The Pantheon in Rome is one of the most famous and well-preserved ancient buildings in the world.
History of the Pantheon
Originally built by Marcus Agrippa in 25 BC, the Pantheon served as a temple to the many gods of Rome. The original Pantheon was destroyed by the great fire of 80 AD and the structure which stands today was completed around 125 AD during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian – although the building has retained Agrippa’s original inscription.
In 609 AD the Pantheon was converted to a Church (officially known as the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres) and this helped preserve the building from the destruction of later times, although the gilded bronze roof tiles and other bronze was removed to be used in Bernini’s designs for St Peter’s Basilica.
In the Middle Ages the Pantheon was also used as a burial chamber for notable figures like Raphael and even Italian kings. Its famous dome was much studied in the Renaissance as architects sought to replicate similar freestanding domes elsewhere in Italy and was used an an architectural blueprint for millennia.
The Pantheon today
One of the most iconic and awe-inspiring buildings of the ancient world, the Pantheon is free to visit today – it’s closed for Mass on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings. If you’re interested, it’s worth hiring an audio guide at a small cost in order to fully immerse yourself in the site’s history.
Walking in to the Pantheon is still a gasp-worthy moment: 2,000 years old, it remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built and the shaft of light that streams in illuminating the tombs below feels almost like a kind of divine light.
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants in the vicinity if you want to grab refreshments or a bite to eat. It’s also normally wonderfully cool inside, even on a hot day.
Getting to the Pantheon
The Pantheon is in central Rome on the Piazza della Rotonda. The nearest metro station is Barberini, a 15 minute walk away and buses stop 5 minutes away on the Corso del Rinascimento. It’s walking distance from the Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain.
A guide to the very best Ancient Roman sites in Italy, featuring the infamous Pantheon and Colosseum in Rome to Herculaneum on the stunning Amalfi Coast.