The Pantheon, built by Marcus Agrippa (and rebuilt by Domitian, Trajan, and Hadrian), in Rome, Italy. Today known as “Santa Maria dei Martiri” (“St. Mary and the Martyrs” or “Santa Maria Rotonda”.
The inscription on the front of the building reads, “M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIUM.FECIT” (“Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, having been consul three times, built it”). Agrippa’s house-for-every-god is home to only one these days, but fewer ethereal tenants has not diminished its splendor. Septimius Severus and Caracalla repaired the Pantheon and left another inscription “Pantheum vetustate corruptum cum omni cultu restituerunt” (With every refinement they restored the Pantheon worn by age) for a good reason.
It is absolutely amazing.
Our hotel was just around the corner from the Pantheon (down the alley from Santa Maria sopra Minerva), though we didn’t see it when we arrived. It was only later when we were out exploring that we popped around and suddenly were in Piazza della Rotonda. I instantly got goosebumps, and without any conscious volition, began to weep. It was an incredible, genuine somatic experience. This incredible building, which you’ve heard about, read about, studied, watched documentaries on the History channel, and seen in pictures your entire life was suddenly real; standing right in front of you. Full of people, birds flying around, musicians, cafes, street vendors selling squashy rubber tomatoes; the Pantheon is alive and well.
The interior was equally, if not more, impressive. You can’t help but be humbled by that dome. You’re happy to get a crick in your neck from staring upwards for far longer than you should, just to examine every cranny of coffering and of course, the oculus. You feel kind of bad for the people that attend church service there. It must be basically impossible with the gawkers milling about, bringing their pagan-respecting awe filth in your holy space.
When you’re in an intact building which has been around for nearly 2000 years, it’s hard not to be filled with a little awe.