The Architecture of Pantheon Temple in Ancient Rome

Many buildings have been built throughout history, but most of them not remain. Some of them changed the course of history. They did this with their architecture, or with the importance attributed to them, or with their witness to the history. All these structures had great effects. Architecture is a field for reflection of human desires and thoughts, wishes or passions just like other branches of art. However it is a field of art that is much more influential and has visible touches on human life. The architecture of Pantheon in ancient Rome was a good example for this impact. It has made the building one of the symbolic structures of absolute power and divine devotion.

Just like Hagia Sophia, the Pantheon building, which has maintained its influence and existence for ages and has served as a sacred temple for societies, is the most technological structure of its period.

The ancient architecture of Pantheon Temple in Rome
Pantheon Temple

The History of Pantheon Architecture

A temple was built in Rome in 27 BC. When this temple was destroyed, Emperor Hadrian had the Pantheon Temple built in 118 AC, which is still standing today. Considering the period in which it was built, Pantheon was probably built in the most glorious period of Rome. Hadrian is famous for building the largest and mightiest buildings of the ancient Roman architecture era. He built huge baths, amphitheatres, triumphal arches and temples in order to spread his glory and power to wide geographies. The Pantheon located in Rome, on the other hand, is a product of Hadrian’s passion in the field of religious structure.

Earlier temples were often built in dedicated to a god or goddess. For instance, the Parthenon of Athens or the Temple of Zeus are one of them. However, the Pantheon was dedicated to all gods believed in Rome. As its very name signifies, Pan(All)-theon(god) in Greek means “Temple of All Gods”. An ordinary temple should not have been built for such a great honor. The Pantheon structure, the most magnificent temple ever built, contains a lot of technological innovations for the period it was built.

After the Romans accepted Christianity, some old pagan temples were converted into churches. The Pantheon of Rome got its share from this transformation in the 7th century under the name of Santa Maria Rotonda. Due to this function change, a bell tower was added to each side of the triangular pediment of the building. However, these towers do not exist today.

Facts About Architecture of Pantheon in Ancient Rome

Corinthian columns of the triangular pediment in portico
  1. The first temple had the typical features of a rectangular planned Greek temple. It was also smaller in scale than the last Pantheon.
  2. There are smooth Corinthian columns arranged in 3 rows in the entrance part of the Parthenon, namely the portico. While the outermost row has 8 columns, there are 4 columns in the back two rows. Above these columns, there is a triangular pediment. This front entrance actually looks alike many ancient temples.
  3. The Corinthian columns at the entrance are made of a single piece of marble.
  4. The Pantheon Temple is the oldest Roman building whose dome was built with concrete and has been preserved to nowadays. The biggest reason why it has remained intact for so long is that it has been in continuous use throughout history and has undergone renovations and restorations.
  5. The tomb of Raphael, the famous architect of the Renaissance, is in the Pantheon structure.

The Pantheon Dome

  • Dome is the most important element of the architecture of Pantheon Temple.
  • The inner surface of the huge dome of the Pantheon has embedded square patterns. These patterns are similar to today’s cassette ceilings.
  • The most striking feature of the ancient Roman Pantheon is undoubtedly the hole in the middle of the dome called the Oculus. This Pantheon oculus hole is 6 meters in diameter. When we look at the up, we encounter a dizzying ceiling beauty accompanied by the light leaking through the hole.
Oculus located on the dome of Pantheon Temple
  • It is possible to place a sphere in contact with the floor, the Oculus and the side walls in the interior of the Pantheon, which has a central plan. Because the height of the dome from the ground and the inner width of the body part are equal to 43 meters.
  • In order to carry the 43-meter-diameter dome, the Romans applied the concrete, which they skillfully used, with a special technique. According to this, as it go up to the top of the Pantheon dome, the aggregate mix in the concrete gets lighter. In this way, the unit weight of the concrete, which is the essential material of the dome, was at the lowest level near the Oculus (Wilkinson).
  • Until the 55.6-meter-high dome of Hagia Sophia was built, the highest dome belonged to the Pantheon. Additionally, it has one of the largest domes in the world still.
  • The Pantheon is one of the most imitated and taken as reference architectural structures in history. The domes of buildings such as the University of Virginia Thomas Jefferson Library, the Washington National Gallery of Art and the Villa Rotunda are inspired by the Dome of Pantheon.
Architecture of Pantheon Temple dome
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