In a capital blessed with a wealth of world-famous architecture, this 2,000-year-old temple stands as one of the greatest monuments to the power and ambition of the Roman Empire.
Although originally built in the 1st century B.C. under the auspices of Roman general Marcus Agrippa, the Pantheon we see today was actually laid out in the year 126 by famous Roman emperor Hadrian. Despite this, the inscription across its facade credits its first commissioner, reading “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, made this building when consul for the third time.”
Famed for its portico of eight striking granite Corinthian columns, with another eight behind — all supporting a vast triangular pediment — the main temple building is actually a rotunda, topped with what remains the largest non-reinforced concrete dome on earth. The diameter of the rotunda is 142 feet (43 meters) and its height from checkerboard marble floor to lofty dome apex is exactly the same. While the dome above is the feature that gains the most attention, take time to look down at the floor, unchanged since Roman times.
First built as a temple to the Ancient Roman gods (a translation of “pantheon” is “for all gods”), the structure has been used as a Roman Catholic church since the early 7th century. This Christian conversion had an enormous influence on the interior decor of the structure. From the many Renaissance masterpieces now adorning the curved walls of the rotunda to all the noteworthy Christians buried in its tomb (including Italian king Umberto I and famous artist Raphael), the Pantheon beautifully brings together Roman mythology and Christian dogma.
With millions of tourists exploring the far-from-spacious monument every single year, expect lines stretching across Piazza della Rotonda every day. However long it takes, there is no doubt that the Pantheon is worth the wait.
The Pantheon is in central Rome and is open seven days a week. As the streets in the area are too narrow for buses, the best way to get to the Pantheon is by taxi or on foot. Some buses do get fairly close if you are up for a short walk.