Pantheon (46)

The Pantheon was built by the emperor and philosopher Hadrian between 118 and 125 AD, to replace an earlier temple designed by Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’ son-in-law. Thus the inscription on the `portico reads, “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, in his third consulate, built it”. The fact that Hadrian decided to keep this inscription led to historical doubts initially. 

Over the years, the Pantheon has experienced several remodellings. In the 17th century, for example, two twin towers designed by Bernini were placed there.  It seemed that people did not like it all that much, and it soon attained the nickname of “donkey’s ears”. Finally, in 1883 they were removed. 

Another big change occurred to the roof, which originally had a bronze covering. This roof covering was stripped off by Constantine II to adorn Constantinople. The massive bronze doors, however, are in fact the originals. 

Despite its many changes, the Pantheon is one of the best-preserved monuments in Rome. This is mainly due to its transformation into a Christian church when Emperor Phocas ceded the building to Pope Boniface IV, in 609.

The Pantheon is an example of harmony, and its imposing cupola is practically an architectural achievement. With a diameter of 43 meters, it is bigger than that of Saint Peter. Its circular opening measures 9 metres in diameter, and is the only inlet for light in the building. This is due to the fact that, in order to support the cupola, the walls of the Pantheon are too thick for windows to be built.

One of the most important things you will come across in the Pantheon is Raphael’s tomb. The artist was buried here in 1520 at his own request. They say that Raphael’s model, La Fornarina, with whom he lived for many years, was not allowed to go to the funeral. 

As well as the tomb of the Italian artist, you will also find the tombs of other painters, and those of two kings and a queen. 

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