Pantheon: Peak of Ancient Monumentality

Perhaps this is the most impressive building among all the works left to us from the ancient Roman Empire. Although it is always written in history books how great and useful this empire was, we are talking about a structure that can make this effect felt. Are you ready to get to know the Pantheon, which surprises its visitors even today with its aesthetic understanding, splendor, construction technique, briefly everything? So let’s take you on a short ancient journey. 

Third Pantheon

Today, one of the world’s most famous buildings is located in Rotonda Square in Rome, Italy. This is the Pantheon, built as a show of strength in the golden age of the famous Ancient Roman Empire. This temple, which was renamed Santa Maria Rotonda after Rome accepted Christianity, is the third monumental structure built on the same land.

The first temple was built in 27 BC and destroyed by a fire. A lightning strike destroyed the second one, and today’s Pantheon, which would deeply affect the history of modern architecture, was built in 126 AD. The building, whose construction started with Emperor Hadrian’s order, is the world’s first monumental dome. It also revolutionized the use of concrete and reminded modern people how advanced ancient construction techniques can be.

Temple of All Gods

Although the Pantheon is used as a church today, the Roman Empire did not accept Christianity when it was first built. The influence of Greek culture was still visible in ancient Rome, and the same polytheistic belief prevailed. For this reason, a building to be built to represent the power of the empire had, of course, to be attributed to these gods.

As a result, Emperor Hadrian, an engineer, and other Roman engineers and architects came together and developed a complex construction technique. They aimed to build a temple that would satisfy the gods and befitting this state’s power with its greatly expanded borders. 

This technique, which has kept the Pantheon safely standing for 2000 years, is also the technique that gives us its breathtaking dome. To build such a large dome under that period’s conditions, it was necessary to create a complex arch system. This system is not clear today from inside or outside the Pantheon. Because it is skillfully hidden inside the walls with a thickness of 6 meters in places. The impressive dome is located inside the shell of this wall. This is why the Pantheon feels its true glory when you enter it. A visitor who sees the Pantheon without seeing the dome can easily think that it is at the entrance to a classical Ancient Roman temple.

Inside the Pantheon

The Pantheon does not show its glory to everyone. Those passing by or walking around presents images that vary between a huge wall and an ordinary temple entrance. One must step inside to appreciate the genius behind it.

Its main entrance has a columned design that reflects the classical Ancient Roman architectural temple concept. After this entrance, the main space in the shape of an almost perfect sphere welcomes the visitors. The diameter of the dome is 43 meters, and its height from the ground is 44 meters. This dome has the distinction of being the widest dome in the world in its time. It held the Ancient World record for almost 400 years until the Pantheon, and Hagia Sophia’s domes were built higher than it later.

The Pantheon is strong enough to prove the Roman Empire’s power even with its impressive dimensions alone. The reason why the visitors who enter the Pantheon today are almost struck by lightning is nothing more than the understanding that people who lacked all kinds of modern technology and facilities managed to build such gigantic structures 2000 years before them. The Pantheon is indeed a building that revolutionized concrete and had a profound impact on the history of architecture. The visuality engraved in humanity’s memory is so sharp that you can see the effects even in the famous Thomas Jefferson Monument today.

You can see the ancient antecedents of modern reinforced concrete techniques in the pantheon’s dome. One of these techniques is tape application. These modules, which give a pleasant aesthetic appearance to the dome, actually reduce the dome’s weight without distorting its form and, on the other hand, transfer the weight to the side walls.

The Pantheon dome is known for its opening right in the center called the Oculus. In fact, oculus is a term frequently used in Roman architecture. One can use it in residential buildings and temples. Oculus provides natural light to the building. Simultaneously, rainwater accumulates in the pools located just below the “oculus” in ancient houses. Thus, households can use this water for different purposes. In this sense, Oculus is a well-known element of classical Roman architecture. This Oculus’s lighting, whose massive Pantheon is only 3 meters in diameter, is quite surprising and impressive.

It is said that when the Pantheon was first built, there were stones and ornaments brought from all over the Empire. Besides, statues of many gods and goddesses were placed in the niches in the Pantheon walls. These fine decorations were destroyed by being looted or moved to different churches when the Pantheon was left neglected. After the Roman Empire accepted Christianity, the sculptures inside the Pantheon were removed.

For 2000 years, the Pantheon has seen dozens of wars, natural disasters, and looting. What makes it so impressive is that all of them came out harmless. Moreover, quite surprisingly, compared to historical artifacts of his age, it has reached the present day quite close to its original form. Therefore, the Pantheon is one of the most impressive architectural works of both the ancient and modern worlds.

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