Pantheon Of Rome
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Pantheon of Rome, a famous temple of circular form, built by M. Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus, in his third consulship, about 27 B. C. The edifice was called the Pantheon, not, as is commonly supposed, from its having been sacred to all the gods, but from its majestic dome, which represented, as it were, the "all divine" firmament. It was dedicated to Jupiter Ultor. Beside the statue of this god, however, there were in six other niches as many colossal statues of other deities, among which were those of Mars and Venus, the founders of the Julian line, and that of Julius Caesar. The Pantheon is by far the largest structure of ancient times, the external diameter being 188 feet, and the height to the summit of the upper cornice 102 feet, exclusive of the flat dome or calotte, which makes the entire height about 148 feet. It has a portico, in the style of the Corinthian architecture, 110 feet in length and 44 feet in depth, made up of 16 granite columns, with marble capitals and bases, placed in three rows, each column being 5 feet in diameter and 46 1/2 feet high. These columns supported a pediment with a roof of bronze. The Pantheon stands near the ancient Campus Martins, and, after the lapse of 1900 years, is still the best preserved of the old Roman buildings. It was given to Boniface IV. by the Emperor Phocas in 609, and was dedicated as a Christian church to the Virgin and the Holy Martyrs, a quantity of whose relics was placed under the great altar. In 830, Gregory IV. dedicated it to all the saints. It is now known as the Church of Santa Maria Rotunda. This consecration of the edifice, however, seems to have afforded it no defense against the subsequent spoliations, both of emperors and popes. The plates of gilded bronze that covered the roof, the bronze bassirelievi of the pediment, and the silver that adorned the interior of the dome, were carried off by Constans II., A. D. 655, who destined them for his imperial palace at Constantinople; but, being murdered at Syracuse when on his return with them, they were taken by their next proprietors to Alexandria. Urban VIII. carried off all that was left to purloin—the bronze beams of the portico, which amounted in weight to more than 45,000,000 pounds. During eight centuries it has suffered from the dilapidations of time and the cupidity of barbarians. The seven steps which elevated it above the level of ancient Rome are buried beneath the modern pavement. Its rotunda ofbrick is blackened and decayed; the marble statues, the bassi-relievi, the brazen columns, have disappeared; its ornaments have vanished, its granite columns have lost their luster, and its marble capitals their purity. Yet, under every disadvantage, it is still pre-eminently beautiful. No eye can rest on the noble simplicity of the matchless portico with-out admiration. Its beauty is of that sort which, while the fabric stands, time has no power to destroy.