Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rome Vacation, The Pantheon

On our last day, a Saturday, in Rome, we visited the Pantheon after having spent the afternoon in nearby Piazza Navona. The history and architecture of the Pantheon are unique and well worth taking a few minutes to read about at the Wikipedia link at,_Rome.

Originally built as a temple to all the Roman gods, the Pantheon has been in continuous use since it was first built in 126 CE. Today it is used as a Roman Catholic Church known as St. Mary's and the Martyrs. When Herb and I were there, as it approached 5:00 PM, the staff were getting ready for a mass and beginning to turn people away for the day.

Lee in front of the Pantheon
When we first arrived, we found an almost carnival-like atmosphere all around the Pantheon. In addition to many tourists in front of as well as flooding the side streets leading to the Pantheon, there were also costumed buskers, dressed like Roman centurions and noble ladies of Ancient Rome, posing for photographs with tourists for a fee. There were signs as we entered asking for silence and no photography in this sacred worship space, but no one paid attention to the signs. The noise level was as loud as in a circus tent, and everyone, including me, was taking photos. After all, this is one of the best preserved Roman buildings to be found anywhere.

This photo gives a better sense of the scale of the Pantheon.
The crowd as we entered the Pantheon
The concrete dome of the Pantheon is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome, and there are brick relieving arches which can be seen on the exterior of the rotunda walls [seen faintly in the second photo below]. The oculus in the center of the dome provides light and ventilation.

The oculus in the dome & door are the only sources of light
Brick relieving arches on the rotunda exterior
The interior where it joins the concrete dome structure
Herb taking a photo amidst the crowd
One of the altars inside the Pantheon
The altar used for masses. The pews were the only seating.
Looking through the portico columns as we exited
The rotunda is huge, large enough to fit a sphere with a 142-foot diameter. If you'd like to view all 53 photos of the Pantheon, go to my Mobile Me Gallery at

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