Why Rome’s 2,000-year-old pagan temple, The Pantheon, is one of the most magical and mystical spaces on earth
BY PAUL KAIHLA — The Pantheon has been nearly all things for all people: for the ancient Romans, a cornucopia of shrines; for Catholics, a church for a legion of saints; for modern Romans, a common sight on their way to work; for tourists, an uncommonly spectacular site. And for Soul’s Code, a mystical destination.
From housing gods, to hosting saints
“Pantheon” comes from the Greek word meaning “every god”, most likely derived from the several shrines and statues lining the interior. The Pantheon was rebuilt several times by Roman emperors, each one adding to it’s grandeur. A few centuries after Christianity became a legal religion within the empire, the Pantheon was converted into a church, Saint Mary and the Martyrs. Though the exterior has lost a few of it’s beauty (e.g., sculptures in the now bare pediment), the interior has remained virtually intact for over 2,000 years.
During the Italian Renaissance, artists turned to the Pantheon for inspiration. After taking the commission for constructing the dome for St. Peter’s Basilica, Michelangelo surveyed the Pantheon’s concrete canopy. His conclusion: the dome was “of angelic and not human design.”
Tradition holds that the Pantheon is divinely protected, whether it be by the nearly forgotten pagan gods or wildly popular Catholic saints. For over a millennium it remained the largest dome in the world until it was dwarfed by a few feet by Michelangelo’s dome in St. Peter’s Basilica. It remains one of the most intact ancient structure to have survived the Gothic sacking of the fifth century, medieval recycling of building materials, and the Allies’ bombs of WWII.
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