History, Structure, and Architectural Aspects of the Pantheon

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The Pantheon

The Pantheon in Rome is the best-preserved Roman architectural structure on earth. It has survived twenty centuries of pillage and invasion, and continues to withstand the pollution of everyday locals and tourists. Marcus Agrippa, the son-in-law of the first Roman emperor Augustus, first built the Pantheon in 27-25 BCE to commemorate the victory of Actium over Antony and Cleopatra. However, after a fire destroyed the original in 80 CE, it was rebuilt by Domitian, only to be replaced circa 118-128 CE by emperor Hadrian. This paper will explore the history of the Pantheon, its structure, and many of its architectural aspects.

When emperor Hadrian rebuilt the Pantheon, it was dedicated as a temple for all the gods of Ancient Rome. The temple was later maintained and refurbished by emperors Septimus Severus and Caracalla between 193-217 CE. Throughout the two centuries in which the Pantheon was functioning as a temple to the gods, rituals such as animal sacrifice were common. Animals would be sacrificed in the middle of the rotunda, and then burned, with the smoke escaping through the oculus above. The Pantheon became abandoned for sometime after Christianity replaced paganism in Rome, and was put into use again after a decree in 408 CE stated temples were to be reopened and used for secular purposes. After officially being reopened in 609 CE after Byzantine emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface IV, it was consecrated as a Christian church. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the martyrs, which is how it got the name Santa Maria ad Martyres.

The structure of the Pantheon is quite unique. It is made up of three main parts, the entrance portico, the circular domed rotunda, and a connection between these two. The portico consists of 16 massive granite Corinthian order columns, each weighing 60 tons, which support a pediment at the top. The main entrance into the rotunda is through double bronze doors 21 feet high that were...
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