The Pantheon is one of the most iconic buildings in Rome, not an easy accolade to have considering the wealth of heritage sites within ‘the city of the seven hills’. The Pantheon was built on the site of an earlier building commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the rain of Augustus (27BC-14AD). The building that stands on the site today was completed by the Emperor Hadrian around 126AD, however he did retain Agrippa’s original inscription. During the time of Agrippa’s structure the Pantheon was rebuilt at least twice due to fire and it is hard to know the input Hadrian’s architects would have had on the building. What is quite telling though is that it is documented that Hadrian completed the building however it is not listed as one of his ‘works’.
In 609, the Byzantine emperor Phocas gifted the building to Pope Boniface IV who converted it into a Christian Church. To Pope Boniface this was an empathic victory, he ordered that, “the old temple called the Pantheon, after the pagan filth was removed, a church should be made”. This church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Martyrs (Sant Maria ad Martyres).
The Pantheon survived while many other ancient Roman buildings were destroyed during the medieval period. During the Renaissance the Pantheon became used as a tomb, the painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci are buried there. In the 17th century Pope Urban VIII ordered the bronze ceiling of the Pantheon’s portico to be melted down, using 90% of the bronze for a cannon at Castel Sant’Angelo. This was a controversial move at the time and most aptly noted by a Roman satirist of the era ‘quod non fecerunt barbari fecerunt Barberin’ translates as ‘what the barbarians did not do the Barberinis (Urban VII’s family name] did’.
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