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10 amusing facts about the Roman Pantheon that even seasoned tourists don't know about
10 amusing facts about the Roman Pantheon that even seasoned tourists don't know about

Millions of tourists visit Rome every year, and many of them hardly spend more than three days in the city, literally running past all the main attractions of the capital. The Pantheon, or "the temple of all gods" in the center of the city, is just one of such attractions, interesting facts about which often escape the attention of tourists. In our selection today, we have collected 10 such facts.

This is not the first Pantheon in this place

The Pantheon in Rome

The modern Pantheon is almost 2000 years old - it was built in 118 - 126 AD. by order of the emperor Hadrian. On the pediment of the building you can see the inscription “M. AGRIPPA L F COS TERTIVM FECIT ", which in translation sounds like:" Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, elected consul for the third time, erected this. " So why was the Pantheon built under Hadrian, and the honors were given to Agrippa?

The fact is that the current building is already the third in a row. The very first Pantheon was actually a building built under Marcus Agrippa, but later it burned down. At the same place, the emperor Domition built another Pantheon, but after a while lightning struck it, and it burned down again. The modern building was built so thoroughly that no fires could take it. Moreover, Hadrian ordered the completion of the construction of a new, third Pantheon for the 100th anniversary of the first building, which for some time caused disagreement among historians about the exact date of the appearance of the Pantheon.

The oculus is truly glassless and never closes


A circular hole 8.2 meters in diameter in the ceiling, also called the oculus, is the only light source in the Pantheon. This hole is not covered by anything. It is interesting that on April 21, the day of the founding of Rome, at noon, a ray of light from the sun fell exactly at the entrance to the Pantheon, through which the emperor entered. When the ruler entered the main temple of the city, being consecrated from all sides by the bright radiance of the sun, this, as it were, once again emphasized his status as the chosen one of the gods.

Naturally, an open skylight also means rain can enter the building. But even this moment was thought out during the construction - 22 small holes were made in the marble floor under the oculus, which perform a drainage function, so that the water in the room does not stagnate.

The Pantheon was once covered in bronze

Dome of the Pantheon

During the construction, the dome of the Pantheon was intended to be the center of the city, it had to be seen from everywhere. Therefore, the dome was then covered with copper sheets that shone in the sun. However, in the Middle Ages, these sheets were gradually dismantled, and the Romans themselves. For example, the most famous example of this was the episode described by Pope Urban VIII himself, who was a member of the wealthy Barberini family. In 1631, he ordered to take the sheets from the Pantheon to cast cannons for the Vatican, commenting on this: “What the barbarians did not do, Barberini did” (‘quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini’).

For 1300 years, the Pantheon was the largest dome in the world

Roman Pantheon

Since the Pantheon building is a single whole structure in which the walls merge into the ceiling without any border, the Pantheon was considered for 1300 years the largest dome in the world. It is even larger than the dome of St. Peter's in the Vatican (43, 3 versus 41, 47 meters in diameter). Then in 1436 the construction of the cathedral in Florence was completed and the palm passed to him.At one time, in order to assemble the entire structure of the dome, the architect ordered the use of different materials at the base and in the dome of the Pantheon. So, the higher the walls, the easier the building material becomes - brick and concrete are replaced by pumice and tuff, plus the oculus itself also significantly lightens the weight of the structure. And to keep this weight, the walls of the Pantheon had to be made very thick - almost 6 meters in thickness.

However, the Pantheon is still considered today, if not the largest in the world, then at least the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.

The Pantheon has perfect proportions

Inside the Pantheon

The height of the Pantheon inside is 43.2 meters, and the width of the room inside is exactly the same distance, which makes the whole building harmonious and integral, according to the teachings of the famous Roman architect Vitruvius. The oculus, being 8, 2 meters in diameter, also fits perfectly in proportion to this space.

There are several tombs in the Pantheon

Tomb of Raphael

The Pantheon is a resting place for several prominent figures in Italy. So, here you can see the tombs of the first two kings of a united Italy of modern times, Victor Emmanuel II and his son Umberto I, buried next to his wife Margarita of Savoy (after whom, by the way, the modern pizza Margarita is named).

In addition, the famous architect and artist Rafael Santi is buried here. On his marble tomb one can read the epitaph: "Here lies the great Raphael, during whose life nature was afraid to be defeated, and after his death she was afraid to die."

The Pantheon once had a belfry

Pantheon with a belfry

In the early 1600s, Pope Urban VIII ordered the addition of two belfries to the Pantheon on the sides of the façade. The Romans themselves did not approve of this decision, according to historical records, the people began to call them not in the most respectful way ("ass with ears" or "butt ears"), so when they were removed at the end of the 19th century, this did not cause outrage.

Columns were taken out of Egypt

Columns from Egypt

At the entrance to the Pantheon, there are 16 massive 60-ton columns, each of which was once exported from Egypt. First, they were dragged 100 km to the Nile, then loaded onto barges and transported by ship to the Mediterranean Sea. There they were taken to the port of Ostia, again loaded onto a barge and taken along the Tiber to Rome to be installed in front of the dome to support the portico.

The name of the Pantheon is taken from the Greek language

Temple of all gods

The word "Pantheon" means "temple of all gods", where ‘pan’ means “all” and’theos’ means gods. It is believed that at one time all the main deities of the ancient Romans were represented in the temple, and in a circle it was possible to bring the gods in turn to Mars, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and Juno.

The Pantheon was the inspiration for the most famous cathedrals

Cathedral of St. Peter in the Vatican

The same Florentine cathedral - Santa Maria del Fiore - was created by Filippo Brunelleschi on the model of the Pantheon. In addition, the giant dome in Rome served as the inspiration for the design of the dome of St. Peter's in the Vatican, the very one for which the bronze plates were later stripped from the Pantheon. In addition, Paris also has its own Pantheon - much more modest in size, but also created based on the motives of its Roman "elder brother".

The Pantheon in Paris

In our article "Vanishing Italy" you can see pictures of the cult photographer, in which he captured life around him as only real Italians see it.

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