PIAZZA DELLA ROTONDA
The Pantheon is second only to the Colosseum in sheer scale and the extent to which it has been preserved. Believed to have been built in the 2nd century CE by Emperor Hadrian, the Pantheon was a temple built to honour all gods.
As the Romans conquered the world and increasingly came into contact with other religions, rather than persecuting these religious minorities, the Romans adopted their belief systems alongside their own. The Pantheon was originally a place where any Roman could go to worship, regardless of who or what they believed in. Indeed, the very word Pantheon is a hybrid of the Greek words ‘pan’ meaning all and ‘theos’ meaning god. The inscription on the outside of the building reads, “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time built this,” which is a reference to one of Rome’s greatest statesmen, a close friend and son-in-law of first Roman Emperor Augustus, who built the original temple on which the current Pantheon now stands.
Some of the interior has been remodelled over the years – the shrines to the Roman gods of the planets were replaced with Christian icons when Rome converted – the marble floor and the huge dome under which the building sits are both original. The hole in the roof, or ‘Oculus’, streams in sunlight and may have been intended as a giant sundial.
Admission is free. Open daily from 8.30am-7.30pm on weekdays and Saturdays and at 9am-6pm on Sundays.
The Pantheon remains a holy place – a Catholic church
2,000 years on, the dome remains awe inspiring