The Pantheon is one of the Top 10 tourist attractions of Rome and one of the city’s best preserved monuments. Although it started its existence as a pagan temple dedicated to all the Gods it is at present a Catholic church and officially called Santa Maria ad Martyres. It has survived virtually unaltered since it was erected in the 2nd century AD. The structure of its domed interior is unique.
Opening hours: 8.30 AM till 7.30PM (Sundays: 9AM till 6PM; holidays: 9AM till 1PM). Closed: January 1, May, December 25. Admission: Free. Address: Piazza della Rotonda – 00186 Rome. Phone: +39 0668300230. Bus lines: 30, 46, 62, 63, 64, 70, 81, 87, 116, 119, 130F, 186, 190F, 492, 57 (stop: Largo Argentina). (Note that the Green Pass is mandatory during the Covid-crisis.)
Pantheon history and description
The facade of the Pantheon faces the south side of the Piazza della Rotonda.
The very first version of the Pantheon was constructed by Agrippa, in the year 27 BC. Agrippa was both the advisor and son-in-law of the Emperor Augustus. At the time it was only meant to be a temple dedicated to Mars and Venus, the protective Gods of the family Julius. At the time the entrance was on the southern side.
There is not much left of the original temple and Hadrian had to have it rebuilt (by the architect Apollodorus of Damascus) almost from scratch between the years 118 and 125 AD. The famous cupola stems from this period.
Hadrian was rather humble for an Emperor and, not being in the habit of having his name inscribed on the buildings he commissioned, he had Agrippa‘s put on the church’s facade.
The Emperor Severius ordered some restorations in the beginning of the 3rd century, but after that the Pantheon was more or less left to itself.
In 608 the Byzantine Emperor Foca donated the building to pope Bonifacius IV, who transformed it into the Santa Maria ad Marytres church.
In 1625 pope Urban VIII took the bronze parts of the Pantheon‘s portico and used them for the four columns supporting Bernini’s baldachino in Saint Peter’s Basilica and also for the 80 cannons of the Castel Sant’Angelo.
In 1870 the Pantheon became the official shrine of the Italian kingdom and Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I and Margherita di Savoia were buried in the monument. Another VIP having been laid to rest in the Pantheon is the artist Raphael.
The name signifies “Temple of all the Gods” and it was meant as Hadrian‘s gift to all the people of the Roman Empire.
In the 17th century, two towers were built to decorate the top of the Pantheon. The Romans were not too happy with this and nicknamed them “asses’ ears”. Initially it was thought that Bernini had added the towers, but later it has come to light that Maderno and Borromini were the culprits. The towers were removed in 1892.
The structure of the enormous dome is unique and has served as an inspiration for many famous architects. One of these is Giovanni Scalfarotto, who based the design of his San Simeone Piccolo Church in Venice on that of the Pantheon.
Thanks to inscriptions on the bricks and walls of the Pantheon it has been relatively easy to understand who was responsible for which restorations and modifications of the building.
Highlights and Tourist Attractions Pantheon
Monarchist volunteers protect the tombs of the kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I (and the latter’s wife), who are buried in the Pantheon.
The artist Raphael is also buried in the monument, as are Annibale Caracci and Baldassare Peruzzi.
The bas-reliefs on the tympan portray the war between the Gods and the Giants.
Melozzo da Forli painted the fresco L’Annunziazione in the first chapel on the right.
Tourist Attractions near the Pantheon
The fountain in front of the Pantheon was designed by Giacomo della Porta.
Address and opening hours
The address of the Pantheon is Piazza della Rotonda – 00186 Rome (tel. +39 06 68300230). Bus lines: 30, 46, 62, 63, 64, 70, 81, 87, 116, 119, 130F, 186, 190F, 492, 57 (stop: Largo Argentina).