The pantheon

When Emperor Phocas donated this pagan temple to Pope beniface lV in 608, he unwittingly ensured that one of the marvels ancient Rome would be preserved, virtually unaltered , in its new guise as the Christian church Santa Maria ad Martyres. Emperor Hadrian, an amateur architect, desighned this lovely structur in ad 118-125. It has been likely sacked over the ages barbarins took portable piecs, Constans ll stole is gilded roof tiles and, in 1625, urban Vll melted down the portico's bronze ceiling panels to make can not for Castel Sant'Angelo. Yet the airy interior and perfect proportion remain, a wonder of the world even in its won time.

 Top 10 Features of Pantheon

Click on image to see enlargeThe widest masonry dome in Europe (above) is precisely as high as it is precisely as high as it is wide: 43:3 m (142ft). Its airy, coffered space, cleverly shot through with a shaft of sunlight from the oculus, is what lends the Pantheon an ethereal air.

Click on image to see enlargeThe bold, 8.3 m-diametere (27ft) hole at the dome's centre pro-vedio light and structural support: the tention around its rings helps hold the weight of the dome.

Click on image to see enlargeThe triangular pediment (below) is supported by 16 pink and grey granite columns, all orginal save the three on the left (17th - century copies).

Click on image to see enlargeThe massive bronze doors technically orginal, but were so extensively renovated under Pius lV (1653) they have been practically recast.

Click on image to see enlargeThe 6.2- m (20 ft) thick walls incorporate built- in brick arches to help distribute the weight downwords, relieving the strees of the heavy roof.

Royal Tombs
Click on image to see enlargeTwo of Italy's king honoured by simple tombs Vittorio Emanuele ll (1861-78) unified Italy and became its first king. His son, Umberto l, was assassinated in 1900.

Raphael's Tomb
Raphael's TombRaphael , darling of the roman Renaissance art world but dead at 37, rests in a plain, ancient stone sarcophagus. Poet Bembo's Latin epitaph translate as: " here lies Raphael, whome neture feared outdo her while alive, but now that he is gone fears she, too, will die." Other artist buried here include Baldassare Peruzzi.

Click on image to see enlargeGiacomo della Porta designed this stop; Leonardo sormani carved it in 1575. The Egyptian obelisk of rameses ll was added in 1711.

Marble Decorations
Click on image to see enlargeRed prophery, giallo antico, and other ancient marbles grace the interior. More than half the polycrome panels cladding the walls are orginal, the rest careful reproductions, as is the floor.

Basilica of Neptune Remains
Click on image to see enlargeOf the Pantheon's old neighbour, all that remains are an elaborate cornice and fluted columns against the Pantheon's rear wall.