Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Pantheon in Rome

Here's an excerpt from my forthcoming super comprehensive guide book about Rome.
It will be called ROMAPEDIA.

The first edition was published in Italian as "Guida di Roma e provincia" in 2011 and the new enlarged edition is due to be released in 2014.
There will also be an edition in English available.
It is a work of synthesis and anthology of the most authoritative sources of facts and reliable information about the art of Rome and its Province.

It is an encyclopedic dictionary with 1,329 entries, including 483 churches, 278 palaces, and 152 museums.

It also includes a profusion of artistically or historically relevant buildings, monuments, archaeological sites as well as 95 towns in the province of Rome, constituting one of the richest sources of information available in a single book about the art and history of the Eternal City.

You can check out for free the first 63 pages of the first edition with this link:

My new ROMAPEDIA blog with the most complete encyclopedia about the art and history of Rome and its surroundings is being published. New entries are being added everyday. Here is the link:

The original Pantheon, rectangular, smaller and corresponding to the site of the porch was built in the years 27/25 BC at the behest of Marcus VipsaniUS Agrippa, Augustus' son-in-law
It was restored after the fire of the year 80 AD by Domitian (81/96) and again by Trajan (98/117)
According to ancient Roman tradition it was the Palus Caprae, the place where the apotheosis of Romulus happened, that is, his ascent to heaven carried by an eagle
The name comes from the Greek and it means all the gods, indicating the kind of worship that used to be carried out here
It was completely rebuilt in the years 118/125 by Hadrian (117/138), who perhaps was directly involved in the architectural design and revisited the original inscription confusing the dating for archeologists until the excavations in 1892: the French architect Georges Chedanne found out that all the bricks, including the ones in the basement, have marks pinpointing the dating between 120 and 125 AD
The works were completed in the period of Antoninus Pius (138/161)
In 202 Septimius Severus (193/211) and his son Caracalla carried out restorations mentioned in the small relief of the pediment under the main one
Many scholars since the fifteenth century consider the Pantheon as the starting point and the most important work of all western architecture
"Notwithstanding the interpretation of the building as a sort of covered Forum where Adriano was holding court, the sacredness of the Pantheon seems unquestionable if the great oculus at the top of the vault has the function, typical of a templum, to maintain the relationship between heaven and earth. The interpretation of the building as a kind of microcosm on earth, in whose conception the Chaldean astrologer Dionysius of Miletus would have had part alongside Hadrian, has as its corollary the repeated and even authoritative modern attempts to interpret individual elements of the structure in an astral way: 7 exedras = 7 planets, 28 pilasters = 28 days of the lunar phases; 5 rows in the coffered vault = 5 planets except the sun and moon and so on" (Francesca de Caprariis and Fausto Zevi)
'The Pantheon is primarily a dynastic shrine with a cosmic vocation. Dio Cassius says that Adrian loved to administrate justice in it, so that it also had the palatial function of a Royal Hall. It is the largest covered space without intermediate supports that have been implemented before the invention of reinforced concrete" (Andrea Carandini)
Among the statues of gods there was the famous "Diana of Nemi" with a crown adorned with twenty-topaz, eighty other precious stones, a tiara, nine earrings, eight necklaces, and bracelets with beryl and other gems of which there is a written catalog
The statues in here would have been of course painted with bright colors, just like all the statues in antiquity originally were
In 608 it was given by the Emperor Phocas to Pope Boniface IV (608/615) and in 609 it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the martyrs as S. Maria ad Martyres (St. Mary near the Martyrs)
It is said that on this occasion Pope Boniface IV brought from the catacombs twenty-eight wagons full of bones of martyrs that were buried in the altar area
The emperor of the Byzantium, Constantius II (641/668), in 663 stripped it of the gilded bronze covering of the roof which was redone in lead at the behest of Gregory III (731/741) in 735
It ended up becoming a palace with additional buildings around it and it was even used as a papal residence by Anastasius IV (1153/54)
In 1625 Pope Urban VIII Barberini (1623/44) took the bronze coating the beams of the porch (about 200 long tons - about 220 short tons) to make 80 cannons for Castel Sant'Angelo and the columns of the canopy of S. Peter's Basilica
He also had the column on the left corner replaced and had Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598/1680) build in 1626/27 two bell-towers known as "donkey ears" who were destroyed in 1882
The removal of the bronze by Urban VIII resulted in the famous lampoon written on the "talking statue" Pasquino: "In Rome, what the barbarians didn't do, the Barberini did"
Alexander VII Chigi (1655/67) replaced other two columns on the left side and had the level of the square lowered. It is the lowest point of Rome, 13.40 m (44 feet) above sea level
Clement IX Rospigliosi (1667/69) in 1668 surrounded the porch with a fence to keep out the market that took place on the square
Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800/23) began restorations and Pius IX Mastai-Ferretti (1846/78) continued the job renewing part of the interior floor
In 1870 it became the sanctuary of the kings of Italy
In the years 1881/83 it was restored by removing the fence, isolating the sides, digging around it and demolishing the two bell-towers
In 1906 the square was paved with wood from Argentina trees donated by the Italian emigrants "to surround with religious silence the venerated tombs of the first kings of Italy" Naturally, the wooden floor did not last long
The Pantheon was for centuries the scene of actual staged events in the days of religious celebration of the Assumption of Mary and the Ascension of Christ: statues of Mary and Christ were raised to the sky through the large hole in the dome, creating an evocative dramatic effect
During the celebration of Pentecost, an impressive ceremony is still celebrated nowadays during which rose petals are thrown inside through the hole of the dome with the symbolic meaning of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the faithful
At the beginning of the seventeenth century a the couple of butchers used to sell very successfully sausages of incredible and peculiar quality in Piazza della Rotonda
Investigators of Urban VIII discovered that the incredible and peculiar quality was due to the fact that the sausages were made of human flesh: the couple used to draw the victims in the basement of their shop and there they would kill them and turn into sausages. They were sentenced to death and executed in 1638
33 x 16 m (108 x 52 feet) with "Sixteen monolithic columns in Egyptian granite gray and pink" 13 m (43 feet) high
The Egyptian origin of these huge columns would immediately be recognized in antiquity by the inhabitants of the Roman empire, unlike now, accustomed as we are to so many different types of materials
Marble of this type does not exist in Italy or in Europe and the mere fact of having been able to bring the columns to Rome on barges all the way from Egyptian quarries that are even distant from the Nile, was a statement and a display of enormous power on the part of the Roman government
The columns are surmounted by a pediment on which there was a bronze relief representing an enormous crowned eagle, the eagle of the apotheosis of Romulus, the true symbol of Rome
The big inscription reads: Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius did this during his third consulship
The small inscription reads: Emperor Caesar Septimius Severus and Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus restored with great care the Pantheon ruined by ancientness
The porch (pronaos) was preceded by a staircase which has recently been found and buried again. The illusion of being in front of a classic Greek style temple was also due to the fact that the dome could not be seen from the large square surrounded by a portico in front of the Pantheon
Therefore Hadrian had obviously wanted to surprise those who would enter the building and find themselves surrounded by a spherical and modern interior
The doors were restored at the time of Pius IV Medici (1559/65) but the structure is most likely the original, perhaps that of Augustus, kept as a sort of relic in the reconstruction of Hadrian
They are huge: 7.53 x 4.45 m (24.7 x 14.6 feet)
On the sides of the doors there are two niches where there were maybe statues of Augustus and Agrippa
They have the incredible thickness of 6.2 m (20.4 feet) and are marked by niches and arches to lighten the structure
Internal diameter of 43.30 m (142.06 feet) of height from the floor to the top
The perfect proportions give the impression of walking into a huge ball
It was raised using a single extraordinary wooden hemisphere centering filled with a jet of conglomerate containing volcanic pumice to lighten it up
The Romans invented concrete the use of which disappeared after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was rediscovered only a thousand years later and it began to be used extensively, as the Romans did, only from the end of the eighteenth century onward
This dome is one of the most extraordinary examples in the world of the capacity of human ingenuity
The hole (oculus) has a diameter of about 9 m (29.52 feet) and is trimmed with bronze
It is still the dome with the largest diameter in Italy:
The dome of the Basilica of St. Peter, albeit higher, has a diameter of 42.52 m (139.50 feet), the dome of Florence Cathedral has a real diameter of 41.47 m (136.05 feet), although the major diagonal of the octagon is 44.97 m (147.53)
Outside Italy, the Capitol Dome in Washington has a diameter of 29.26 m (96 feet) and the Cathedral of St. Paul's in London has a diameter of 31 m (102.10 feet)
A greater dome without internal supports was only built in 1881 in England as part of the Devonshire Royal Hospital building: 44.20 m (145.01 feet)
Now the largest dome in the world is that of the Cowboys Stadium finished in 2009 and located in Arlington, Texas with a diameter of 275 m (902 feet)
The Pantheon is oriented with the façade to the north and it is said that every April 21, the birthday of Rome, at noon the light rays passing through the hole in the dome used to struck precisely on the big doors
"It is significant that the Pantheon is located exactly opposite the Mausoleum of Augustus, 500 steps (740 meters - 2,428 feet) away and maybe it used to be visually connected to the Mausoleum itself with a path that would open the view of the two obelisks at the sides. Now this correspondence, if it really existed, must have dated back to the Augustan system, because in the second century other buildings arose obstructing the view. So the world of cosmic references involved the whole system consisting of Pantheon, Mausoleum, Sundial and Ara Pacis: if we accept the identity of the site of the Pantheon and the Palus Caprae, the place of the apotheosis of Romulus, there is a clear correspondence between the apotheosis of the founder of Rome and that of Augustus" (Francesca de Caprariis and Fausto Zevi )
FOURTEEN monolithic fluted columns 8.9 m (29 feet) high in ancient yellow marble from Tunisia and pavonazzetto marble from Turkey
Rebuilt in 1747 by Paolo Posi (1708/76) for Benedict XIV Lambertini (1740/58)
A restoration in 1930 has revived, over the last niche on the right, the original decoration with polychrome marble derived from Renaissance drawings
The floor also made of polychrome marble, including porphyry from Egypt, is largely original
1st Aedicula on the RIGHT
Altarpiece "Madonna of the Girdle and St Nicholas of Bari" 1686 by an anonymous seventeenth-century artist
At the center: "Annunciation" maybe by Melozzo degli Ambrosi aka Melozzo da Forlì (1438/94)
On the sides:
On the right "Incredulity of St. Thomas" by Pietro Paolo Bonzi aka the Hunchback of Carracci (about 1576/1636)
On the left "Ss. Lorenzo and Agnes" by Clemente Maioli (1634/73) from Ferrara, a painter influenced by Pietro da Cortona and close to the style of Giovanni Francesco Romanelli
On the sides there are also "Four marble busts of prelates" and "Two angels in marble" 1696 of Bernini school
Fragmentary fresco "Coronation of the Virgin" of the fourteenth century
"Tomb of Victor Emmanuel II" 1878 by Manfredo Manfredi (1859/1627) sculpted by Adolfo Laurenti (1856/1944)
"The execution of the work(...) did not correspond precisely to the design of Manfredi, who had planned the placement of an altar of porphyry, never made, and a richer decoration of the frame of the large bronze plaque. The project, which effectively makes use of the most essential elements of the classical language, is well weighted according to the monumentality and the prestige of the architectural context" (Raffaella Catini - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Treccani)
The golden lamp hanging in front of the tomb is a symbolic reminder of Victor Emmanuel III who died in exile in Alexandria, Egypt in 1947
Statue "St. Anne and the Virgin Mary" 1715/16 by Lorenzo Ottoni (1648/1736)
Fresco "Madonna and Sts. Francis and John the Baptist" XV sec. by an artist from Umbria or Lazio regions. It is known as Our Lady of Mercy or of the Gate because it was located until 1837 in a niche of the pronaos protected by a gate
On the right canvas "Consecration of the Pantheon" 1750
Statue "S. Rasio martyr" in 1725 by Bernardino Cametti (1669/1736)
Rearranged at the beginning of the eighteenth century by Alessandro Specchi (1668/1729)
Copy of the Roman-Byzantine "Madonna and Child" of the seventh century coated in silver that had been placed on the altar during the consecration of the Pantheon to the Virgin Mary in the year 609. It replaced the original in the early twentieth century
During the refurbishment of Alessandro Specchi the relics of the saints Rasio and Anastasio were found and were put in a medieval bronze box. It is shown to the faithful during the most important celebrations
Clement XI Albani (1700/21), who had wanted to carry out the work, commissioned then the statues of the two saints located in the aediculae to the right and to the left of the altar. He also commissioned the mosaic made out of tiles of gold and lapis lazuli, which replaced a sixteenth century fresco by Giovanni Guerra
"Wooden Choir" 1840 by Luigi Poletti (1792/1869)
Statue "S. Anastasio" 1717 by Francesco Moderati (about 1680/after 1724)
"Crucifix" of the fifteenth century
On the left painting "Pentecost" 1790 by the Roman Pietro Labruzzi (1738/1805) who was court painter to the king of Poland Stanislaw August
On the right "Monument to Cardinal Ercole Consalvi" 1824 Secretary of State of Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800/23) who had signed for the pope in the agreement with Napoleon in 1,801 and relief "Returning to Pius VII of the provinces of the Papal States" works by the Danish Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770/1844)
Statue "Virgin Mary of the Rock" 1523/24 by Lorenzo Lotti aka Lorenzetto (1490/1541) for Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael) (1483/1520) who had asked Lorenzetto to sculpt the statue to be located above his own tomb
On the right "Plaque in memory of Maria Bibbiena", nephew of the powerful Cardinal Bernard Bibbiena and "girlfriend" of Raphael. In fact, the artist's letters show that, despite the pressure of the cardinal, he was absolutely determined not to get married
Below is the inscription of the "Tomb of the immense Annibale Carracci (1560/1609)" who wished to be buried here in 1609 alongside Raphael, his great inspiration
On the left "Bust of Raphael" 1833 by Giuseppe De Fabris (1790/1860)
"To Raphael we return for the beautiful forms he lent to antiquity as we had dreamed them, and as long as the world of the Greeks and the Romans will be for us (...) not just a cultural thing, but an aspiration and a desire, until then, when we will read the Greek and Latin poets, we will picture their images as Raphaelite images, or derived from these, and we will see that world as Raphael saw it: a world in which the birds at dawn never cease their singing" (Bernard Berenson)
On the tomb of Raphael is engraved in Latin a couplet by Pietro Bembo, which translated into Italian reads: Here lies Raphael the one by whom, the great mother of all things, Nature, feared to be won and, once he died, she feared to die herself
"Tomb of Umberto I" (king of Italy 1878/1900) 1900 by Giuseppe Sacconi (1854/1905), the same architect of the Victor Emmanuel Monument, with a slab of alabaster and reliefs at the sides with female allegorical figures "Goodness" by Eugenio Maccagnani (1852/1930) and "Bounty" by Arnaldo Zocchi (1851/1922)
"Tomb of Margherita of Savoy" 1926 wife and cousin of Umberto I
On the occasion of a visit of Queen Margherita of Savoy in Naples, the Neapolitan pizza makers invented pizza margherita with the colors of the Italian flag: mozzarella for white, tomato for red and basil for green
In front of the tombs "Altar of porphyry" with the royal insignia by Guido Cirilli (1871/1954) who executed Sacconi's project of the tombs
Statue "St. Agnes" by Vincenzo Felici (active 1667/1702)
On the left "Funerary monument of Baldassare Peruzzi (1481/1536)" 1921 made from a cast of Giovanni Dupré (1817/1882)
Marble group "St. Joseph and the Child Jesus" 1550/60 by Vincenzo De Rossi (1525/87)
On the sides oil paintings on the wall "Nativity" and "Adoration of the Magi" about 1660 by Francesco Cozza (1605/82)
On the side walls stuccos "Rest from the Flight into Egypt" 1728 by Carlo Monaldi (about 1690/1760) and "Joseph's Dream" 1728 by Paolo Benaglia (?/1739)
"Sibyl of Cuma" 1674 by Ludovico Gimignani (1643/97)
"Moses" 1674 by Francesco Rosa (active since 1674/d. 1687)
"Eternal Father" 1674 by G.B. Peruzzini (1629/94)
"David" 1674 by Luigi Garzi (1638/1721)
"Sibyl from Eritrea" 1674 by Giovanni Andrea Carlone aka Genovese (1639/97)
Funerary epigraphs:
Tombstones of "virtuosi" Flaminio Vacca (1538/1605) 1605, Taddeo Zuccari (1529/66), Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga (1501/47) buried here
Here are also buried the composer Arcangelo Corelli, and the architect Jacopo Barozzi aka Vignola (1507/73)
"The Congregation of the Virtuosi of the Pantheon was established in 1543 by Pope Paul III (1534/49). It was an association of painters, sculptors and architects who were celebrating the feast of St. Joseph with an exhibition of works of art in the portico of the Pantheon, to which, in the seventeenth century, participated also Velásquez and Salvator Rosa. These exhibitions are historically significant because they constitute one of the first signs of a free market for works of art in Rome. Offices of the Congregation, with the historical archive and an interesting collection of works, is located in the Pantheon in some rooms within the porch" (Giovanni Belardi, Federico De Martino)
Oil on canvas painting "Assumption of the Virgin" 1638 by Andrea Camassei (1602/49)

No comments:

Post a Comment