The Pantheon, standing in the heart of Rome, is a masterpiece of ancient engineering and a monument to the Roman Empire's architectural prowess. Its name, derived from the Greek words 'pan' (all) and 'theos' (god), hints at its original purpose as a temple to all the gods. The Pantheon's remarkable preservation allows it to echo through history, a witness to nearly two millennia of change.
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The original Pantheon was constructed in 27-25 BCE during the reign of Augustus, but it was destroyed in a fire. The structure we see today was built on the same site by Emperor Hadrian around 125 CE. Unlike other Roman temples, the Pantheon's design is unique. Its most striking feature is the enormous dome, made from concrete and spanning 43.3 meters (142 feet) in diameter, with a central opening or "oculus" that allows natural light to illuminate the interior.
The construction of the dome remains an engineering marvel. The Romans used a series of progressively lighter materials and incorporated hidden chambers within the dome's thickness to reduce its weight.
The Pantheon was dedicated to the worship of every god in the Roman pantheon. The niches in its interior walls once housed statues representing various deities. A famous story tells of how the architect designed the oculus to symbolize the eye of the heavens, providing a direct link between the earth and the divine. Rainwater, occasionally entering through the oculus, was said to symbolize divine blessing.
Throughout the centuries, the Pantheon has also served as a tomb. It houses the remains of notable individuals, including the artist Raphael and two Italian kings. Furthermore, the building has been a site for scientific inspiration. The famous scientist Galileo is known to have studied the oculus to understand the celestial spheres.
Today, the Pantheon remains an active place of worship and a prominent tourist attraction. Its design has influenced numerous buildings worldwide, reflecting a legacy that transcends its origins.
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