Located in the heart of the historic centre of Rome, the Pantheon is without doubt one of the most famous monuments in the “Eternal City”. Why? This architectural masterpiece is the best preserved ancient building in the capital.
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💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
Want to know more about the history of Rome? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city (in English). It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
Are you looking for a hotel in Rome? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in Rome? Advice & recommendations
Are you planning your stay in Rome? Check out Captain Ulysses’ detailed article on the best things to do in the city: A Guide to Rome
Brief history of the Pantheon in Rome
The origins of the Pantheon
The history of the Pantheon began in 27 BC, when a first version of the building was built on the orders of the Consul Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, a close adviser to the Emperor Augustus.
But Agrippa’s Pantheon did not survive the test of time. It was damaged by fires in 80 AD and later in 110 AD.
Between 118 and 125 AD, the Emperor Hadrian had the Pantheon completely rebuilt according to a completely new plan. It is this second version of the temple that has survived the ages and is still standing today.
Hadrian’s Pantheon is an architectural gem and a testament to the incredible skill of Roman builders. Its dome – still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world – continues to amaze scholars.
The Emperor Hadrian nevertheless recognised Agrippa’s heritage and had his name inscribed on the entrance portico of the temple: M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIVM.FECIT (“Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time, had it built”).
Although the identity of the architect who oversaw the construction of the Pantheon remains unknown, rumour has it that Apollodorus of Damascus – who is said to have designed the Roman Forum as well as Trajan’s Market – may have been behind the monument’s innovative design.
A temple to all the gods
In ancient Greek, the word Πάνθειον (pantheion) arose from the combination of the words πᾶν (pan, ‘all’) and θεῖος (theíos, ‘divine’). The pantheon is therefore literally the temple of all the gods.
The Pantheon in Rome was dedicated to all the Roman pagan deities, and especially to Mars (Ares) and Venus (Aphrodite), the mythical ancestors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty (the Gens Iulia) to which Julius Caesar belonged.
From Roman temple to Catholic church
At the end of the 4th century A.D., pagan cults were banned in Rome: sacrifices were forbidden, as was going to pagan temples.
For nearly two centuries, the Pantheon was abandoned and plundered, particularly during the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in the 5th century.
In 608, the ancient temple, which until then had remained imperial property, was offered by the Byzantine emperor Phocas to Pope Boniface IV who had the Pantheon consecrated as a Christian church. The Roman temple became the Basilica of St. Mary of the Martyrs (Sancta Maria ad Martyres).
A place of burial
From the Renaissance onwards, the Pantheon became a burial place where emblematic figures from Roman history were buried.
The Pantheon is home to:
- the tombs of iconic artists: Raphael, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Perin del Vaga, Giovanni da Udine, Taddeo Zuccaro, Annibale Carracci, Arcangelo Corelli
- the remains (the heart) of a man of the cloth, Cardinal Ercole Consalvi
- the remains of Italian sovereigns: Victor Emmanuel II, his son Humbert I and his wife Margaret of Savoy.
Visiting the Pantheon in Rome
Rome’s Pantheon is an architectural gem that has survived the test of time and as stunning as ever, much to our delight. The Pantheon is the best preserved ancient building in the Italian capital and comprises:
- a pronaos: a vestibule that constitutes the entrance to the temple. It is composed of a portico with 16 Corinthian columns and topped by a triangular pediment. That’s is where you’ll find the inscription in homage to Agrippa.
- an intermediate building that materialises the transition between the pronaos and the rotunda. It is rectangular in shape.
- a rotunda: cylindrical in shape, it houses the cella (the worship room) surmounted by a huge dome 43.30 metres (141 ft) in diameter and pierced by an oculus.
The rotunda is of course the most spectacular architectural feature of Rome’s Pantheon.
The dome weighs some 4,535 tonnes! Its diameter is equal to the height of the rotunda, hence the impression of harmony that emanates from the building.
The dome is pierced at the top by a circular opening 8.7 metres (26.2 ft) in diameter: the oculus. It is the only source of direct light inside the Pantheon, which explains the chiaroscuro that reigns in the building.
In rainy weather, the oculus allows rainfall through the ceiling. The floor of the Pantheon – made of porphyry and granite slabs in geometric patterns – is therefore slightly sloped to allow water runoff. The centre of the rotunda is 30 centimetres higher than the edges of the building.
The niches around the rotunda originally housed statues of ancient deities. They’re now home to the tombs of illustrious figures such as the painter Raphael or King Victor-Emmanuel II.
🧐 Fun fact 🧐
The Pantheon and St Peter’s Basilica have quite a lot in common.
The Pantheon and St Peter’s Basilica have quite a lot in common. Michelangelo drew inspiration from the Pantheon to design the dome of St Peter’s Basilica… but he was unable to match the Roman temple: the Basilica’s dome is 42 metres (137.8 ft) in diametre while the Pantheon’s is 43.3 metres (141.1 ft) in diametre.
At the request of Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini), the bronze adorning the portico of the temple was requisitioned so that Bernini could create the baldachin of St. Peter’s Basilica, hence the famous maxim: “What the barbarians did not do, the Barberinis did”.
The basilica therefore owes a debt of gratitude to the old Roman temple!
Getting to the Pantheon
The Pantheon is located on the Campus Martius, northwest of the historic centre, a few steps from the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Navona and the Campo de’ Fiori.
The nearest metro station is Venezia on line D, a 10-minute walk away.
Bus lines 40, 60, 70, 71 and 492 also stop nearby.
Unlimited access to public transport is included in the Omnia Card and Roma Pass.
👉 More info: Omnia Card / Roma Pass
Opening hours of the Pantheon
The Panthéon is open from Monday to Saturday from 8.30am to 7.30pm (last entry at 7.15pm) and on Sunday from 9am to 6pm (last entry at 5.45pm).
Access to the Pantheon is free. If you don’t want to miss anything, Captain Ulysses recommends that you opt for the audio-guide, available on site or bookable online.
👉 More info: audio-guide for the Pantheon
If you prefer to visit the Roman Pantheon with an actual tour guide, Captain Ulysses recommends this guided tour of the famous monument.
This free guided tour of Rome also stops at the Pantheon. It is up to you how much you wish to tip the guide.
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in Rome!
👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions!
🛏️ Accommodation : to book your accommodation in Rome, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Booking:
– the best hostels
– the best affordable hotels
– the best mid-range hotels
– the best high-end hotels
🎟️ Activities: as for booking visits and tourist activities, Captain Ulysses recommends three websites: GetYourGuide , Tiqets and Civitatis. Guided tours, cruises, skip-the-line tickets, tourist activities… there’s plenty to choose from!
🎫 Citypass: if you are staying in Rome for several days, it may be worth investing in the Roma Pass or the Omnia Card . As well as entry to some of the capital’s most iconic sites, these passes include access to public transport.
🚐 Transfers: if you want to arrive in Rome serenely, you can book your transfer from the airport to the city centre in advance. A car will be waiting to take you to your accommodation in the city. For more information: transfers in Rome.
🚌 Local transport: Rome has a comprehensive public transport system: metro, bus and tram. Access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and the Omnia Card. If you wish, you can also opt for a hop-on hop-off bus tour which stops at all the top tourist attractions in Rome (audio guide included).
✈️ Flights and trains: to book your flights to Rome, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
For flights as well as trains and buses, the Captain recommends Omio.
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