Art History Lab

The Timeless Wonder: Exploring the Magnificence of Rome’s Pantheon

The Pantheon of Rome is one of the most iconic structures in the city, attracting millions of visitors each year. This massive temple, dedicated to the gods of ancient Rome, has a rich history that spans over two millennia.

In this article, well take a closer look at the construction, purpose, and preservation of the original Pantheon, as well as explore the early life and rise to power of the architect responsible for its reconstruction, Hadrian.

Construction and Purpose of the Original Pantheon

The Pantheon was first constructed in 27 BC, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus. However, the original structure was destroyed by fire in AD 80.

The Pantheon that we see today was rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian in AD 118-128. The temple was built on the site of an earlier temple that was commissioned by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in 27 BC.

This earlier temple was dedicated to all the gods of ancient Rome, which is where the name Pantheon comes from; pan meaning all, and theos meaning god. The purpose of the Pantheon was to provide a meeting place for the ancient Romans to worship their gods.

It was built as a massive temple with a dome that represented the heavens. The interior of the temple was designed to be awe-inspiring, with intricately carved walls, stunning artworks, and statues of the gods.

The Pantheon is considered one of the finest architectural examples of the high Roman Empire.

Reconstruction and Preservation of the Pantheon

The Pantheon that we see today is largely intact, thanks to the efforts of Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian was a great admirer of Greek culture and art, and he was determined to create something that was both impressive and functional.

He commissioned Apollodorus of Damascus, one of the most famous architects of his time, to rebuild the Pantheon. To ensure that the new Pantheon would be structurally sound, Apollodorus used lighter materials for the dome and made the walls thicker at the base.

He also introduced the use of hidden chambers and hollow spaces to reduce the weight of the structure. The Pantheon was built using bricks stamped with dates and the name of the architect, which helped to preserve the buildings authenticity.

The Architect of the Pantheon in Rome

The architect behind the reconstruction of the Pantheon was none other than Emperor Hadrian himself. Hadrian was born into a wealthy family in Spain in AD 76.

He rose to power after the death of his predecessor, Trajan, in AD 117. Hadrian was an accomplished architect and artist, with a keen interest in Greek culture.

Hadrian was known for his love of travel and exploration, which gave him the opportunity to study the architecture of some of the greatest structures in the world. He used this knowledge to create some of the most exquisite monuments of the Roman Empire.

One of his greatest achievements was the reconstruction of the Pantheon, which remains one of the most impressive structures in Rome to this day. The influence of Greek culture on Hadrian can be seen in many of his works, including the Pantheon.

His love of Greek art and architecture is evident in the intricate designs of the Pantheons walls, ceilings, and columns. This fusion of Roman and Greek culture is what makes the Pantheon one of the most unique and interesting structures in the world.


The Pantheon of Rome is a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of the ancient Romans. From its construction in 27 BC to its reconstruction by Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, the Pantheon has stood the test of time and remains one of the most iconic structures in the city.

With its massive dome, intricate design, and stunning artworks, the Pantheon is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history and culture of ancient Rome. The Pantheon in Rome is not only one of the citys most iconic structures, but it is also regarded as one of the most beautiful and functional buildings in the world.

Along with its history and architecture, the site of the Pantheon and the construction of the portico are equally intriguing. In this article, well delve into the legend and location of the Pantheon, as well as the materials used and the design of this magnificent structure.

We’ll also take a closer look at the construction and appearance of the portico, exploring the speculations and theories about its height, the columns, and the architectural decisions made by Hadrian and Trajan.

Legend and Location of the Pantheon

According to legend, the original Pantheon of Rome was built by Romulus, one of the citys founders, in 753 BC. The story goes that Romulus saw an eagle flying above where the Pantheon now stands, and he believed it was a sign from the gods to build a temple in that location.

He built the temple to honor all the gods of Rome, and it served as a central meeting place for the people of the city. The current Pantheon that we see today is located in the Piazza della Rotonda, just a short distance away from the Tiber River.

Its location served as a convenient gathering place for both locals and visitors to the city, and it remains a popular spot for tourists to this day.

Construction Materials and Design

The materials used in the construction of the Pantheon were common for the time. The walls of the structure were made of Roman concrete, which is considered one of the most durable construction materials in history.

The dome, which was one of the largest in the world at the time, was built using a combination of concrete and brick. The walls of the Pantheon are of immense thickness, and they taper from the base towards the top, allowing a massive dome to rest on them.

The Pantheons design is famous for its rotunda and oculus. The rotunda forms the part of the building below the dome, and it is an open space with no walls.

The dome, which is supported by the rotunda, is made of concrete and has a thickness that varies from over 7 meters at the base to less than 2 meters at the top. It also features an oculus, which is a circular opening at the center of the dome that allows sunlight and rain to enter the building.

The Pantheons Portico

The portico of the Pantheon is a stunning addition to the structure, adding to its grandeur and beauty. It was added during the reign of Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, and it is a prime example of the fusion of Greek and Roman architecture.

Construction and Appearance of the Portico

The portico was constructed using massive Greek pillars made of Egyptian granite, which were shipped from Egypt to Rome at great expense. The columns were monolithic, meaning they were carved from a single piece of stone.

They measure over 12 meters in height and over 1.5 meters in diameter, each weighing around 60 tons. The columns are arranged in a traditional Greek style, with eight in the front and two on either side.

The roof of the portico was originally made of wood and covered in tiles, but it was later replaced with a lead roof in the 17th century. The roof is supported by 16 smaller Corinthian columns, which were added later during a renovation.

Speculations and Theories about the Portico

Speculations and theories abound regarding the portico of the Pantheon. Some historians believe that the height of the portico was designed to complement the height of the dome, providing a sense of balance and harmony.

Others believe that the height of the portico is an architectural decision that was made by Hadrian to showcase his love of arts and culture and his desire to create something superior and unique. Another theory is that the columns used in the portico were originally intended for another building.

The columns are taller than those that would have been needed to support the portico, leading some historians to believe that they may have been removed from another building and repurposed for the Pantheon.


The Pantheon of Rome is a remarkable feat of engineering, architecture, and design. From its legendary origins to its location in the heart of the city, the Pantheon has a spellbinding history.

Its construction materials and design are still celebrated by architects and enthusiasts worldwide. Moreover, the portico stands out as a testament to the glory of Greek and Roman architecture and the artistry of Hadrian.

The Pantheon will forever remain one of the most unforgettable structures in the world. The Rotunda of the Pantheon is a breathtaking sight to behold, with its stunning marble walls, niches, and altars that pay homage to the gods of ancient Rome.

It is an awe-inspiring space that blends art, symbolism, and functionality in perfect harmony. In this article, well delve into the interior design and functionality of the Rotunda, as well as explore its unique symbolism and features.

We’ll also examine the influence that the Pantheon has had on modern and Renaissance architecture, as well as its inspiration to artists and artwork.

Interior Design and Functionality of the Rotunda

The Rotunda is a circular space, designed as the main chamber of the Pantheon. It has a diameter of 43.3 meters and a height of 43.3 meters, and it is lined with stunning marble that is punctuated by various niches and altars.

Each niche is dedicated to a particular god or goddess of the Roman pantheon, and they are adorned with intricate sculptures that depict their respective deities. The central feature of the Rotunda is its massive dome, which is more than 43 meters in diameter.

This impressive structure is an architectural masterpiece, and it has an oculus at the top that allows natural sunlight and rain to enter the space, creating a fascinating play of light and shadow. The Rotunda was designed to be functional in several ways.

Its open space allowed for large gatherings, while the niches and altars provided a place for offerings and sacrifices to the gods. The dome also played a functional role, as it was designed to prevent water from entering the temple, making it a dry and comfortable space for worship and other activities.

Symbolism and Unique Features of the Rotunda

The Rotunda is steeped in symbolism and has several unique features that set it apart from other ancient Roman buildings. One of the most notable features is the use of two spheres, one representing the heavenly realm and the other representing the earthly realm.

The dome of the Rotunda represents the heavenly sphere, while the circle on the floor of the Rotunda represents the earthly sphere. This symbolism is further enhanced by the interior design of the Rotunda, which is meant to reflect the catacombs where the early Christians worshipped.

Another unique feature of the Rotunda is its impressive dome, which is so perfectly proportioned that it appears to float above the space. Additionally, the oculus in the dome allows sunlight to pour into the space, creating a dramatic play of light and shadow throughout the day.

This play of light and shadow creates a symbolic representation of the movement of the sun, a powerful symbol in ancient Roman culture.

Influence of the Pantheon

The Pantheon has had a significant influence on modern and Renaissance architecture, with its design and beauty inspiring a range of structures around the world.

Influence on Modern and Renaissance Architecture

One of the most well-known structures inspired by the Pantheon is the Rotunda in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Designed by architect John Russell Pope and opened in 1941, the Rotunda is a striking homage to the Pantheon, with a similar dome and circular main space. The Pantheon was also a significant influence on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which was designed by Michelangelo and modeled after the interior of the Pantheon.

The influence of the Pantheon can also be seen in the work of Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, particularly in his use of dome structures in his designs. Another notable example of the influence of the Pantheon on modern architecture is Frank Lloyd Wrights Marin County Civic Center in California, which features a rotunda that is reminiscent of the Rotunda of the Pantheon.

Inspiration for Artists and Artwork

The interior of the Pantheon has also served as an inspiration for artists over the centuries. One of the most famous artworks inspired by the Pantheon is the interior painting of the Rotunda by Giovanni Paolo Panini.

The enormous painting depicts the interior of the temple as it would have appeared during the glory days of the Roman Empire, and it provides a stunning view of the temple that most visitors could not have seen for themselves. The Pantheon’s interior beauty has continued to attract visitors from all over the world, with many artists and designers seeking inspiration from its iconic design.


From its stunning interior design and functionality to its unique symbolism and features, the Rotunda of the Pantheon is an impressive structure that continues to fascinate and inspire people to this day. With its enduring influence on modern and Renaissance architecture, as well as its impact on the art world, the Pantheon is a remarkable testament to the creativity, ingenuity, and passion of the ancient Romans.

The Pantheon will forever remain an enduring symbol of Rome’s rich cultural and architectural history, inspiring people for centuries to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Definition of the Pantheon and Its Use

The Pantheon is an ancient temple located in Rome, Italy. Originally constructed in 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Emperor Augustus, it was rebuilt in its current form by Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD.

The Pantheon was dedicated to the gods of ancient Rome and served as a place of worship where people could pay their respects and offer sacrifices. However, during the early 7th century, the Pantheon underwent a transformation.

It was converted into a Christian place of worship dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs. This conversion occurred under the reign of Pope Boniface IV, who believed that the temple should be repurposed for Christian worship.

Since then, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church, hosting various religious ceremonies and events.

Historical Facts and Figures

Throughout its long and storied history, the Pantheon has witnessed the rise and fall of emperors, artists, and even monarchs. The original construction of the Pantheon is credited to Marcus Agrippa, a close ally and son-in-law of Emperor Augustus.

However, this original structure was destroyed by fire and rebuilt by Emperor Domitian. Unfortunately, this second version was also destroyed, leaving only the portico intact.

It was Emperor Hadrian who undertook the task of rebuilding the Pantheon to its former glory, using much of the original materials. Over the centuries, the Pantheon has faced various challenges and undergone modifications.

In the 17th century, Pope Urban VIII ordered the removal of bronze from the portico to be used for the construction of the Baldachin in St. Peter’s Basilica. This act caused controversy and criticism, leading to the famous saying “What the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did.”

April 21st and Special Events at the Pantheon

Illumination and Reflection Phenomenon

One of the most remarkable features of the Pantheon occurs on April 21st, Rome’s anniversary. On this day, the sun’s rays stream through the oculus, the circular opening at the top of the dome, and illuminate the interior of the Rotunda.

The light enters at such an angle that it creates a special reflection on the wall opposite the entrance. To enhance this effect, a metal grill was installed on the oculus in the 19th century.

This grill allows a controlled amount of light to pass through, preventing excessive brightness and ensuring that visitors can appreciate the beauty of the light and reflection without being overwhelmed. Significance of April 21st and Rome’s Anniversary

April 21st is a significant day for Rome as it marks the anniversary of the city’s foundation.

According to legend, Rome was founded on this day in 753 BC by Romulus, the city’s legendary founder. The celebration of Rome’s anniversary has been a tradition for centuries, and the Pantheon plays a central role in the festivities.

On this day, the phenomenon of the sun’s rays illuminating the interior of the Pantheon takes on a deeper meaning. It is seen as a god-like illumination, reflecting the importance of Rome’s foundation and the city’s divine destiny.

Visitors from around the world gather to witness this rare reflection and pay tribute to the history, culture, and significance of Rome. The celebration at the Pantheon on April 21st includes various events, such as concerts, religious rituals, and cultural activities.

It is a day when locals and visitors come together to celebrate the rich heritage and legacy of Rome. The Pantheon becomes a focal point of these festivities, showcasing its architectural splendor and serving as a symbol of the city’s enduring greatness.


The Pantheon is not only a remarkable architectural marvel but also a site of historical, cultural, and religious significance. From its origins as an ancient temple dedicated to the gods of Rome to its conversion into a Christian place of worship, the Pantheon has undergone various transformations throughout its long history.

It has witnessed the reigns of emperors, the actions of artists and monarchs, and continues to hold a revered place in the hearts of both Romans and visitors. On April 21st, the Pantheon takes on additional significance as it becomes a focal point for celebrations commemorating Rome’s anniversary.

The illumination and reflection phenomenon that occurs on this day adds a touch of magic to the festivities, symbolizing the divine essence of the city and its eternal splendor. The Pantheon stands as a testament to Rome’s rich heritage, offering a glimpse into the past and inspiring us with its architectural grandeur and timeless beauty.

In conclusion, the Pantheon of Rome is a remarkable structure with a rich history and immense cultural significance. From its origins as a temple dedicated to ancient Roman gods to its conversion into a Christian place of worship, the Pantheon has undergone various transformations, reflecting the layers of history that Rome encompasses.

The interior design and functionality of the Rotunda, with its exquisite marble walls, altars, and niches, showcase the architectural brilliance of the time. The portico, illuminated by massive Egyptian granite columns, adds to the Pantheon’s grandeur.

The Pantheon’s influence on modern and Renaissance architecture, as well as its inspiration for artists and artwork, highlights its enduring impact. The April 21st celebration, with its unique illumination and reflection phenomenon, symbolizes Rome’s foundation and divine destiny.

The Pantheon serves as a testament to Rome’s rich cultural heritage, leaving a lasting impression on visitors and reminding us of the city’s enduring greatness.

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