Rome is rightfully deemed one of the first hand tourist destinations in the world, mostly due to its historical background and because, next to ancient Greece, it is the cradle of the European civilization. The density of historical sights requires visitors to thoroughly plan their stay in Rome, in case they want to experience as much as possible from what the capital has to offer from a tourist point of view. But, in all cases, one attraction which should never be overlooked is the celebrated Pantheon, the temple of all gods worshiped in ancient Rome.

The Pantheon is notable from a multiple perspective. First of all, its architectural uniqueness lies in the fact its height is equal to its diameter, amounting to a little over 43 meters. Second of all, until the early 20th century, it was the largest concrete building in the world, and, thirdly, it is the best preserved ancient edifice in Rome. In fact, the excellent state of preservation is an outstanding feature of the temple.

The temple was built by order of Marcus Agrippa in the second half of the 1st century BC, and substantially restored (reconstructed, in fact), under Emperor Hadrian, in 126 AD. The origin of the name is not known with accuracy. By certain accounts (mostly, sources cited from the works of Cassius Dio), the name of the edifice derives from either the numerous statues which used to populate the immediate surroundings of the temple or from the perfectly hemispheric dome so strikingly resembling to the heavens. The habit of sacrificing animals and burning them in order to please the gods with the enticing smell of their flesh is also documented. The smoke would escape through the occulus in the dome, this architectural feature being charged with a dense religious symbolism. The occulus enabled the connection between the mortals and the gods: the gods would look through it to the humans, and the mortals would look up in veneration to the divine.

The architectural excellence of the entire structure, in particular of its dome and of the portico (marvelously bordered by massive Corinthian columns), has inspired the design of numerous other buildings constructed in the course of history. Michelangelo himself was fascinated by the structure, and he actually related to the dome of the Pantheon as to a model when he designed the dome of the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican. So did Brunelleschi when he was commissioned to design the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Fiori in Florence.

In time, the decorative patrimony of the Pantheon was substantially enriched, in particular starting with the Renaissance. Thus, works by Giuseppe Sacconi, Arnaldo Zocchi, Lorenzetto, Ludovico Gimignani, Francesco Rosa, Giovanni Peruzzini and Luigi Garzi can be spotted scattered throughout the Pantheon (walls, niches, vaults). On top of that, the Pantheon is often invoked for its notable burials: the tombs of Raphael, of Italy’s first King, Vittorio Emanuele, and of his successor, Umberto I are located here. Also worth mentioning is the fact that, while the Pantheon is not a place of worship proper, it is occasionally used to religious purposes, in particular for services specific to the Catholic denomination.

Thus, roughly speaking, if the Pantheon used to be a place where all the gods in heavens would be invoked, it seems that nowadays it slowly turns into a Pantheon which evokes the presence of the gods one earth: the great figures of the Italian culture (art, politics) which honored the Italian spirit by their great achievements in the field they created or acted, highly similar to the Pantheon in Paris (which, at its turn, contains the tombs of the most important writers, artists, politicians, and scientists born in France in the course of history).

Piazza della Rotonda, Rome, Italy