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THE PANTHEON IN ROME

PLACES THAT YOU SHOULD VISIT

The PANTHEON, a glory of the Eternal City, is the most perfect of all classical monuments in Rome. The inscription on the architrave of the portico «M. Agrippa L. F. Cos tertium fecit» refers to a temple erected by Agrippa in 27 B.C. to the tutelary divinities of the Julia Family. For a long time, it was thought that the Pantheon, as it is today, was the original temple of Agrippa. In reality Agrippa's building was destroyed by a great fire in A.D. 80. Recent studies have proved that the present Pantheon is a reconstruction of the time of Hadrian. Other alterations were made at the time of Septimius Severus and of Caracalla. On the 6th March 609, Boniface IV, with the permission of Emperor Phocas, changed the pagan temple into a Christian church dedicating it to St. Mary of the Martyrs. It is to this fact we owe the preservation of the Pantheon. The bodies of many martyrs were removed from the Catacombs to be buried here. As a sanctuary, in virtue of the Lateran Pact, it acquired the status of palatine basilica or, in otlier words, of the national church of all Italians. The porfico is supported by 16 monolithic granite columns; in the tympanum there was a basrelief in bronze representing the battle of gods and giants. The ceiling of the portico was covered with bronze. This precious material, weighing about 450.000 lbs, was removed by order of Urban VIII (1623 1644) and used by Bernini for the high altar at St. Peter's and other works. It was precisely the removal of the bronze from the ceiling, which inspired Pasquino, the famous «talking statue», to make the «pasquinade» or quip: «What the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did»! In the two niches, statues of Augustus and Agrippa once stood. The bronze doors are original. The interior measures 43, 40 metres in diametre, and the same in height. Light and air still enter through the opening at the top (a circle of 8m. 92cms in diameter, which still retains part of the original bronze covered rim) Heaven itself seems to pour into this temple left open so that prayers could freely ascend. All this gives an impression of unequalled solemnity: its simple regularity, the beauty of its proportions and the splendid materials used, combine to make the interior sublime. The solemn dome is in fact a cap, whose thickness gradually dimishes from the bottom to the top. All around are seven niches. In the centre stood the statue of Jove Ultor who punished the assassins of Caesar; in the others were statues of the chief divinities. Other gods and heroes were in the intermediary spaces. Only the splendid columns of antique yellow marble remain to give us an idea of its primitive splendour. Sovereigns and artists have their tombs in the Pantheon: in the first chapel to the left repose the remains of Perin dei Vaga (1500 1547), considered second only to Giulio Romano among Raphael's pupils. Next is the tomb of Baldassarre Peruzzi (14811536), a great painter and architect. In the second chapel are the tombs of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita. Between the second and third chapels, the tomb that contains the earthly remains of Raphael, one of the most popular artists in the world, whose epigraph says: «Living, great Nature feared he might outlive her works; and dying, fears herself to die». The Statue of the Madonna is the work of his pupil Lorenzetto. Close by is the tomb of Maria Bibbiena, his promised wife, who died three months before him. Above is the tomb of Annibale Caracci. In the third chapel we see the Cenotaph of Cardinal Consalvi (1755 1824) an exquisite work by Thorwaldsen. In the sixth chapel, is the tomb of Victor Emanuel 11. On the altar of the seventh chapel, a fresco of the Annunciation, by Melozzo da Forlì. A stone's throw away in the Via della Scrofa, is the Church of St. Louis of the French, the national church of the French in Rome. The late Renaissance facade is by Giacomo della Porta.
Inside, there are superb frescoes by Domenichino in the «Chapel of S. Cecilia», and on the altar is a copy by Guido Reni of St. Cecilia by Raphael, whose original is in Bologna. Without a doubt, this church's crns are the wonderful Caravaggio paintings of the life of Saint Matthew which were hung here in the St. Matthew chapel in 1600. The neighbouring Palazzo Madama, so called because Margherita Farnese, daughter of Charles V, lived here, houses the Senate of the Italian Republic. Frescoes and fine stuccoes by Maccari and his pupils adorn it. Noteworthy: the blind senator Appius Claudius refusing the peace proposals of Cineas, a messenger of King Pyrrhus; the departure from Ostia of Attilius Regulus for Carthage, where he will meet with torture and death; the solemn assembly of the Roman Senate in the Temple of Concordia to hear the last «Catilinaria» of Cicero.

 
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