Inside the Pantheon

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Pantheon is one of the most famous buildings in Rome. Originally it was a temple (even the name means “Temple of all the Gods”) built in Ancient Rome and rebuilt in 125 AD during the Hadrian reign. It is the best preserved building in the city and probably also the best preserved building of this age in the world. It is the oldest standing dome structure in Rome.

The very first Pantheon built in Rome dates back to 27 BC, to the Agippa’s consulship. It was destroyed in 80 AD by fire and rebuilt by Emperor Domitian, but was struck by lightening and burned again in 110 AD. The present building was built (rebuilt) in 125 AD in Hadrian times. It is not exactly known who the architect was. It could have been Apollodorus of Damascus, the Trajan architect, or Hadrian and one of his architects. The building was repaired by Septimius Severus and Caracalla in 202 AD.

Since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Catholic church, when in 609 the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface IV. He consecrated it to Santa Maria ad Martyres, now known as Santa Maria dei Martiri. The Pantheon is still a church and masses are still celebrated in the church, particularly on important Catholic days of obligation, and for weddings.

As the time has been passing, much fine external marble has been removed and two columns were swallowed up in the medieval buildings. Since the Renaissance the Pantheon has been used as a tomb (among those buried there are the painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci, the composer Arcangelo Corelli, and the architect Baldassare Peruzzi). In the early seventeenth century the bronze ceiling of the portico was torn away and replaced the medieval campanile with the famous twin towers built by Maderno, which were not removed until the late nineteenth century. The marble interior and the great bronze doors have survived, although both have been extensively restored.

Pantheon is a circular building with a portico of three lines of huge granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first line and four in each second and third line). Under the pediment it is opening into the rotunda, under a coffered, concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus), the Great Eye, open to the sky. In past there was a building into which it abutted, now there are only archeological remains of it. In the walls at the back of the portico were niches, probably for statues of Caesar, Augustus and Agrippa, or for the Capitoline Triad, or another set of gods. The pediment was decorated with a sculpture The large bronze doors to the cella, once plated with gold, still remain but the gold has long since vanished. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres. The Great Eye at the dome's apex is the source of all light and it also serves as a cooling and ventilation method. The interior features sunken panels (coffers), that are not only decorative but also reduces the weight of the roof. The top of the rotunda wall features a series of brick-relieving arches.
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