Jan
14
2009

What is The Pantheon?

pantheon, rome - courtesy stanrandom - CC-BY

pantheon, rome - courtesy stanrandom - CC-BY

Michelangelo looked at everything with an artist’s eye and it was said he was not easily impressed. But when he first saw the Pantheon he claimed it of “angelic and not human design.” When he saw it, this classic Roman temple was already more than 1350 years old.  Another 500 years have passed since then.

In 120 AD, Hadrian began designing a Pantheon based on Greek temples and was far more elaborate than anything Rome had yet seen.

Hadrian said -  “My intentions had been that this sanctuary of All Gods should reproduce the likeness of the terrestrial globe and of the stellar sphere…The cupola…revealed the sky through a great hole at the center, showing alternately dark and blue. This temple, both open and mysteriously enclosed, was conceived as a solar quadrant. The hours would make their round on that caissoned ceiling so carefully polished by Greek artisans; the disk of daylight would rest suspended there like a shield of gold; rain would form its clear pool on the pavement below, prayers would rise like smoke toward that void where we place the gods.”

Hadrian once enthroned himself directly under the Pantheon’s roof opening.  He presented himself as a near-deity around whom not only the Roman Empire but the universe and the heavens obediently revolved.

Some still believe the Pantheon is divinely protected.

Until the 5th century, it was a temple dedicated to all the Roman gods. In 609, Emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface IV.   It was consecrated and dedicated to St. Mary and all the Christian martyrs, and renamed Santa Maria ad Martyres.

But whatever the reasons, divine protection, or not, the Pantheon is the only structure of its age that has successfully survived time and has come down to us, intact.

Like Michelangelo, we too can look at the Pantheon and say it looks more like the work of angels, not men.

For more information about ancient Rome

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