SOME DATA RE THE PANTHEON IN ROME
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On this page, I presented using the Lake Applet a fine painting of the Pantheon by artist Giovanni Paolo Pannini, (1691-1765). I prefer not to overload the Lake Applet or Sliderpuzzle pages since downloading large pages is surely difficult for many visitors. Hence this separate page of data, and also pages 2 & 3 also, supplementary to that provided already, on the general subject of the Pantheon in Rome, Italy.
The Webmaster has always had an especial interest in history & matters archeological. When he visited Rome, some years ago, the Pantheon was high on his list of places absolutely not to be missed. And he did not regret his visit any more than did the millions of visitors who have entered this very building in the past 1,875 years! And been astonished at the breathtaking sight that they saw.
I cannot hope on this page to do more than whet your appetite, and hopefully inspire you to learn more, if, that is, you are so inclined. But ......
.... let me say that the Pantheon was originally constructed in 27 BC by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the brilliant Roman General who commanded the fleet that defeated Antony & Cleopatra at Actium in 31 BC. It was originally a small temple to a number of Roman gods. That initial building burned down in 80 AD & Domitian rebuilt the temple ~ only to have his structure struck by lightning & burned down, in turn, in 100 AD. The building we see today was built by Emperor Hadrian in the period of 117/18 to 125/128 AD (forgive the lack of precise dates). The Hadrian structure, while it too has been restored over the years, is, I gather, substantially intact & is therefore almost 1,900 years old!
What a structure! What an achievement for its day & age! The interior is a sphere of 142 feet in diameter. No metal reinforcement. No central pillar. Build of a form of concrete that is so strong that is has lasted for almost 1,900 years. And, amazingly, built on marshy ground! How did the Romans make concrete that lasts so long when modern concrete often crumbles in just a few years? That is a subject that has fascinated people for years & is worthy of study elsewhere for those who are interested. I learn that the cast concrete coffers (each one once painted blue & with gilded bronze rosette), get thinner and thinner as the walls rise & are thinnest of all at the "oculus", the central "eye" in the centre of the ceiling, 8.7 metres (27 feet) wide, & the only source of interior light. The floor slopes to permit rain water to be drained from the interior. The supporting walls are especially designed & constructed to support the structure but with minimal weight on the subsoil. The dome is 142 feet high - so what you might say! To give a comparison, the dome of St. Peter's in Rome is 139 feet in height. The nave at Chartres Cathedral in France is, I read, 140 feet in height. The dome was, in fact, the largest dome in the world until Filippo Brunelleschi conquered the technical construction problems at the Duomo in Florence in 1420-36, about 1,300 years later. The inscription on the Pantheon portico translates as "Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, Consul for the third time, built this". Hadrian did not, apparently, choose to put his name on the buildings he constructed, or in this case reconstructed.
Now I said on the Lake Applet page that the 'Lake' image is not as illogical as it would first seem. On a page that seems no longer to exist, I saw a small image of another Pannini painting, a water colour, which shows a small boat inside the structure. The River Tiber, a small river indeed when I saw it, has not always been so small. Certainly the Tiber was once a major shipping route into the City of Rome. In its early years, the Pantheon was inundated by the flooding of the Tiber three or four times a year. Isn't that interesting! Maybe it was still so in Pannini's time? I also find it interesting to read that at one time the building was used as a poultry market! It is today a Catholic church (Santa Maria della Rotonda) & has been since May 13, 609!
In a Reuters report in a Toronto, Canada, newspaper (Sep. 10, 2002), I learned that the stone for the portico of the Pantheon is not from a local Italian source. It would appear that the stone that was used came from the Mons Claudianus quarry located, amazingly, 500 kilometers south of Cairo & 120 kilometers east of the River Nile. The article states that it would, two thousand years ago, have taken between five & eight days by camel or donkey to get to the quarry from the Nile. And the quarried stone would have to have been dragged overland (but not in five or eight days!) & then be transported by water and sea to far off Rome. Marijke van der Veen, of the University of Leicester in England, is the archeologist who has excavated the Mons Claudianus site & also the adjacent Mons Porphyrites site that was the source of the purple Porphyrite stone highly prized for statues.
First the image that I used for the Lake Applet page. Its source can be found below.
The painting above is, then, by Italian painter Giovanni Paolo Pannini or Panini (1691-1765). (I guess it is correct to call him Italian? 'Italy' was a collection of city states, I thought, until rather later in history). Pannini produced an amazing number of works with some astonishing detail. Look at these images (1 & 2) on Carol Gerten's CGFA site (Denmark) or at one of the many CGFA mirror sites to see two particularly fine examples. He would appear to have painted the Pantheon many times. Here is a Pantheon painting in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Here is another from the Oglethorpe University Museum in Georgia. But the image that I used is yet another Pantheon painting that came from a page that I can, alas, no longer show you on an Italian site that has gone 'off the air'. I do hope that there are no objections to my use of the image in this way.
By all means visit Artcyclopedia for links to galleries & sites that feature Pannini's work. And drop in and enjoy this photograph by Dan Heller, a commercial photographer based in California whose work certainly inspires me. I know, having tried it myself, that photographing the interior of the Pantheon in such quality is not a simple task.
When I have a moment, I will add in some other references to 'Pantheon' images & engravings & provide more data about the artist. I include, today, just a couple of engravings dating from the late 1800s. The beautiful image on the right, a wood engraving, may well be of yet another Pannini original.
And now a composite image, primarily based upon a medieval Giovanni Maggi map of Rome dating from 1625, provided by Kalervo Koskimies, of Helsingfors, Finland. The Pantheon was at that time a mere 1,500 years old!. Two of the other thumbnail images originated from Kalervo's splendid pages & I encourage you to spend some time at his fine site. The image below is, in fact, an image map. But today only the sepia image, architectural detail from a print I saw on e-Bay, still operates. The rest of the images, which originated from the Kalervo Koskimies site above many years ago, seem no longer to be available. I cannot recall where the photo of the 'oculus' came from, so if anyone knows I would appreciate being reminded). If you look at the oculus in the image at the very top of this page, you will see what in fact are two tiny brown-dressed people looking down through the oculus into the interior of the building. If it interests you also, check the large size source for that image. The 'oculus' is amazingly large!
I have a couple of other interior images that would normally merit inclusion. But they are in my view 'distorted' & by showing detail of the upper interior, make the whole building seem vertically compressed. Hopefully I will find more material that more correctly reflects the amazing reality.