WHAT DOES THE INSCRIPTION ON THE PORTICO MEAN?
“Marcus Agrippa Luci filius consul tertium fecit” translates as “Marco Agrippa, son of Lucio, consulate for the third time, built”.
DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE NAME PANTHEON COMES FROM?
Yes it does! Rain comes in through the oculus, a hole of almost nine meters in diameter, at the top of the cupola. The floor is slightly convex with 22 drainage holes that allow the rain to filter through.
WHAT DOES: "QUELLO CHE NON HANNO FATTO I BARBARI LO HA FATTO BARBERINI" MEAN?
It means, “What the barbarians didn’t do, Barberini did for them.” The Romans did not appreciate that Pope Urban VIII and Barberini removed the bronze coatings from the porch of the Pantheon to create the canopy for the altar of the Basilica of St. Peter’s in the Vatican City, and also forged numerous cannons for the Sant’Angelo Castle. Barberini’s name was thus forever linked to a popular saying: quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini: what the barbarians didn’t do, the Barberinis did for them. Even today this expression is still used by locals.
FROM BRONZE TO LEAD: THE ASPECT OF THE CUPOLA CHANGES
The outside of the cupola was entirely covered with gilded bronze panels laid in scales. However, in 655, the Oriental Emperor Constantine I had them taken away to be used as molten bronze. The sole exception are the ones surrounding the oculi which you can still observe today. During the 8th century, the cap was again ornamented with metal, but this time with lead. The original bronze frame of the Pantheon is still in place. There is an inscription on one of the lead panels on the cupola that recalls the restoration work on the lead cover carried out by Pope Niccolò 5th (1328-1330) and Pope Gregory 16th (1831-1846).
IS THE PANTHEON LIKE A SOLAR TEMPLE?
When we are inside the Pantheon on a sunny day we can see a large disc of light playing over the vault and walls. The course of the sun in the sky causes this light inside the building to behave differently every day of the year, but the same pattern is repeated every year on that same day. At the winter solstice the disc of sunlight entering through the oculus at midday strikes the highest caisson. At the Spring and Autumn equinoxes the sunlight strikes the cornice marking the lower edge of the caissons, and at the summer solstice it illuminates the visitor at the entrance. The light striking in a zenith direction has a special mystical meaning and symbolises a direct connection between the gods and men, without any religious intermediaries. The ray of light that enters from the oculus in the centre of the cupola moves according to the time of day and transforms the Pantheon into an astrological observatory to all the Gods.
CIRCLES, SYMBOL OF PERFECTION
An architectural miracle would make the Pantheon a perfect sphere because its height is equal to its diameter: 43 m and 44 cm by 43 m and 44 cm. Balance and stability are the principles followed by the ancient architects. And, in the Pantheon, they are summarized by the harmony of the lines and the perfect calculation of the geometries of the masses.
DONKEY'S EARS IN THE PANTHEON
Apparently the Romans didn't like the two bell towers that were built at the sides of the front of the Pantheon during the Baroque period. They called them "donkey's ears". According to them they were in contrast with the classical architecture that characterized the whole building. The bell towers were removed during the Unity of Italy.
“THE MOST BEAUTIFUL RELIC FROM ANCIENT ROME”
“The beauty of the Pantheon has always struck people both in the past and the present. When the 18th century French writer Stendhal saw it for the first time he described it with the following words: “The most beautiful relic of ancient Rome, a temple so well preserved that it appears as the Romans must have seen it in their times.”