Rome Sights to See - The Pantheon

Of all the sights to see around the world, few ancient buildings have survived the ravages of time so well as the Pantheon in Rome. It is the only example of similar age, size and span that still remains intact.

This is no accident! In actuality, it's largely the result of superior engineering and design.

PantheonOften copied, sometimes equaled (or nearly equaled) but never actually surpassed, it had more architectural innovations than most modern buildings. This is all the more remarkable, given that the Pantheon was built around 125 AD under the aegis of the emperor Hadrian.

The plan of the Pantheon is simple enough. It is just a circular enclosure aside a rectangular entrance. The entrance sports a classic Greek portico of granite columns topped by a triangular pediment. There are three ranks of the 39 ft Corinthian supports.  There are eight in front and two sets of four further in leading to the main rotunda. A rectangular section joins the portico to the rotunda.

However, it is what is found within that simple design which holds several marks of genius.

The giant concrete dome topping the cylinder forming the major component was so well designed and built that no similar type would be able stand up under its own weight.

The dome is 142 feet in diameter (46 feet larger than that which crowns the White House in Washington, DC), while the oculus (a circular window) at the peak is over 25 feet of that total. It stands as a result of its unusual composition, outstanding engineering and brilliant construction.

Just one example of that engineering genius is that very oculus in the center - the circular window at the top of the dome. It not only decreases the overall weight, but also serves as a ring that distributes stress around its circumference. Imagine, by analogy, how difficult it is to crush a bicycle wheel.

It also serves as a skylignt which admits light to the interior...and rain, too it must be said.  Even this was anticipated, however, as the floor is an early example of slanting the floor toward drains.

The dome's tapering steps provide yet more evidence of the mastery of craft displayed by the dome's bygone designer.

It's 20 feet thick at the base, 7.5 at the oculus and composed of heavier material at the bottom, lighter as it rises. That doesn't seem so remarkable until one considers that many architects a thousand years later often  ignored this simple idea.

Nearly two thousand years after its creation, the Pantheon in Rome is as stable today as when it was first built. Yet, like so many other ancient marvels, it was constructed without the benefit of computers, machines, engineering knowledge, or modern tools.

Nor did the designers and engineers of the Pantheon have the advantage of modern transportation methods. All the materials for its construction were floated down the Tiber and moved to the site by man and animal on carts of the period.

Though the enormous bronze doors have been restored many times, no major structural work has ever had to be undertaken on it. This is all the more remarkable given the marshy land on which the structure is built.

By contrast, observe that there have been several decades-long projects to preserve the Leaning Tower of Pisa,Leaning Tower of Pisa owing in part to the soft ground in parts of the site. The Parthenon in Greece, though a great building in its own right, was a virtual ruin 2,000 years after its birth.

The Pantheon in Rome was first converted to a church during the 8th century and continues to serve that purpose today. In fact, the building has been in continuous use since first being built.

This amazing building has often been copied. Two notable examples of this being the British Museum Reading Room in London, and the Thomas Jefferson Rotunda at the University of Virginia.

When seeing all that there is to see in Rome, be sure to spend time viewing the original Pantheon.

Sightseeing, Tours, Attractions and Things to do in Rome - See the Pantheon

Rome the Eternal City



Page Updated 1:39 PM Tuesday 2/10/2015