The pantheon, also known as Chiesa di santa maria ad martyres is one of the greatest historic spiritual structures in Rome and the whole world. It was initially built as a Roman temple and later on, sanctified as a Roman Catholic Church (Birley 283). It was rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian in the period 118 to 128 A.D. He had a strong passion for architecture and by this virtue he made many shrines and social buildings wherever he travelled in Rome and in provinces outside Rome. The building was built without using steel, a phenomenon that is quite unusual to the current modern engineering (Morgan 38). Despite this, the building still stands strong after about eighteen centuries.
It has bronze doors and the interior is a cylinder above which there is the hemispherical arena. Natural light is the only source of illumination in it, and the light comes in through the dome and the doors in the building (Birley 289). In Greek, the word Pantheon means to honor all Gods, therefore, the pantheon was built to be a place of worship of all the Roman gods. The first incarnation of this ancient temple was built by Agrippa (this is as evident on the writing on the entrance of the temple) about 27 B.C.
The domed rotuda is an area in which one can participate, symbolically, of the unchallengeable laws and hoped for quietness of the world. There the inferior order is united with the superior, the harmony of which Hadrian dreamed. A Pantheon is neither consecrated place nor secular, but a place of man and nature, of man and the forces of all the gods (Brown 45).
According to Ward-Perkins (111), the foundation of the Pantheon was built on unstable earth and this posed a serious support problem. However, this was taken care of by using a double ring foundation to assist in support. The width of the initial ring foundation was 7.2m wide; this was about 0.9m greater than the walls it supports and from the floor level to the foundation bottom is 4.7m. The rock-hard foundation rings were made of pozzolan concrete consisting of travertine pieces in layers held together by a mortar of lime and pozzolan (Lugli 20). The walls of the Pantheon contain many hollow spaces and chambers on different levels and this might have been to reduce the cost of construction materials and weight. The radius of the dome is 21.7m and its relative thickness is reduced from 5.9m to about 1.5m at the top. There cannot be any better argument whether this system of construction is effective; its survival through rough ages is enough testimony (Lugli 21). The recent acid rains and the test of time have not been a much threat if not only for a few cracks.
The importance of this structure to art history is its uniqueness in architectural design and being the only temple in the whole world which allowed for the accommodation of all religious deities in the world.
Design elements of the Pantheon that were taken from the Parthenon in Athens
The Parthenon was created in 447-432 BA in Athens. It was constructed to show the power of the Athenian Empire and it’s the influence of its politician, Perikles. The Parthenon has a rectangular floor and a colonnade of Doric columns around the entire structure. It also has six columns by each entrance in front. The term Parthenon refers also to the worship of Athena Parthenon, the ‘Virgin Athena (Brown 47). The dimensions of its floor was 30.88m by 69.50m, its axial spacing external columns were 4.29m fronts and flanks, the lower diameter exterior column was 1.91m, the height exterior columns was 10.43 and the height entablature was 3.30m. On the walls of the temple are shown wars of different times and people, this was borrowed to have an all god temple in Pantheon. The west side shows the fight for justice an criminals, the south shows the mythical battle against the Amazons, the east shows the battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs and the north shows the battle between the gods and the giants.
The Pantheon borrowed the look of the front of the Parthenon, with the space for sculptures and scenes above supported by column, the entrance and the external shape (MacDonald 35). The columns used in construction in both cases were made from marbles. Concrete used was more of a borrowing from the Parthenon; this is entirely what makes the structure as strong as it is.
The US Supreme Court building
This building is in Washington DC and its construction was completed in 1935 and was designed by Cass Gilbert. This building has its design similar to that of the Pantheon in several ways despite having many obvious differences (Speller 223). This building is similar to the Pantheon in the capacity that it is raised on a podium and approached by a formal front staircase. The front entrance of the US Supreme court building is typically that of the Pantheon with a ‘T’ shape and the exterior dressed in white marble. The dome which is the most critical feature of the Pantheon is also exhibited in the US Supreme Court building although there is no opening on the dome to allow in natural light as it is in the Pantheon. . Despite these structural similarities, this structure differs greatly in function with the Pantheon which was more of a sacred place (MacDonald 27).