Monday, October 7, 2013

Rome Holidays - 5 Pantheon

Our next stop is the Pantheon.  Frankly speaking, if I didn't read Dan Brown's Angels & Demons,  and later on watched the movie of the same title, I would not even notice such a building.


Look at the exteriors of this building, it is so uncharacteristically dull.  Grey outer walls, looks like a silo holding grains.  The facade is like an old man being stripped to its bare minimum.  But do you know why?

The Pantheon was first built as a temple of gods, for many many Roman, and probably Greek, gods.  Later on, when Christianity took over the entire Roman Empire, Pope Boniface IV converted it to a church in 609.  Today, the Pantheon still serves as a church, and also the burial ground for some of the Italian Kings.  Over the years, as dictators, emperors and popes went on their great constructions, they tended to like to 'steal' a piece or two from the Pantheon.  That's how Pantheon ended up how it looks like today.

The Dome of Pantheon, with light coming in through the oculus

Once you enter the Pantheon, you just can't ignore the majestic dome.  It is so vast, so daunting.  Natural light comes into the massive building through the oculus in the center of the dome.  The construction of the dome is itself an architectural marvel.

The center chapel is an alter for Catholic mass, as you may expected, its construction was commissioned by a Pope.

The High Altar in the center of the Pantheon

The second chapel is the tomb of King Victor Emmanuel II.  To Italians, Victor Emmanuel II is like Emperor Qinchihuang to Chinese.  He is the one who united Italy in 1861 and became the first King of Italy.  Without him, probably we will be still seeing lots of small little city republics scattering all over modern day Italy.

Tomb of King Victor Emmanuel II

But life is full of irony, King Victor Emmanuel II is the one who united Italy and the 1st King of Italy.  On top of his tomb burns a golden lamp, in memory of King Victor Emmanuel III, the one who didn't stand up against dictator Mussolini and the one who brought an end to Italian monarchy.  Everything that has a beginning, has an end.  The quote from the movie Matrix fits this so nicely.

You can see in the photo above some people in uniforms keeping vigil at Emmanuel II's tomb.  They are said to be volunteers of Italian monarchists.   Well, everyone is free to have his/her opinions.  I respect their choice, although I don't think monarchy is something modern societies will favour.

In front of the Pantheon, stands another obelisk.  It was built by Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II more than 3000 years ago.   After many many long years and long journeys, it eventually settled down here in 1711.

Macuteo Obelisk through Pantheon's Portico

You can find all my Rome Holidays blog entries here.

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