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Rome Fun Facts: The Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of Rome’s most iconic monuments, perhaps second only to the Colosseum.

As with so many structures from antiquity, the Pantheon’s use has evolved from pagan to Christian and beyond.  It is one of the best-preserved buildings in Rome from ancient times, thanks to being converted to a church in 608.

Facts about the Pantheon are available all over, so we’ve scoured a variety of sources to come up with the funnest of the fun!

Fun Facts About The Pantheon in Rome

The Pantheon
s Origins and History

  • The Latin inscription on the pediment of the Pantheon says “Marcus Agrippa built this” but… he actually didn’t!  The Pantheon we admire today was built by the Emperor Hadrian, who had the prominent inscription placed in homage to Agrippa.  The first Pantheon, built by Agrippa a couple centuries prior, burned to the ground.
  • Not only did Agrippa’s original Pantheon burn to the ground, so did the second one!   The Pantheon still standing is number three.  Third time’s a charm, right?
  • The Pantheon is a bona fied Catholic church and its name is the basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres (St. Mary and Martyrs).
  • Over its 2,000 years of existence the Pantheon has been a pagan temple, a Christian church, a shrine of two Italian kings, and the resting place of various artists, most notably Renaissance painter Rafael.
  • According to popular belief the Pantheon was a smorgasbord-temple of divinities, a place where Romans could worship their god of choice (“Pantheon” coming from Greek and meaning “all the gods”) but scholars are now debating this, seeing as pagan gods were not keen to share their sacred space with other deities.

The Columns and the Pantheons Portico

  • The columns on the portico came from Egypt and weigh 60 tons EACH.  Imagine that on your front porch!
  • The gargantuan columns were dragged to Rome from the port of Ostia on rollers and hoisted into place by elephants.
  • In the 17th Century, the bronze from the portico was removed and melted down to make 80 cannons for Castel Sant’Angelo.

The Dome of the Pantheon

  • The dome of the Pantheon was the inspiration for Brunelleschi’s genius dome of the cathedral in Florence.
  • No one really knows how the Pantheon’s amazing dome was constructed.
  • The walls supporting the dome are 6 meters thick.  That’s almost 20 feet!
  • The dome is the world’s largest concrete dome without reinforcement.  Not bad after 2,000 years, eh?  Those Romans knew how to make cement!
  • If the dome were doubled to form a sphere inside the Pantheon it would perfectly fill the vertical space.  In other words, the height of the interior is the same as the diameter of the dome (43.2 meters).
  • There are 28 coffers (quadratic indentations) in each of the 5 rows decorating the dome, and this quantity may very well not be random.  In antiquity, 28 was considered one of the four “perfect” numbers — where the sum of its factors equals the number. Pythagoras believed that these perfect numbers (the others being 6, 496, and 8128) expressed harmony with the cosmos. 
  • This union with the cosmos can be further seen by the sun and the moon shining in through the oculus at the top of the dome and traveling across the interior of the Pantheon, as well as by the seven niches lining the interior of the rotunda, which may have corresponded to the seven celestial bodies that were known in ancient Roman times.

The Oculus of the Pantheon

  • The oculus — the circular opening at the top of the dome — is huge, 9.1 meters (30 feet) in diameter.  You could lower a London double-decker bus through the oculus and it would have a good foot on each side to spare!
  • When it rains outside, it rains inside the Pantheon!  But not to worry, the sloping floor is the basis of a clever rainwater collection system with 22 camouflaged holes.

    Whew!  It’s a mouthful of facts but we hope you found them fun.

    To fully geek-out on historical and structural facts about the Pantheon:

    DriverInRome would be pleased to chauffeur you around Rome with a private car and driver, or arrange a licensed guide just for your group.  Please contact us regarding popular or custom itineraries.

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