on August 1, 2007
This is one of the few buildings that have survived fairly intact from ancient Rome dating from 125 A.D., although was an earlier pantheon here from 27 B.C. Its name implies that this was a temple to many gods, but it isn't clear how it was used for worship. However, in 609 A.D. it was consecrated as a Christian church and dedicated to Santa Maria ad Martyres. This conversion into a church is the reason that the building has been maintained, and it is still used now with mass said on Sundays at the altar. Much of the building's lavish decoration has been removed over the years including stripping the bronze roof. However, it is the architecture of this building that is breathtaking. You wander from narrow streets into a piazza that is dominated by the Pantheon. The square has various cafés around the edge but it is quite noisy and busy with tourists and not really the most pleasant setting, there are more pleasant piazzas close by. The grandeur of the Pantheon is clear but it is unfortunately crowded by the surrounding buildings so that it cannot be fully appreciated. The interior is quite amazing because of the architectural design rather than the decor. The dome is quite spectacular and was the largest dome in the world for hundreds of years. The dome was created by pouring many rings of concrete mixed with volcanic pumice stone. The dome has a equal diameter and height at 142 feet and has an open oculus of 8 metres diameter. The oculus is the only source of natural light in the building and is quite amazing as a distinct and visible beam of light radiates down. Beneath the floor is sloped into drains so if rain falls through the oculus it runs off. The interior of the dome has five rows of 28 square coffers that increase in size from the oculus. These indented squares make the dome look stunning with the pattern of light and shadow created by them.Around the circular interior of the building, which is decorated with coloured marble, are various side chapels and niches, including the tomb of the artist Raphael, and several Italian kings also had tombs created here. However, these are probably of less interest that the incredible structure which you can tell simply by the number of people staring up. The building with its dome and portico has been an inspiration for many buildings, and Michaelango apparently studied the dome here as well.This is an incredible example of Roman architecture that I found well worth visiting. It is open daily from 9am to 6.30pm except on Sunday when it closes at 1pm. Entrance is free, and there is no queuing normally as the building is so huge inside there is room for a large crowd.
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