One of Italy’s most iconic sights is the Pantheon. There’s more to this Roman temple than its stunning beauty on postcards. One of our guides will take you to see the Pantheon in person, but here are 6 facts about Rome’s Pantheon and 6 reasons it is one of our favorite places to visit.
The Pantheon, a Christian church, is actually what it was for centuries
A nativity scene at the Pantheon, in the Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs. Is this not a pagan temple, or? It was once. (Learn more about that in a moment!) It was converted into a church in 609 A.D.
The Pantheon is one of the most well-preserved Roman buildings from antiquity.
It was preserved in remarkable condition largely because it was converted into a church. You can actually still see the building as it was when the Romans did. While some things may have changed (for example, there is now a Christian altar and frescos of saints), the building’s dimensions and much of its decoration has remained the exact same.
The Pantheon dome is the largest unreinforced concrete dome remaining in existence.
The Pantheon’s dome measures approximately 142 feet in circumference. It is larger than St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome. It is also completely unreinforced, there is no rebar! It is the largest concrete dome made without reinforcement in the world. It was constructed by the Romans in 125 A.D. and not later architects. Wow!
This isn’t the original Pantheon
That is correct. This Pantheon…is not the original! It’s still very ancient, but don’t be discouraged. It is actually the third version. The first was built around 27 B.C. and burned down. The second, which was built in the 1st Century A.D., also burnt down. This third one was built in 125 A.D. It survived fires later!
This, by the way, explains the strange inscription above the porch, “M*AGRIPPA*L*F*COS*TERTIVM*FECIT,” which stands for, in English, “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time, built this.” Agrippa was around in the 1st century B.C…. How is this possible? It’s possible because Agrippa did not build the third version, he only built the first. As the original founder, the inscription was added to show his appreciation.
We are still not certain who worshiped this god.
There is still a lot to be discovered about a building like the Pantheon. One major question? It is not clear what the Pantheon was used to do. It was probably a pagan temple. It is not clear what the temple was used for. Even Cassius Dio didn’t know what the Pantheon was used for, even though he wrote it 75 years ago. He wrote that “It is called this, possibly because it was decorated with images of many gods including Mars and Venus.” His History of Rome also stated that the name “It” has a vaulted roof which he thought resembles the heavens.
The tombs tell the story of a tragic engagement
Most people are aware that Raphael is buried in the church. Many people don’t realize that Maria Bibbiena is his fiancee and is also buried there. It’s tragic, even though it might sound sweet. Raphael was engaged to Maria in 1514, the niece of a powerful Cardinal. After six years of delaying marriage, he began a passionate affair with Maria, the niece of a powerful cardinal. Maria died shortly after. Raphael, just 37 years old, died shortly after.
We’d love to have you join us on one of our many walking tours around Rome if you are interested in more facts and stories. You can view our entire selection right.