The Pantheon

by Luke Archer

It took me a while to finally see the Pantheon: bad weather and unknown opening times conspired to keep us apart. Bad weather would normally be the perfect time to see things inside, but the Pantheon has a massive hole in its ceiling. An oculus for those in the know. The world’s largest, in fact.

When the sun is visible through the oculus [as above], it is easy to understand the potency the building must have had as a temple for the ancient Roman gods. This is one of the best-preserved and oldest buildings in Rome, and still continues to be used as a Catholic church. I’m not sure how I feel about it being used in this way. Yes, it’s great that such an ancient building is still operating so successfully, but I also feel that it slightly spoils the decidedly pagan feel of the building.

Despite this, I am really tempted to be Catholic for a day during the Pentecost. The fire brigade throw rose petals through the hole in the ceiling, which must be an awesome sight in the very traditional sense of the word.

What I also like about the building is (apparently) if the domed roof was removed and turned upside-down, it would fit perfectly into the circular room. Bearing in mind this was built almost two-thousand years ago, it is a numerical feat that makes me feel a bit peculiar. There is definitely something innately perfect about its design that can be physically felt when inside.

It also looks like it shouldn’t be circular:

Compare the very rectangular front:

To the very curved side:

Though it does seem faintly apocalyptic, I desperately want to see an eclipse from inside. Not sure what the probability of that ever happening is, but I’m holding out for surprise eclipse so I can celebrate in the Pantheon like a pagan.