Pantheon hours of visitation: 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Admission Price: Free!
The Pantheon today borders the Piazza della Rotonda, a rectangular square with a central fountain, in the historic center of Rome. Pantheon is a Greek word meaning “all the gods of a religion.” Building of it was begun in 27 B.C. by the statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, probably as a building of the ordinary classical temple type, rectangular with a gabled roof supported by a colonnade on all sides. At this time, it was dedicated to the patron gods of the Julio-Claudian family, Venus, Mars, and the divine Julius. After being struck by lightning and burned to the ground in 80 A.D., it was first restored by Domitian in 80 A.D. before again being struck by lightning and burned. The Pantheon was completely rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian sometime between 118 A.D. and 128 A.D. and dedicated to the twelve Olympian gods. Hadrian’s reconstruction profoundly modified the original building:
The temple originally faced south, now the pillared porch is facing north.
The front portico has three rows of 8 Corinthian columns of grey and red Egyptian granite, each one with a diameter of 1.5 meters and a height of 40 roman feet.
Beneath the porch are huge bronze double doors 7 meters high that serve as an entrance.
The original inscription was maintained: “M.Agrippa L.f.cos tertium fecit” (“Marcus Agrippa Luci three time consul built [it]”).
When entering the Pantheon there is an explosion of space. The interior is lined with colored marble and the walls are marked by seven deep recesses screened by pairs of columns. The ceiling has indentations that were once decorated with bronze rosettes and molding. It is said that when walking into the interior of the Pantheon you will “appreciate the enormity of the columns that form the pillared porch. Once inside the Pantheon, you’ll find yourself looking up in awe at the size of the area above you, until your eyes find the opening in the dome.” When it rains, you won’t get wet standing under the oculus because the water will evaporate before it hits.
The Pantheon is remarkable for its size, its construction, and its design. The dome was the largest built until Brunelleschi’s dome at the Florence Cathedral in 1420-36. The Pantheon measures about 43.2 meters in diameter making it a perfect circle that rises to a height of 22 meters above its base.
Two factors are known to have contributed to its structural success: the excellent quality of the mortar used in the concrete and the careful selection and grading of the aggregate material. The exact method of construction of the Pantheon has never been determined. The thickness and type of concrete varies between the bottom and the top of the dome. The drum itself is strengthened by huge brick arches and piers set above one another inside the wall: near the base it is 6.05 meters thick. There exists an oculus of 8.7 meters by which the building is lit solely by the light that floods in. The concrete near the oculus is 2.3 meters thick consisting of a lighter type of material. It is said that near the oculus, jugs that held the concrete while building the Pantheon were used in the wall to make it lighter.
Early 3rd century, some alterations were made by the emperors Lucius Septimius Severus and Caracalla. When Rome fell in 476 A.D., the Pantheon was saved by the Byzantine Emperor Phocas who donated the building to Pope Boniface IV. The temple was converted into a church and dedicated in 609 A.D. as the Church of the Santa Maria Rotonda, or ad Martyres, which it remains today. The Pantheon contains the tombs of Rafael and of several Italian Kings.
The Pantheon has served as the inspiration for every dome structure built since, yet it has suffered greatly during the nearly two millennia since its construction. The original bronze rosettes of the coffered interior, the bronze sheets which clad the exterior of the dome, and the bronze beams of the portico were stripped in the seventeenth century at the command of the Barberini pope, Urban VIII. In the late Renaissance, stucco decoration was applied to the interior directly beneath the dome. There was also some cosmetic change during the baroque period when Bernini was asked to add bell towers to the Pantheon. These were removed when the building was restored in 1883. Otherwise, the building exists entirely in its original form.
http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome.htm Vatican Museum
Date of our visit: Monday, May 16, 2005
Vatican Museum hours of visitation: Open on weekdays from 8:45 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.
Dress code for Vatican City: No skirts above the knee, no shorts, no bare shoulders (i.e., tank tops or sleeveless blouses), and you must wear shoes. Slacks and jeans are permitted. If you are out sightseeing in shorts, miniskirts, tank tops, sleeveless blouses, etc., and wish to enter a church, you must be dressed appropriately.
Vatican City itself is the smallest sovereign state in the world measuring 108.5 acres. It has its own currency, postal service, passport, newspapers, radio station, and railroad system. Its population of less than 1000 consists almost entirely of Church personnel, Vatican administrators, and representatives of international organizations. It wasn’t until 1929 when the Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Holy See recognized its sovereignty and defined its boundaries that the State of the Vatican City was established as the official home of the Pope and the center of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Vatican Museum is comprised of the papal apartments of the medieval Apostolic Palace decorated with frescoes during the Renaissance, the Sistine Chapel, the exhibition rooms of the Vatican Apostolic Library, and the museums themselves. The Vatican Museums originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and placed in what today is the “Cortile Ottagono” within the museum complex. The popes were among the first sovereigns who opened the art collections of their palaces to the public thus promoting knowledge of art history and culture. The Vatican Museum is a complex of different pontifical museums and galleries that began under the patronage of the popes Clement XIV (1769-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799). The museums serve as “a testament to the power of papal art patronage and curatorial talent.”
As seen today, the Vatican Museums are composed of more than two-dozen distinct collections, any of which could be a self-sustaining gallery. The Vatican Museums include:
Egyptian Museum: This is the first museum that will be passed as the tour begins. There is an underground tomb-chamber of the Valley of the Kings reproduced here. The museum consists of Steleae and inscriptions from various ages, sarcophagi and mummies, Roman statuary designed to imitate or interpret the forms of the Egyptian statuary, Roman ceramics, cuneiform tablets and mesopotamic seals, and assirian bas-reliefs from the palaces of Sargon (~705 B.C.) and Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) in Nineveth.
Chiaramonti Museum: Is the next site on the tour that was founded by Pope Pius VII (Chiaramonti) and is divided into three rooms: the Corridoio, the Galleria Lapidaria, and Braccio Nuovo. The Corridoio divides into 60 sections and displays many prepossessing busts of ancient Romans and fine copies of classical Greek works. In the Galleria Lapidaria, there are about 5000 pagan works and in the Braccio Nuovo, the Statue of Prima Porta and the Group of the Nile deserve particular attention.
Pio-Clementine Museum: In the Palazetto of Belvedere, there are fine Greek and Roman sculptures like the Apollo Belvedere, the famous Group of Laocoon by Agesander, Polydorus and Athandorus, the statue of Hermes, the colossal statue of Antinous, etc.
Gregorian Museum of Etruscan Art:This is the next museum on the winding path. It was founded by Gregory XIV in 1837 to house the works coming from the excavations carried out in southern Etruria.
Antiquarium Romanum: Divided into three small rooms, it house mainly ancient Roman objects and works of the minor arts.
Vase Collection: The collection consists of Greek and Etruscan black figure ceramics.
The Biga Room: This room, built during the pontificate of Pius VI (1775-99), is named the Biga, the two-horse chariot is in the middle of the display area. The Roman Biga dates to the first century B.C.
Gallery of the Candelabra: Once a loggia, the gallery was enclosed during the pontificate of Pius VI. Arches supported by columns and pillars were used to divide the space, which was then hung with candelabra.
Gallery of the Tapestries: Decorated during the pontificate of Pius VI, the gallery is named after the tapestries, which were first exhibited in 1814. The tapestries are enormous, expressive masterpieces of weaving based on cartoons by the pupils of Raphael.
Gallery of the Maps: It is covered with frescoes that serve as an important record of 16th century geography and cartography. It is named after the maps painted on the walls in 40 different panels, each devoted to a region, island or particular territory of Italy.
Apartment of St. Pius V: Gallery of St. Pius V: tapestries produced in Tournai in the middle of the sixteenth century and by Pieter van Aelst. The Chapel is decorated with frescoes by Giorgio Vasari and Jacopo Zucchi.
Sobieski Room: Named for the painting, which takes up the entire north wall with its depiction of the victory of John III Sobieski, King of Poland, over the Turks outside the walls of Vienna in 1683. The work was painted by Jan Matejko (1883).
Room of the Immaculate Conception: Located in the Borgia Tower, this room is decorated with frescoes by Francesco Podesti depicting scenes based on the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
Raphael’s Rooms and Loggias: The four rooms commonly known as the "Rooms of Raphael" were part of the new residence chosen by Julius II on the third floor of the building. The series of four communicating rooms was a reconstruction carried out by Nicholas V (1447-55) of the thirteenth century palace of Nicholas III (1277-80). In 1509 Julius II commissioned Raphael to decorate the whole of this part of the Vatican. He worked there for about ten years, but only three of the rooms were completed before his death in 1520.
Collection of Modern Religious Art: The collection includes hundreds of paintings, sculptures, engravings and designs donated to the Holy See by private individuals or by the artists themselves. Housed in 55 different rooms, the exposition was inaugurated by Pope Paul VI in 1973. The Borgia Apartment, named for Alexander VI, who had the room decorated with the now famous frescoes, most of which are the work of either Pinturicchio or his students.
Apostolic Library: The Vatican Library was founded by Nicholas V (1447-55). Sixtus V (1585-90) commissioned the present building from Domenico Fontana, who built the long gallery and the Salone. There are currently more than a million books and prints housed here.
Vatican Picture Gallery: Founded by Pope Pius VI (1775-99). It was established in 1932 in a building commissioned by Pius XI (1922-39) from a design by the architect Luca Beltrami. It is commonly called the Pinacoteca consisting of 15 rooms displaying fine Italian painting. The gallery includes works of Giotto, Gentile da Fabriano, Beato Angelico, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Leonardo, Tiziano, Guercino, van Dyck, Poussin, etc.
Gregorian Museum of Profane Art: The special building constructed to house the museum (founded by Gregorius XVI in 1844) runs parallel to the Vatican Picture Gallery. It was opened in 1970.
Christian Museum: Founded in 1854 by Pius IX in the Lateran Palace to house the Christian antiquities found during the excavations of the catacombs.
Missionary Museum of Ethnology: The material here is vast; it documents the religious cult of the various civilizations that have flourished in other continents from centuries before the coming of Christ right up to our times.
Carriage Pavilion: It was founded by Paul VI and laid out in 1973 in a building constructed under the Square Garden. The collection contains various items including carriages of popes and cardinals, graphic and photographic documentation of solemn processions containing berlins and carriages, and automobiles used by popes.