Masterpieces of Light and Space: The Pantheon, Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy
The Pantheon, former temple to the Roman gods, now Catholic church

After arriving in Rome and making our way to our hotel to dump off our luggage, our first stop was The Pantheon. Okay, truth be told, our first stop was lunch but it was on the way to the Pantheon, if that makes any difference. Because I know you’re curious, I’ll let you know I had a somewhat disappointing carbonara, and afterwards we sampled the best Nutella gelato you could imagine. Anyway, the Pantheon.

Rome, Italy
The Pantheon’s distinctive Oculus

The Pantheon is probably best known for its ultra distinctive Oculus, a fancy latin word for “HOLE IN THE ROOF” that allow a pretty solid beam of light to enter the Church. There are niches all around the walls that are now filled with statues of saints and sarcophagi and such, but a couple thousand years ago they would have been shrines to Jupiter, Juno, Venus, Pluto, and so on.

Rome, Italy
The icons of Christianity now stand where the ancient gods were once featured

The Pantheon was originally built in 27 BC, but the present building was built in 126 AD during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. He also built a wall. LoL. If I remember right, the outside of the building is so drab because all of the gilding and marble was ripped off for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica, which we will get to in due time. There are so many great great churches in Rome to talk about, but St. Peter’s is obviously going to take the cake and smash it into smithereens.

Rome, Italy
The Altar of the Pantheon

So  the Pantheon has had a continuous congregation since before the birth of Christ. That’s about as old as a church can get. It would have been super interesting to sit through a service. I assume the Catholic priests in Rome do the mass in Latin. Heck, I bet I couldn’t tell the difference between a Latin and Italian mass anyhow.

Rome, ItalyThe Altar and the Nave kinda blend together because of the circular floor plan

I just realized that the Pantheon’s floor plan isn’t too dissimilar from the church I attend. That’s kinda cool. A few rows of pews in a wide semi-circle with the altar in the middle. I bet the lines for Holy Communion in the Pantheon get out of control though.

Rome, ItalyJust in case it didn’t seem Catholic enough

So the Pantheon was basically the first church I’ve ever visited that is legitimately from the Classical Era. It might be the only church I’ve visited from the Classical Era. Doesn’t really matter, because although it’s got some massive credentials, it was probably not even in the top 3 awesome churches we visited in Rome. Not that there’s a contest. I mean, the churches might have CYO soccer teams or something. I dunno.


Author: Charlie

Thirty-something husband and father. Aspiring baker. Decent cook. Childish humorist. General enthusiast.

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