The Pantheon of Rome, Italy

How to visit the Pantheon, the most complete Roman structure on earth

The Pantheon stands as the most complete Roman structure on earth, having survived 20 centuries of plunder, pillage and invasion.

Facts About the Pantheon

The original Pantheon was a rectangular temple built by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, as part of a district renewal plan in 27-25 BC. What tourists see as they relax in front in the Piazza della Rotonda is radically different than that original temple. Hadrian rebuilt the structure; maker’s stamps in the bricks allow us to peg his restoration between 118 and 125 AD. Still, the inscription on the architrave attributes the construction to Agrippa during his third councilship. The portico in front of the Pantheon is what remains of Agrippa’s original temple.

The Pantheon contains the tombs of Rafael and of several Italian Kings. Pantheon is a Greek word meaning “to honor all Gods.”

pantheon rome exterior
Pantheon exterior view in late fall

Dimensions of the Pantheon

The giant dome that dominates the interior is 43.30 meters or 142 feet in diameter (for comparison, the White House dome is 96 feet in diameter). The Pantheon stood as the largest dome ever until Brunelleschi’s dome at the Florence Cathedral of 1420-36. It’s still the largest masonry dome in the world. The Pantheon is made perfectly harmonious by the fact that the distance from the floor to the top of the dome is exactly equal to its diameter. Adytons (shrines recessed into the wall) and coffers (sunken panels) cleverly reduce the weight of the dome, as did a lightweight cement made of pumice used in the upper levels. The dome gets thinner as it approaches the oculus, the hole in the top of the dome used as a light source for the interior. The thickness of the dome at that point is only 1.2 meters.

pantheon rome interior
Pantheon Interior showing occulus

The oculus is 7.8 meters in diameter. Yes, rain and snow occasionally fall through it, but the floor is slanted and drains cleverly remove the water if it manages to hit the floor. In practice, rain that falls inside the dome seldom reaches the floor.

The massive columns supporting the portico weigh 60 tons. Each was 39 feet (11.8 m) tall, five feet (1.5 m) in diameter and made from stone quarried in Egypt. The columns were transported by wooden sledges to the Nile, barged to Alexandria, and put on vessels for a trip across the Mediterranean to the port of Ostia. From there the columns came up the Tiber by barge.

The Pantheon Fountain

The Fontana del Pantheon was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII and is located in the Piazza della Rotonda, Rome, in front of the Roman Pantheon.

pantheon fountain
The Pantheon and the Pantheon Fountain

Preservation of the Pantheon in Rome

Like many buildings in Rome, the Pantheon was saved from pillage by turning it into a church. Byzantine Emperor Phocas donated the monument to Pope Boniface IV, who turned it into the Chiesa di Santa Maria ad Martyres in 609. Masses are held here on special occasions.

Pantheon Visitor information

There’s been quite a bit of controversy over fees associated with visiting. In the past entrance was free, but the official Pantheon site now states:

The Pantheon is open from 9.00-19.00 (last admission 18.30). Starting from July 3rd, it is mandatory to have an entrance ticket to access the Pantheon. The entrance ticket can be purchased online through the Ministry’s platform or directly at the ticket counter in front of the monument, using cash or electronic payment.

Now, the thing is, none of the official sites I’ve visited have stated the price. But Martha looked at friend Elyssa’s Romewise website and found that the fee for entrance is now 5 euro.

How to Experience the Pantheon

The Piazza della Rotonda is a lively and inviting square filled with cafes, bars, and restaurants. In summer, visit the Pantheon interior in the day, preferably in early morning before the tourist throngs, but return in the evening; the piazza in front is especially lively on warm summer nights when the Pantheon is lit from below and stands as an enormous reminder of the grandeur of ancient Rome. The penny-pinching backpack crowd floods the steps of the fountain surrounding one of Rome’s trophy obelisks, while tourists throng to the bars that edge the piazza. Drinks are expensive, as you might expect, but not outrageous, and you can nurse one for a long time without anyone bothering you, one of the simple delights of European life.

Have you ever considered Rome at Christmas? Yeah, not so warm and the chance of rain…but then again there’s a spirit about it that animates central Rome in a way that brings happiness. People are out and about, the skies are interesting, and the hot chocolate is so thick your spoon will stand up in it. Here’s a picture of the Pantheon at that time.

The restaurants are mostly mediocre, but the view and atmosphere is unparalleled. To experience good solid Roman food at a good restaurant close by, I recommend Armando al Pantheon, in a small alleyway to the right of the Pantheon as you’re facing it. (Salita de’ Crescenzi, 31; Tel: (06) 688-03034.) Best coffee at the Tazza d’Oro nearby.

di rienzo ristorante pantheon
Di Rienzo Ristorante al Pantheon

The above restaurant, a corporate entity, is not highly rated. Seen during the Christmas season, you can’t beat the view. Go there at lunch to gawk at the view and you won’t regret it. But still, when your web page says, “Our cuisine enhances the classic flavors of Italian tradition by offering a wide selection of dishes” you have to step back a moment with your hand on your chin…

Staying near the Pantheon

The Pantheon and the Piazza are quite charming, but can be a bit noisy on summery evenings. Consider that when you choose. Zoom out the map to see lodging outside the area.

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The Pantheon of Rome, Italy originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com , updated: Jul 24, 2023 © .

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