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Pantheon and Piazza della Rotonda in Rome


The Pantheon is one of the best preserved ancient monuments in Rome. It is an example of the reutilization from a Christian perspective of a sacred building consecrated to all Gods. It stands in the heart of the ancient Campus Martius and its imposing facade dominates the southern side of Piazza della Rotonda. The original construction, of which only a few traces survive, was realized in the year 27 B.C. by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus, whose name appears in the inscription on the facade.

The monument was totally rebuilt between the years 118 and 125 A.D. by Emperor Hadrian who notoriously used to have his name affixed on the monuments he built. After several restorations, performed by the Severi Emperors at the beginning of the third century A.D., the monument fell in a state of neglect until 608, when it was ceded by the Byzantine Emperor Foca to Pope Boniface the Eighth that transformed it into the church of Sancta Maria ad Martyres. In 1625 the Pope Urban the Eighth, a member of the Barberini family, removed the bronze beams from the portico to make the four columns of the famous canopy by Bernini in Saint Peter’s and eighty cannons for Castel Sant’Angelo. In 1870 the Pantheon became the shrine of the kings of Italy and hosts the mortal remains of Victor Emanuel the Second, Humbert the First and Margaret of Savoy.Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio) the supreme artist of the Renaissance is also buried in the Pantheon.

interior view of the Pantheon in Rome. Italy

The square faces the Pantheon and the monument characterises it in such a way that many Romans don’t even know its name: they simply call it “the square of the Pantheon”. In the middle of it is the obelisk found in the temple of Isis (Iseum Campense), like the Minerva obelisk. It was placed here in 1711 and decorated with dolphins and coats of arms on commission of Pope Clement XI. The hieroglyphics remind the dynasty of Ramset II.

The piazza della Rotonda with obelisk, detail of the fountain

Two curiosities: the plate upon the building facing the Pantheon says that the square has been reclaimed of inns and brothels in the 18th century by the papal authorities; another plate, on the façade of the building now seat of the hotel Del Sole, says that here lived the famous poet Torquato Tasso. Another cinema curiosity: the famous British director Peter Greenaway choose this square (together with the Vittoriano) to shoot many sequences of his wonderful film The Belly of an Architect. Since it is a beautiful small and lively square, everybody in the city love to walk here or stop and sit down at a coffee table or on the steps of the fountain in the middle of it. In the center of the piazza is a fountain, the Fontana del Pantheon, surmounted by an Egyptian obelisk. The fountain was constructed by Giacomo Della Porta under Pope Gregory XIII in 1575, and the obelisk was added to it in 1711 under Pope Clement XI.

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