The Pantheon (UK: , US: ; Latin: Pantheum, from Greek Πάνθειον Pantheion, "[temple] of all the gods") is a former Roman temple and, since AD 609, a Catholic church (Basilica Santa Maria ad Martyres or Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs) in Rome, Italy. It was built on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – AD 14), then after that burnt down, the present building was ordered by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated c. AD 126. Its date of construction is uncertain, because Hadrian chose not to inscribe the new temple but rather to retain the inscription of Agrippa's older temple.

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The Pantheon (UK: , US: ; Latin: Pantheum, from Greek Πάνθειον Pantheion, "[temple] of all the gods") is a former Roman temple and, since AD 609, a Catholic church (Basilica Santa Maria ad Martyres or Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs) in Rome, Italy. It was built on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – AD 14), then after that burnt down, the present building was ordered by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated c. AD 126. Its date of construction is uncertain, because Hadrian chose not to inscribe the new temple but rather to retain the inscription of Agrippa's older temple.

The building is round in plan, except for the portico with large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43 metres (142 ft).

It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history. Since the 7th century, it has been a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs (Latin: Sancta Maria ad Martyres), known as "Santa Maria Rotonda". The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda. The Pantheon is a state property, managed by Italy's Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism through the Polo Museale del Lazio. In 2013, it was visited by over six million people.

The Pantheon's large circular domed cella, with a conventional temple portico front, was unique in Roman architecture. Nevertheless, it became a standard exemplar when classical styles were revived, and has been copied many times by later architects.

 Floor plan of the Pantheon from Georg Dehio/Gustav von Bezold: Kirchliche Baukunst des Abendlandes. Stuttgart: Verlag der Cotta'schen Buchhandlung 1887–1901.Ancient

In the aftermath of the Battle of Actium (31 BC), Marcus Agrippa started an impressive building program. The Pantheon was a part of the complex created by him on his own property in the Campus Martius in 29–19 BC, which included three buildings aligned from south to north: the Baths of Agrippa, the Basilica of Neptune, and the Pantheon.[1] It seems likely that the Pantheon and the Basilica of Neptune were Agrippa's sacra privata, not aedes publicae (public temples).[2] The former would help explain how the building could have so easily lost its original name and purpose (Ziolkowski contends that it was originally the Temple of Mars in Campo)[3] in such a relatively short period of time.[4]

It had long been thought that the current building was built by Agrippa, with later alterations undertaken, and this was in part because of the Latin inscription on the front of the temple[5] which reads:

 The Pantheon dome. The coffered dome has a central oculus as the main source of natural light.M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT

or in full, "M[arcus] Agrippa L[ucii] f[ilius] co[n]s[ul] tertium fecit," meaning "Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, made [this building] when consul for the third time."[6] However, archaeological excavations have shown that the Pantheon of Agrippa had been completely destroyed except for the façade. Lise Hetland argues that the present construction began in 114, under Trajan, four years after it was destroyed by fire for the second time (Oros. 7.12). She reexamined Herbert Bloch's 1959 paper, which is responsible for the commonly maintained Hadrianic date, and maintains that he should not have excluded all of the Trajanic-era bricks from his brick-stamp study. Her argument is particularly interesting in light of Heilmeyer's argument that, based on stylistic evidence, Apollodorus of Damascus, Trajan's architect, was the obvious architect.[7]

 View of the Pantheon in Rome, including the concrete dome

The form of Agrippa's Pantheon is debated. As a result of excavations in the late 19th century, archaeologist Rodolfo Lanciani concluded that Agrippa's Pantheon was oriented so that it faced south, in contrast with the current layout that faces north, and that it had a shortened T-shaped plan with the entrance at the base of the "T". This description was widely accepted until the late 20th century. While more recent archaeological diggings have suggested that Agrippa's building might have had a circular form with a triangular porch, and it might have also faced north, much like the later rebuildings, Ziolkowski complains that their conclusions were based entirely on surmise; according to him, they did not find any new datable material, yet they attributed everything they found to the Agrippan phase, failing to account for the fact that Domitian, known for his enthusiasm for building and known to have restored the Pantheon after 80 AD, might well have been responsible for everything they found. Ziolkowski argues that Lanciani's initial assessment is still supported by all of the finds to date, including theirs; he expresses scepticism because the building they describe, "a single building composed of a huge pronaos and a circular cella of the same diameter, linked by a relatively narrow and very short passage (much thinner than the current intermediate block), has no known parallels in classical architecture and would go against everything we know of Roman design principles in general and of Augustan architecture in particular."[8]

The only passages referring to the decoration of the Agrippan Pantheon written by an eyewitness are in Pliny the Elder's Natural History. From him we know that "the capitals, too, of the pillars, which were placed by M. Agrippa in the Pantheon, are made of Syracusan bronze",[9] that "the Pantheon of Agrippa has been decorated by Diogenes of Athens, and the Caryatides, by him, which form the columns of that temple, are looked upon as masterpieces of excellence: the same, too, with the statues that are placed upon the roof,"[10] and that one of Cleopatra's pearls was cut in half so that each half "might serve as pendants for the ears of Venus, in the Pantheon at Rome".[11]

The Augustan Pantheon was destroyed along with other buildings in a fire in 80 AD. Domitian rebuilt the Pantheon, which was burnt again in 110 AD.[12]

The degree to which the decorative scheme should be credited to Hadrian's architects is uncertain. Finished by Hadrian but not claimed as one of his works, it used the text of the original inscription on the new façade (a common practice in Hadrian's rebuilding projects all over Rome; the only building on which Hadrian put his own name was the Temple to the Deified Trajan).[13] How the building was actually used is not known. The Historia Augusta says that Hadrian dedicated the Pantheon (among other buildings) in the name of the original builder (Hadr. 19.10), but the current inscription could not be a copy of the original; it provides no information as to who Agrippa's foundation was dedicated to, and, in Ziolkowski's opinion, it was highly unlikely that in 25 BC Agrippa would have presented himself as "consul tertium." On coins, the same words, "M. Agrippa L.f cos. tertium", were the ones used to refer to him after his death; consul tertium serving as "a sort of posthumous cognomen ex virtute, a remembrance of the fact that, of all the men of his generation apart from Augustus himself, he was the only one to hold the consulship thrice."[14] Whatever the cause of the alteration of the inscription might have been, the new inscription reflects the fact that there was a change in the building's purpose.[15]

Cassius Dio, a Graeco-Roman senator, consul and author of a comprehensive History of Rome, writing approximately 75 years after the Pantheon's reconstruction, mistakenly attributed the domed building to Agrippa rather than Hadrian. Dio appears to be the only near-contemporaneous writer to mention the Pantheon. Even by 200, there was uncertainty about the origin of the building and its purpose:

Agrippa finished the construction of the building called the Pantheon. It has this name, perhaps because it received among the images which decorated it the statues of many gods, including Mars and Venus; but my own opinion of the name is that, because of its vaulted roof, it resembles the heavens.

— Cassius Dio History of Rome 53.27.2

In 202, the building was repaired by the joint emperors Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla (fully Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), for which there is another, smaller inscription on the architrave of the façade, under the aforementioned larger text.[16][17] This now-barely legible inscription reads:


In English, this means:

Emp[eror] Caes[ar] L[ucius] Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax, victorious in Arabia, victor of Adiabene, the greatest victor in Parthia, Pontif[ex] Max[imus], 10 times tribune, 11 times proclaimed emperor, three times consul, P[ater] P[atriae], proconsul, and Emp[eror] Caes[ar] M[arcus] Aurelius Antoninus Pius Felix Aug[ustus], five times tribune, consul, proconsul, have carefully restored the Pantheon ruined by age.[18]Medieval  An 1836 view of the Pantheon by Jakob Alt, showing twin bell towers, in place from early 17th to late 19th centuries

In 609, the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface IV, who converted it into a Christian church and consecrated it to St. Mary and the Martyrs on 13 May 609: "Another Pope, Boniface, asked the same [Emperor Phocas, in Constantinople] to order that in the old temple called the Pantheon, after the pagan filth was removed, a church should be made, to the holy virgin Mary and all the martyrs, so that the commemoration of the saints would take place henceforth where not gods but demons were formerly worshipped."[19] Twenty-eight cartloads of holy relics of martyrs were said to have been removed from the catacombs and placed in a porphyry basin beneath the high altar.[20] On its consecration, Boniface placed an icon of the Mother of God as 'Panagia Hodegetria' (All Holy Directress) within the new sanctuary.[21]

The building's consecration as a church saved it from the abandonment, destruction, and the worst of the spoliation that befell the majority of ancient Rome's buildings during the early medieval period. However, Paul the Deacon records the spoliation of the building by the Emperor Constans II, who visited Rome in July 663:

Remaining at Rome twelve days he pulled down everything that in ancient times had been made of metal for the ornament of the city, to such an extent that he even stripped off the roof of the church [of the blessed Mary], which at one time was called the Pantheon, and had been founded in honour of all the gods and was now by the consent of the former rulers the place of all the martyrs; and he took away from there the bronze tiles and sent them with all the other ornaments to Constantinople.

Much fine external marble has been removed over the centuries – for example, capitals from some of the pilasters are in the British Museum.[22] Two columns were swallowed up in the medieval buildings that abutted the Pantheon on the east and were lost. In the early 17th century, Urban VIII Barberini tore away the bronze ceiling of the portico, and replaced the medieval campanile with the famous twin towers (often wrongly attributed to Bernini[23]) called "the ass's ears",[24] which were not removed until the late 19th century.[25] The only other loss has been the external sculptures, which adorned the pediment above Agrippa's inscription. The marble interior has largely survived, although with extensive restoration.

Renaissance  The interior of the Pantheon in the 18th century, painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini[26]

Since the Renaissance the Pantheon has been the site of several important burials. Among those buried there are the painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci, the composer Arcangelo Corelli, and the architect Baldassare Peruzzi. In the 15th century, the Pantheon was adorned with paintings: the best-known is the Annunciation by Melozzo da Forlì. Filippo Brunelleschi, among other architects, looked to the Pantheon as inspiration for their works.

Pope Urban VIII (1623 to 1644) ordered the bronze ceiling of the Pantheon's portico melted down. Most of the bronze was used to make bombards for the fortification of Castel Sant'Angelo, with the rest used by the Apostolic Camera for other works. It is also said that the bronze was used by Bernini in creating his famous baldachin above the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica, but, according to at least one expert, the Pope's accounts state that about 90% of the bronze was used for the cannon, and that the bronze for the baldachin came from Venice.[27] Concerning this, an anonymous contemporary Roman satirist quipped in a pasquinade (a publicly posted poem) that quod non fecerunt barbari fecerunt Barberini ("What the barbarians did not do the Barberinis [Urban VIII's family name] did").

In 1747, the broad frieze below the dome with its false windows was "restored," but bore little resemblance to the original. In the early decades of the 20th century, a piece of the original, as far as could be reconstructed from Renaissance drawings and paintings, was recreated in one of the panels.


Two kings of Italy are buried in the Pantheon: Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, as well as Umberto's Queen, Margherita. It was supposed to be the final resting place for the Monarchs of Italy of the House of Savoy, but the Monarchy was abolished in 1946 and the authorities have refused to grant burial to the former kings who died in exile (Victor Emmanuel III and Umberto II). The National Institute for the Honour Guard of the Royal Tombs of the Pantheon was originally chartered by the House of Savoy and subsequently operating with authorization of the Italian Republic, mounts as guards of honour in front of the royal tombs.[28]

The Pantheon is in use as a Catholic church, and as such, visitors are asked to keep an appropriate level of deference. Masses are celebrated there on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Weddings are also held there from time to time.

^ Dio, Cassius. "Roman History". p. 53.23.3. ^ Ziolkowski, Adam (1999). Lexicon topographicum urbis Romae 4. Rome: Quasar. pp. 55–56. ^ Ziolkowski, Adam (1994). "Was Agrippa's Pantheon the Temple of Mars 'In Campo'?". Papers of the British School at Rome. 62: 261–277. doi:10.1017/S0068246200010084. S2CID 191523665. ^ Ziolkowski, Adam (1994). "Was Agrippa's Pantheon the Temple of Mars 'In Campo'?". Papers of the British School at Rome. 62: 275. doi:10.1017/S0068246200010084. S2CID 191523665. ^ Thomas 1997, p. 165 ^ "Pantheon". Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2013. ^ Hetland, Lise (9–12 November 2006). Graßhoff, G; Heinzelmann, M; Wäfler, M (eds.). "Zur Datierung des Pantheon". The Pantheon in Rome: Contributions to the Conference. Bern. ^ Ziolkowski, Adam (9–12 November 2006). Graßhoff, G; Heinzelmann, M; Wäfler, M (eds.). "What did Agrippa's Pantheon Look like? New Answers to an Old Question". The Pantheon in Rome: Contributions to the Conference. Bern: 31–34. ^ Pliny, The Elder. "The Natural History". p. 34.7. ^ Pliny, The Elder. "The Natural History". p. 36.4. ^ Pliny, The Elder. "The Natural History". p. 9.58. ^ Kleiner 2007, p. 182 ^ Ramage & Ramage 2009, p. 236 ^ Ziolkowski, Adam (9–12 November 2006). Graßhoff, G; Heinzelmann, M; Wäfler, M (eds.). "What did Agrippa's Pantheon Look like? New Answers to an Old Question". The Pantheon in Rome: Contributions to the Conference. Bern: 39. ^ Ziolkowski, Adam (2007). Leone; Palombi; Walker (eds.). Res Bene Gestae: Ricerche di storia urbana su Roma antica in onore di Eva Margreta Steinby. Rome: Quasar. ^ Luigi Piale; Mariano Vasi (1851). New Guide of Rome and the Environs According to Vasi and Nibby: Containing a Description of the Monuments, Galleries, Churches [etc.] Carefully Revised and Enlarged, with an Account of the Latest Antiquarian Researches. L. Piale. p. 272. ^ Giuseppe Melchiorri (1834). Paolo Badalì (ed.). "Nuova guida metodica di Roma e suoi contorni – Parte Terza ("New Methodic Guide to Rome and Its Suburbs – Third Part")". Archivio viaggiatori italiani a roma e nel lazio – Istituto Nazionale Di Studi Romani (in Italian). Tuscia University. Archived from the original on 4 May 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2014. ^ Emmanuel Rodocanachi (1920). Les monuments antiques de Rome encore existants: les ponts, les murs, les voies, les aqueducs, les enceintes de Rome, les palais, les temples, les arcs (in French). Libr. Hachette. p. 192. ^ John the Deacon, Monumenta Germaniae Historia (1848) 7.8.20, quoted in MacDonald 1976, p. 139 ^ Popes Boniface III–VII (archived copy), accessed 11 April 2021 ^ Andrew J. Ekonomou. Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes. Lexington books, Toronto, 2007 ^ "British Museum Highlights". Archived from the original on 27 October 2015. ^ Mormando, Franco (2011). Bernini: His Life and His Rome. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-53851-8. Retrieved 3 January 2012. ^ DuTemple, Leslie A. (2003). The Pantheon. Minneapolis: Lerner Publns. p. 64. ISBN 978-0822503767. Retrieved 8 May 2011. bernini pantheon towers. ^ Marder 1991, p. 275 ^ "Another view of the interior by Panini (1735), Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna". Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. ^ "Pantheon, The ruins and excavations of ancient Rome". Rodolpho Lanciani. Archived from the original on 1 July 2007. ^ "Legislatura 14 Atto di Sindacato Ispettivo n° 4-08615". Senato della Republica (in Italian). Senate of Italy. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
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