THE PANTHEON Robery Hughes “In the audacity and thoroughness of its engineering, in the grand harmony of its proportions, and in the eloquent weight of history with which it is imbued, the Pantheon is certainly the greatest of all surviving structures of ancient Rome.” Hughes, Robert. Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
PANTHEON HISTORY Samuel Platner The Pantheon was built by Agrippa in 27 B.C., and with the thermae, stagnuua, and Euripus formed the group of monuments which he constructed in this part of the campus Martius. This temple contained the statues of many divinities, among them those of Mars, Venus, and the deified Julius, and was probably dedicated particularly to these ancestral deities of the Julian family. Statues of Augustus and Agrippa himself stood in the pronaos. The Pantheon was burned in 80 A.D.; restored by Domitian; struck by lightning and again destroyed about 110 A.D.; rebuilt by Hadrian; and again restored by Severus in 202 A.D. On the frieze of the pronaos of the existing structure is the inscription M. AGRIPPA L F. COS. TERTIVM FECIT (Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, made [this building] when consul for the third time.); on the architrave below, another inscription recording the restoration by Severus and Caracalla. In consequence of the first of these inscriptions, the present structure was regarded until very recently as the original building of Agrippa, restored but not greatly changed by later emperors; but the investigations carried on in 1892 by Chedanue have proved this belief to be entirely erroneous. The discovery of bricks of Hadrian’s time in every part of the edifice proves conclusively that it was wholly constructed between the years 120 and 124 A.D. Platner, Samuel. The topography and monuments of ancient Rome (p. 351). Boston, Allyn and Bacon.
PANTHEON ARCHITECTURE Samuel Platner The building 10 consists of three parts, the rotunda or drum, the vestibule, and the pronaos. The rotunda is an enormous circular structure, containing a single hall. The walls, composed of eight hollow piers, 6.20 metres thick, and of connecting masonry of lesser thickness, support a vast dome, at the top of which is a circular opening 9 metres in diameter, through which light is admitted. The inner diameter of the drum is the same as the height from the pavement to the opening in the dome, 43.50 metres. Directly opposite the entrance, and in the middle of the east and west sides, are semicircular niches, and between these are trapezoidal niches, making seven in all besides the entrance. An entablature runs round the hall, supported by pilasters flanking each niche and by marble Corinthian columns in front of the niches. Between the niches are rectangular projections flanked by small columns, which have been converted into altars. The pavement is composed of slabs of granite, porphyry, and colored marbles, and the walls .. of the hall were once covered with magnificent marble linings. Platner, Samuel. The topography and monuments of ancient Rome. Boston, Allyn and Bacon.
PANTHEON EXTERIOR PORTICO Antonio Nibby and Mariano Vasi As the temple has only the front portico it is prostyle and having eight columns octostyle. The entrance was by an ascent of seven white marble steps, now reduced to two very low ones in travertine on account of the increase of soil. The front was 150 palms, the depth 10; the facade is supported by eight magnificent columns; on the architrave are the inscriptions of Severus and Caracalla; on the frieze the original one of Agrippa, on the tympanum was a bas relief of gilt bronze representing probably the battle between Jupiter and the giants, and the revenge of the god, to correspond with the dedication of the temple to the avenging Jove. The pinnacles of the facade supported statues ; in the central one Jupiter on a car in the act of darling his thunder; on the sides those of Mars and Venus divinities particularly worshipped in this temple. On the sides of the portico are three columns and a pilaster, four others in the interior portico; these columns of red and grey egyptian granite are Corinthian 6 palms 9 inches in diameter, 56 in height; the walls were lined with marble and divided into compartments on which were finely carved and executed the sacred utensils, paters, chandeliers; the external part of the portico was also decorated, particularly towards the west, on which side are two small antique doors loading lo the cupola, now reached by one towards the east. Antonio Nibby and Mariano Vasi. New Guide of Rome and the Environs: According to Vasi and Nibby, Containing…M. Piale. Rome. 1849.
PANTHEON PEDIMENT M . AGRIPPA . L. F . COS . TERTIVM . FECIT: (Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, made [this building] when consul for the third time.)
IMP . C AES . L . SEPTIMIVS . SEVERVS . PIVS . PER-nt*AX . ARABIC VS. ADIABEMCVS . PARTHICVS . MA-XIMVS . PONTIF . MAX . TR1B . POTEST . X . IMP . XI . COS . Ill . P . P . FHOCOS . ET . IMP . CABS . M . AVRELIVS . ANTONINVS . PIVS . FELIX. ATG . TSIB • POTEST . V • COS . PROCOS . PANTHEVM . VE-TTSTATE .CORRVPTVM . CVM . OMMI. CVLTV.RE-MTTYERVNT (Emp[eror] Caes[ar] L[ucius] Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax, victorious in Arabia, victor of Adiabene, the great victor in Parthia, Pontif[ex] Max[imus], 10 times tribune, 11 times emperor, three times consul, P[ater] P[atriae], proconsul, and Emp[eror] Caes[ar] M[arcus] Aurelius Antoninus Pius Felix Aug[ustus], five times tribune, consul, proconsul, have carefully restored the Pantheon ruined by age.)
PANTHEON COLUMNS Amanda Claridge All eight columns across the front and the two down the outsides should be of grey granite, only the four in the middle the rose-pink of Aswan, but the left flank was badly damaged during the Middle Ages and its columns (including the capitals and entablature) were restored in the C17, using pink Aswan shafts. That at the corner was brought from Domitian’s villa at Castelgandolfo in 1626; the other two came from the Baths of Nero, in 1666. The 1626 operation was the work of Pope Urban VIII Barberini, who also took the opportunity to remove the original truss of massive bronze girders which had supported the porch roof (eliciting the famous pasquinade quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini: where the barbarians failed, the Barberini succeeded. Most of the 200 tons of metal went to make eighty cannon for Castel Sant’Angelo). Claridge, Amanda. Rome (Oxford Archaeological Guides). OUP Oxford.
PANTHEON DOORS Antonio Nibby and Mariano Vasi The great door preserves its ancient jambs; on the sides the inscriptions of Urban VIII recording the spoils of bronze, the use made of them , the building of the belfries. Torrjgio who was a witness to these spoliations of the bronzes affirms that (hey weighed 450, 25i pounds, the nails alone 9374 pounds and that the cannon made of this metal were upwards of 80. On each side of the door in two large niches were the statues of Agrippa and Augustus as related by Dio ; the door is of bronze and antique, as also the grating above, although some moderns suppose that the original was carried away by Geuseric : the pavement is of African marble. Antonio Nibby and Mariano Vasi. New Guide of Rome and the Environs: According to Vasi and Nibby, Containing…M. Piale. Rome. 1849.
PANTHEON INTERIOR ROTUNDA Amanda Claridge The Rotunda has an internal diameter of 150 RF (44.4 m), which is the same as the height from the floor to the circular oculus in the roof; its dome is a perfect hemisphere. Quite capable of letting in rain and birds as well as light and air, the oculus measures 30 RF (8.8 m) in diameter and still preserves a decorative frieze of sheet bronze round its inside edge. (The outside of the dome was originally entirely covered with large sheet bronze tiles, but they were removed by order of the emperor Constans II in 663 and it is now protected by sheet lead, some of which may date from the C8.) It is possible that the inside of the dome, with its five rings of twenty-eight coffers of diminishing size, was also clad in sheet bronze. There is no trace of paint or stuccowork or other finishing, but (under the modern rendering) the concrete is peppered with dowel holes. Claridge, Amanda. Rome (Oxford Archaeological Guides). OUP Oxford.
PANTHEON OCULUS Diana Kleiner In this interior architecture, light creates drama across the once gilded coffers and multicolored marble walls and floors. As a Pantheon, the temple was dedicated to all the Roman gods, and it is in this miraculous space that one can get a sense of their collective divine presence on earth. Kleiner, Diana E. E.. Roman Architecture: A Visual Guide.
PANTHEON LEGACY Bede “This Pope was Boniface, fourth Bishop of Rome after Gregory, who persuaded the Emperor Phocas to give the Christian Church the Rome temple anciently known as the Pantheon, in which stood images of all the gods. After solemn purification, Boniface consecrated it as the Church of the Holy Mother of God and all Christian Martyrs; and once its horde of devils had been cast out, it became a memorial to the Company of Saints.” Bede, Ecclesiastical History (II.4)
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Beard, Mary. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2015.
Claridge, Amanda. Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Kleiner, Diana E E. Roman Architecture: A Visual Guide. Yale University Press, 2014.
Korn, Frank J. A Catholic’s Guide to Rome: Discovering the Soul of the Eternal City. Paulist Press, 2000.
Macadam, Alta, and A. B. Barber. Rome. Blue Guides Limited, 2020.
Steves, Rick. Rick Steves Italy. Avalon Travel, 2019.
Testa, Judith. Rome Is Love Spelled Backward: Enjoying Art and Architecture in the Eternal City. Northern Illinois University Press, 1998.
EDITORS AND LAST UPDATE
John William Bailly 14 April 2018
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