One of my all time favorite buildings in Rome is the Pantheon. It’s not huge, it’s not flashy or complicated, it’s basically just one big round room, but there is something about it that I find really special. Perhaps it’s the Pantheon’s age and history. Built around AD125 by the emperor Hadrian, it’s been standing here ever since, watching Rome act out its dramatic and beautiful life. I love the fact that the Pantheon is such a feat of engineering. Its dome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world – and it was built two millennia ago! Until 1436 when the Florence Duomo was built, the Pantheon was the largest dome in the world. And in the middle of the dome is a hole – the oculus. The oculus provides all the light coming into the building, so you get this wonderful atmosphere inside.
There are no seats, it is just a big round space to wander around, from tombs to chapels on the curving walls. The floor is still the original Roman marble floor. I’m sure you’re not meant to, but I took off my shoes and felt the cool, ancient stone beneath my feet as I wandered. The Pantheon was built as a pagan temple to all gods, but was converted into a church in AD609. Another reason to love it is that it contains the tomb of Raphael, one of the great painters who changed the way we see art.
Standing inside you feel awed by its size. From outside on the Piazza della Rotonda you feel amazed by the huge portico columns brought all the way from Egypt. And walking around the back of the rough brick curved building you feel the labor of those who built it all those years ago. Actually, the Pantheon is one of my all time favorite buildings anywhere.