twenty-eight wagonloads of Christian martyrs bones were moved from their graves and buried under the Pantheon, and the Pope proclaimed All Saints Day, a commemoration of all the martyrs. The church calendar had been getting more and more crowded, with not enough room to celebrate a day in honor of each saint.

Two years ago, the dirty and stained coffered ceiling underwent cleaning and restoration, resulting in this beautiful, pristine image of the oculus and the dark blue of an early evening sky. I've read that it used to be possible to write for permission to climb the dome from the outside, and look down, over the lip of the 9-meter wide (30 feet) oculus. Now THAT would be something!

  • Address: Piazza della Rotonda
  • Directions: In the middle of Rome's historical center, about a 5 minute walk east of Piazza Navona.




    Post a Comment