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The Pantheon, an ancient record holder

Architectural Insight

  • The almost 2000-year-old Pantheon, one of the few ancient Roman structures still standing to its original glory, is a true testament.

  • The spectacular design, proportions, elegance, and harmony are a striking reminder of the architecture of the great Roman Empire.

  • When Michelangelo saw this wonder for the first time he said: "It looks more like the work of angels, not humans".

The Pantheon

Build originally as a temple to all gods as its name suggests, " Pantheon" that translates to "All gods" in Greek. It is a bit of a mystery how it managed to successfully survive the damage of time and gravity, including barbarian raids.

Being one of the best-preserved Ancient Roman monuments it was turned into a church in 609 AD. The structure itself was way ahead of its time. In fact, the exact composition of the material is still unknown and appears structurally similar to modern-day concrete.

Pantheon cross-section drawing

The most fascinating part of the Pantheon is its giant dome, with its famous hole in the top (The eye of the Pantheon, or oculus). The dome was the largest in the world for 1300 years and until today it remains the largest unsupported dome in the world!

The diameter of the dome is 43.30 meters (142 ft) and it is in perfect proportion in fact that the distance from the floor to the top of the dome is exactly equal to its diameter.

Pantheon 3D model
Pantheon 3D model

The great architectural achievement was due to the massive weight of the large dome. Roman engineers lightened the dome as much as possible; not only its thickness progressively decreases, but the materials used in the upper part of the dome were lighter.

The decrease in thickness has the effect that while the interior of the ceiling is spherical and its exterior is slightly “flattened”. It is larger than the dome of St. Peter’s basilica but since it seems flattened from the outside it is hard to get a full sense of its dimension.

Pantheon cross-section drawing

▶︎A lighting effect can be viewed on April 21 when the midday sun strikes a metal grille above the doorway, saturating the courtyard outside with light. The Romans celebrated April 21 as the founding date of the city.

▶︎The impressive sight of their Emperor standing at the entrance of the Pantheon surrounded by the light coming from inside the pantheon might have been seen as something that, in effect, raised their emperor to the level of the gods and invited him in to join them.

▶︎The 16 massive Corinthian columns supporting the portico weigh 60 tons each. They are 11.8 m tall, 1.5 m in diameter and brought all the way from Egypt.


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