The Pantheon in Rome is one of the top tourist attractions in the city and perhaps contains the best preserved elements of Roman architecture still in existence. “Pantheon” is derived from Ancient Greek, meaning “of, relating to, or common to all the gods”. It is speculated that the name comes either from the statues of so many gods placed around this building, or from the resemblance of the dome to the heavens.
As part of a self-planned tour of some parts of Rome, including the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona, I took in the grandiose sight of The Pantheon late in the summer’s afternoon, after more than a little while tasting all the gelato that Rome had to offer (or at least that’s how it seemed). The Pantheon has some amazing granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) in its façade, and almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The square in front of the Pantheon is called “Piazza della Rotonda” and is a place where I took many photos and enjoyed the atmosphere for a long time – as well as finish off my gelato, of course!
The interior of the dome was possibly intended to symbolize the arched vault of the heavens. The oculus at the dome’s apex and the entry door are the only natural sources of light in the interior. Throughout the day, the light from the oculus moves around this space in a reverse sundial effect. I thought it was fascinating that Michelangelo came here to study the dome before beginning work on St. Peter’s Basilica later in life. Aside from the dome, circles and squares form the unifying theme of the interior design. The checkerboard floor pattern contrasts with the concentric circles of square coffers in the dome.
I spent longer in and around the Pantheon than I did even at the Colosseum and this is because of the interesting interiors and great photo opportunities within. I would even go so far as claiming the Pantheon was my absolute favourite place in Rome – and maybe one of the best places I saw in the whole of Italy! The admission was free and my visiting time late in the afternoon and into the evening was the best time to visit I think, as there were less tourists which gave me the opportunity to marvel at the Pantheon’s interior. The opulence reminded me of the neoclassical parts of the Louvre Museum in Paris; I don’t know why, but I almost felt I was going to see the Mona Lisa on the wall…