Free things to do in Rome – Visit the Pantheon

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One of the ancient – and free – sites to see in Rome is the Pantheon. Believed to have been a place of pagan worship dedicated to ‘all gods’, the current structure dates to the 2nd century AD and the reign of Emperor Hadrian, and stands on the site of two previous Pantheons (both destroyed by fire) – the first built by Marcus Agrippa in the 1st century BC (see the inscription commemorating this event on the façade) and the second during the reign of Emperor Domitian. The building was converted to use as a Christian Church by Pope Boniface IV in the 7th century AD and dedicated to Saint Mary and the Martyrs. 

Oculus and Coffered Dome Pantheon Rome Italy

Today, the temple attracts crowds of visitors who come to see its impressive coffered dome (reportedly the inspiration for Brunelleschi’s Dome of the Duomo in Florence), and – at its center – the singular interior natural light source, an oculus which measures over 28 feet in diameter. 

Floor Plan Pantheon Rome Italy

Entrance to the building is through the classical Greek-style portico (2 on the above floor-plan) where you’ll see 16 Corinthian columns; reportedly imported from Egypt, some of these have been salvaged from other ancient sites, such as the Baths of Nero.  

Interior Pantheon Rome Italy

Inside, tucked between massive pillars surrounding the circular space, are bays and niches housing several chapels, tombs, and statues. Among these are:

 Tomb of Victor Emanuel II Pantheon Rome Italy

The grand tomb – emblazoned with the arms of the House of Savoy – of Italian monarch Victor Emanuel II,

Tomb of Umberto I Pantheon Rome Italy

and his son and successor  Umberto I;

Tomb of Raphael Pantheon Rome Italy

The glass-enclosed tomb of Renaissance master Raphael,

Madonna of the Rock Pantheon Rome Italy

topped by a sculpture of the Madonna del Sasso (Madonna of the Rock) by Lorenzetto – A memorial to Raphael’s fiancée Maria Bibbiena hangs on the wall nearby, above the tomb marker of Baroque artist Annibale Carracci

High Altar Pantheon Rome Italy

The Altare Maggiore, an 18th-century High Altar designed by Alessandro Specchi located in the central apse – the wall behind the altar features a Byzantine-style icon of the Madonna and a row of wooden 19th-century choir stalls;

Chapel of Saint Joseph Pantheon Rome Italy

The Chapel of Saint Joseph of the Holy Land, formerly the chapel of the Confraternity of the Virtuosi, houses Vincenzo de Rossi’s sculpture of Saint Joseph and the Christ Child surrounded by several 17th- and 18th-century paintings and stucco reliefs,

Relief by Carlo Monaldi Pantheon Rome Italy

such as Carlo Monaldi’s Rest During the Flight from Egypt;

Crucifix Chapel Pantheon Rome Italy

The Crucifix Chapel features a 15th-century crucifix set into a niche in the exposed red-brick Roman wall;

Chapel of Our Lady of Clemency Pantheon Rome Italy

The Chapel of Our Lady of Clemency, which houses a 15th-century painting from the Tuscan School;

Annunciation by Melozzo da Forli Pantheon Rome Italy

The Chapel of the Annunciation with 17th-century paintings of  Saints Lawrence and Agnes by Clement Maioli, Saint Thomas by Pietro Paolo Bonzi, and The Annunciation, a fresco attributed to Melozzo da Forli.

Fountain and Obelisk Pantheon Rome Italy

The Pantheon faces Piazza della Rotonda where you’ll see the 16th-century fountain created by Giacomo della Porta and Leonardo Somani; modified by Filippo Barignoni in the 18th century.  Atop the fountain stands an Egyptian obelisk taken from the ancient city of Heliopolis.

Getting there:

The Pantheon is located at Piazza della Rotonda. 

Ticket info:

Free

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