This site is currently being built! I am sorry for the lack of pictures, but please read on!
Built during the 1st century AD by an unknown architect during the reign of Hadrian, the present structure was probably originally built as a temple for all the pagan gods. We do hear of it as being a law-court and a reception area for emperor Hadrian meeting his quests too. Some say that the rotunda of the building was once a Roman bath. Due to all this mystery, the Pantheon is often refered to as the Sphi nx of Rome. The visiter will probably not appreciate the constuction as much as the Flavian amphitheatre, but it is still a great masterpiece of enginneering and well worth a visit.
Most Roman and Greek temples at the time of the Pantheon's constuction, were large, colonnaded, rectangular enclosures with sanctuaries situated in their centres. The Pantheon was different. It was to consist of a large circular drum topped with a hemispherical dome. It is a masterpiece of both engineering and art---a lasting memory of Ancient Romeís might.
Work finished on the Pantheon in the 1st century AD. Neither the exact date of completion, nor the architect is known. After Romeís conversion to Catholicism, the Pantheon was made a Catholic Church. This didnít stop the Byzantine emperor, in a three-day visit to Rome, from claiming the Pantheonís bronze guided roof tiles as his own. Today, the Pantheon is the best preserved of all Romeís ancient buildings. Services are still held within it.
The best way to describe the composition of the Pantheon, would be for me to take you through some pictures of the structure:
The picture at the top of the page is of the Pantheon as seen from the outside. The portico which fronts the building is what remains of the original temple of Agrippa. The portico has three rows of eight pillars. The pillars are about 14 metres high. Note how the dome isnít very visible. The Pantheon was built to emphasise the inside of the dome and not the outside, although the once bronze guilded roof tiles of the dome might have stood out a little.
The picture underneath is of the round circular drum that supports the dome. Adytons (shrines built into the wall) can clearly be seen. These adytons would have allowed the concrete to air and therefore dry quicker. They also reduce the weight of the 6 metre thick drum so that the stress directed upon the foundation is reduced. Hidden gaps in the drum also help this. Note the beautiful pillars and pilasters, the capitals of which are in the Corinthian order. You may be able to spot the gradual sloping of the floor down to a central drain. I will explain why this has been done later.
The bottom picture is of the dome, as seen looking up from the center of the circular drum. The first thing that hits you is the 7.8 metre in radius, circular space at the middle of the dome. This space is known as the oculus and was the Pantheonís only source of light during ancient times. Some say that the oculus represents the sun at the centre of the universe. Any rain that comes through the oculus will drain away, due to the gradual slope of the floor into a central drain. Is there anything the Romans didnít think of?
A Roman Vision
The Pantheon was the second dome in the entire world to have been built. The first dome to have ever been built was only about 10 metres in diameter. The Pantheon was to be 43 metres in diameter! To make their dream possible, the great Roman engineers had to really perfect their design. To do this, they decided upon the following:
The Pantheon was to have a huge, solid foundation
The Pantheon dome was to get thinner, the closer to the oculus it got
The Pantheon dome was to be built out of light concrete made out of pumice stone
The dome was to be covered in coffers. These coffers would reduce the weight of the dome
These coffers were to get smaller, the closer to the oculus they got. This would exaggerate the height of the dome
Hidden spaces were to inserted into the circular drum, thus reducing the stress on the foudations.
Brick arches were to be inserted into the circular drum of the dome. These arches would direct the weight of the dome to the foundations. These arches are visible today.
And all this they did. And successfully!!!
Other great domes
Many great domes were to follow. The first dome to be situated onto a square base was that of the Hagia Sophia church in Constantinople (Byzantine 6th centuary dome).